F1 CHAMPIONS CELEBRATED IN HALL OF FAME
It was one of those “Why-on-earth-has-no-onethought-of-this-before?” occasions: many of the great and the good of Formula 1, past and present, attending the official opening of the FIA Hall of Fame. Watching them gather around the FIA’S Parisian headquarters on a December evening, I was gripped by a feeling this should have been done while many of those represented here by family members were still alive to witness it.
So it goes almost without saying that such a homage – to the 33 people who have achieved motorsport’s highest honour since the FIA Formula 1 World Championship was inaugurated in 1950 – is long overdue. That a long succession of FIA presidents failed to celebrate their achievements in this simple yet prestigious manner is unfathomable. Full credit to current FIA president Jean Todt for initiating the project.
And this is only the beginning. This first phase is focused on F1, with a dedicated area in the entrance hall of the FIA’S HQ on Place de la Concorde celebrating the champions’ exploits via memorabilia and audio-visual touch screens. Provision has been made for expansion, and the hall will be open to fans, free-of-charge.
“The Hall of Fame has been created to celebrate the history of motorsport and to honour the heroes of our sport through the ages; to tell their stories for future generations, and to celebrate their extraordinary achievements,” said Todt during the opening, which featured a display of significant F1 cars.
Phases two and three, which will honour World Rally and World Endurance champions, will be set up at the FIA’S operational base situated near Geneva airport over the next two years. These halls, too, will be open to the public.
It’s fitting that the project was instigated during Todt’s three-term presidency, since he led Peugeot to WRC and WEC championships, then masterminded the Ferrari/michael Schumacher era. Indeed, during the opening ceremony a cynic remarked that Michael’s seven titles, five of which he achieved under Todt’s superintendence, place Schumacher top of the tree and enables Todt to enjoy a great deal of reflected glory. But there’s no avoiding the fact Michael is F1’s record-setting champion.
Not all inductees (or families of departed champions) were in attendance on the evening. True, a full house of 33 could never be expected, but 1978 champion Mario Andretti happily made a transAtlantic trip while his title successor Jody Scheckter failed to cross the Channel. Nico Rosberg was present; not, though, father Keke. Lewis Hamilton was conspicuous by his absence, ditto Niki Lauda.
A total of nine inductees were present: Jackie Stewart, Andretti, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg, while the representatives of departed champions numbered ten. Schumacher’s manager represented him since son Mick had a clashing F3 test, and Juan-manuel Fangio’s family sent a message. Why, I wondered, did nine living champions give the event a miss?
However, the bigger question is whether champions alone are worthy of inclusion in the FIA’S Hall of Fame. By current standards Stirling Moss, certainly more famous than many champions, fails to make the induction grade, as does the great Gilles Villeneuve. Given that, should the FIA’S initiatives not then be known as Hall of Champions, rather than of Fame?
Rallying opened a Hall of Fame in a forest near Tampere in central Finland in 2010. Nominations – by a panel that includes FIA and WRC commercial rights representatives – are inducted each year during Rally Finland. To date 17 personalities have been inducted, six of whom are not world champion drivers – for instance David Richards (a champion’s co-driver) and Andrew Cowan (a champion’s team boss).
So, Liberty Media, if you’re serious about “doing something for the fans”, then please consider establishing Formula 1’s Hall of Fame (possibly in Monaco, given its heritage) where F1’s personalities over the ages, not only champions, are recognised for their contributions to F1’s rich tapestries. Inductions need not be restricted to drivers – F1’s top team bosses, its brightest engineers and best mechanics deserve to be honoured too.
Thus the FIA would have its Hall of Champions, and Formula 1 its Hall of Fame. Properly co-ordinated, the two initiatives would complement each other and not compete, and F1 and its fans would be all the richer for having both (especially if entrance is free of charge).
F1 champions, past and present, gather with FIA president Jean Todt at the new Hall of Fame