THE GOOD OLD DAYS?
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”