Hav­ing worked be­hind the lens for more than 30 years, Charles Briscoe-knight picks his favourite shots from the glory days of grand prix rac­ing


Snap­per Charles Briscoe-knight dons rose-tinted specs to re­mem­ber F1 past

Duke Elling­ton once sang that Things ain’t what they used to be, but that could have been sung by Bernie Ec­cle­stone ev­ery year in the many of his reign at the helm of F1. The ex­pres­sion has real res­o­nance in my mind, hav­ing started pho­tograph­ing the sport in the ’60s and gone right through to Schu­macher’s dom­i­nance.

It was truly in­spir­ing for a young kid to pay a rea­son­able en­trance fee, watch the ac­tion unim­peded by chicken wire, visit the pad­dock for free and meet the driv­ers up close. The likes of Gra­ham Hill, Jim Clark, Jack Brab­ham and Jackie Ste­wart were at the thresh­old when the F1 game all changed, and spon­sor­ship be­came a key fac­tor in shap­ing how the sport grew. At that time they were all ac­ces­si­ble, and not just to the me­dia: no cor­rals with PR man­agers tap­ing their ev­ery word, but true stars in­ter­act­ing with gen­uine fans. You would never see any one of th­ese gen­tle­men re­fus­ing an au­to­graph.

Wan­der­ing down the pit­lane, snap­ping Clark, Ste­wart, Hunt, Senna, An­dretti et al, it truly felt like a Golden Era for the sport. To set­tle down for lunch over the three days with a team or spon­sor and be part of the For­mula One fam­ily was sen­sa­tional. Many driv­ers be­came friends: ‘Our Nige’ was a ter­rific golfer – who drove the buggy like a bat out of hell – and we of­ten played in the days lead­ing up to a grand prix.

To­day, with the many changes in reg­u­la­tions and un­be­liev­able pol­i­tics, an al­most clin­i­cal at­mos­phere pre­vails – es­pe­cially in the pad­dock. It seems as if the sight of a driver out and about be­fore, dur­ing and after a race is a phe­nom­e­non.

Things ain’t what they used to be…

Above right: “This im­age re­ally shows how things have changed for pho­tog­ra­phers – not even a small con­crete block sep­a­rates the cars from we lucky few. At the same cor­ner to­day, the au­thor­i­ties keep the snap­pers back by at least 100 yards, and this on the ‘safe’ side of the track. In this shot taken at the Bri­tish Grand Prix, held at Sil­ver­stone in 1971, Clay Regaz­zoni in his Fer­rari leads Chris Amon in the Ma­tra” Right: “Ayr­ton Senna in con­ver­sa­tion with Ron Den­nis and Steve Ni­chols at the 1989 Brazil­ian Grand Prix, a race won by Senna. I was work­ing for Goodyear at the time and was asked by Leo Mehl – then boss of the Goodyear F1 pro­gramme – to take some pic­tures of him, Ron and Ayr­ton with the tro­phy in the pit after the race. All were full of smiles, but Ayr­ton just turned his back and walked away. A mer­cu­rial man, but al­ways on the edge. I didn’t care much for him from that mo­ment on” Left: “James Hunt signs au­to­graphs in the pits, in 1977. To me, the prox­im­ity of the fans to the stars back in the day is what is miss­ing from mod­ern F1. There is no fan ac­cess, ex­cept in very con­trolled, time-lim­ited walk­a­bouts. Driv­ers sit­ting with their team me­chan­ics after prac­tice ses­sions, sign­ing the odd au­to­graph and talk­ing F1 and motorsport, has all but gone. To­day, sadly, bar­ri­ers, ropes, ‘smart’ passes and the ‘more than my job’s worth’ at­ti­tude per­vade”

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