The autoblogosphere is abuzz this morning with comments regarding the plain-and-obvious awesomeness of this movie trailer, and rightfully so. What I wonder is this: will the message behind the film be the easy one, or the correct one?
Racing at any level is dangerous. In 2008 I observed two deaths over the course of just five summer races in which I participated, and I was involved in a crash that saw the other driver leave on the LifeFlight and cracked my visor on the “halo bar” of my rollcage even as it bent the frame of my car beyond recovery. No racer knows for sure that he will be home to see his children in the evening. If you want that kind of assurance, stay at home and play Call of Duty.
From the time it started until after the death of Senna, Formula One was far more dangerous than any sporting activity is today. Grand Prix racing claimed lives with a regularity that seemed mechanical and monotonous at times. It was a meat grinder operating for the enjoyment of the fans and the gratification of the teams; a modern gladiatorial match with a traveling Colosseum. The drivers, too, had the individual vitality and presence of gladiators in the arena, shamelessly chasing sensuality and sensation in what they knew could be very short lives.
In our oh-so-enlightened era, where children wear foam helmets to ride tricycles and the sexiness has been methodically drained from sex by an avalanche of demeaning pornography and an abdication of public morality, it is tempting to let the drivers of the pre-Senna era be defined by their titillating excesses or passion or calculation. James Hunt date-raping stewardesses who put up a token fight but really mean “absolutely” when they say “absolutely not”. Didier Pironi betraying Gilles Villeneuve then dying in a powerboat accident. That sort of thing. We expect our modern racers to be coddled little mechanisms, seamless parts of the car, technically flawless and personally unremarkable. It’s gotten to the point where a driver passes his teammate and the world erupts as a consequence.
When you to go see “Rush”, however, keep in mind that the drivers of that or any other era weren’t there to chase tail or play politics or get in the car drunk or manipulate the FIA. They were there for the same reason men (and the occasional lady) have always been on the grid: to race, to compete, to win. It was true in the low-speed but high-risk horse-track races of the pre-WWI era, it was true for James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and it’s true today. It’s a quest that may be ennobled by danger or burnished by glamour, but it is the same for all of that. I hope that this gorgeous new film portrays F1 racing of that era not as some ridiculous bloodsport on the moral level of a FOX Most Deadly Crashes Video , but rather as the true striving for victory that it has always been. Correr, competir, lo llevo en la sangre, es parte de mi, es parte de mi vida.