My love of Formula One was born of three things; my granny’s TV, a pair of paper library tickets, and Niki Lauda. Told off for sitting too close to the television, the static tingle and coloured dots were intriguing. As was this, when I was a tiny kid.
When I started to follow the sport in ’82 it coincided with Niki’s return. Everyone knew Lauda, even my parents, and he was a gateway. A charismatic, clear-thinking, plain-speaking hero whose backstory meant I was immediately hooked. Hooked by motorsport and history.
So off I went with my library tickets, and found the couple of motor racing books in the Sport section. Arrival stamp and no more than a couple of of borrowers’ stamps on the flyleaf. Had someone requested them especially? I had understood the concept of ‘cognoscenti’ long before I would learn the word.
Where to start? A familiar name. A fairly slender hardback, encased in the library regulation, jam-proof, clear plastic. On its spine, in typically clear fashion, “Niki Lauda Formula 1”. I opened it hesitantly, let the pages fall from my thumb. It had drawings that I couldn’t understand, and photos I could feel… I ran home.
‘The Art and Technicalities of Grand Prix Driving’, Lauda’s update of Taruffi’s great work. I was ten years old, and I inhaled it.
The history, the engineering – honest silde-rule & dirty hands engineering. The glamour, danger, the highs & lows of sport. And it was played-out on my grandmother’s TV on Sunday afternoon. Family; eating, laughing, squabbling. And as the static tickled my nose, I learned about the world. As Imola became Jerez, became Silverstone, became Kyalami, became Long Beach… became Monza!
A Technicolor world of fag-packet fluorescents and Italian heart-blood red, rendered dull by clashing broadcast systems. Global television, global sport. Local language, graphics, sponsors. What’s ‘Parmalat’? ‘Techniques d’Avant Garde’? What’s a turbo? ‘Ground Effect’? Mysteries to solve in the time until the next spectacle. Detail enough to spend a lifetime chasing.