The best Formula 1 films and documentaries to watch

Coronavirus might mean uncertain times for Formula 1, but there is still plenty of ways for fans to get a regular motorsport fix

The best Formula 1 films and documentaries to watch

In the last 10 years alone a wide range of F1-based documentaries have hit the market and now is the perfect time to capitalise on the recent craze for motorsport films.

For F1 fans, re-watching a classic such as Grand Prix or discovering a new favourite in Ferrari: Race to Immortality is guaranteed to alleviate self-isolation cabin fever.

These films are all available without leaving the sofa to stave off the motorsport withdrawal symptoms, with options suitable for the die-hard devotee all the way to a casual F1 viewer.

Grand Prix 1966

This Oscar-winner tells the story of a fictional season of grand prix racing, intertwining action sequences with a melodramatic trio of love stories. While the plot itself has garnered some criticism over the years, it is the racing that makes it one of director John Frankenheimer's biggest hits. Partially filmed at tracks during actual F1 race weekends, Grand Prix combines nostalgia for the golden age of motorsport with racing sequences that stand up against even its most technically advanced modern counterparts. This is the classic - it is a must-see for all F1 fans.

Netflix: Unavailable
Amazon Prime Video: £3.49
YouTube Movies: £3.49
Google Play: £3.49

McLaren

The story of Bruce McLaren is told through new dramatized footage alongside the original film and supported by interviews with those who knew him. What is most striking about the documentary is it makes clear the astounding dedication and loyalty he inspired in those who worked for him on his journey from humble beginnings in New Zealand to the top echelon of motorsport. As McLaren continues to fight back from a tough couple of years in the present, the journey of its pioneering founder continues to be poignant.

Netflix: Unavailable
Amazon Prime Video: £3.49
YouTube Movies: £2.49
Google Play: £2.49

1. Life on the Limit

1. Life on the Limit has the ultimate bragging rights when it comes to interviews, with a plethora of racing stars from John Surtees to Lewis Hamilton having their say on the dangers of motorsport past and present. The journey from the early days of racing to modern F1 has been a long one and the fight to improve safety measures has been just as lengthy. Combining rare and archival footage, the documentary emphasises just how difficult it is to balance safety and thrills in a sport that is inherently dangerous.

Netflix: Unavailable
Amazon Prime Video: £3.49
YouTube Movies: £2.49
Google Play: £2.49

Rush

Ron Howard's cinematic recreation of the 1976 F1 season is worth a watch for both F1 fans and non-fans alike. Rush perfectly captures the intensity of the battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda for the title while remaining unafraid to delve into the sheer brutality of Lauda's recovery after his life-changing crash at the Nurburgring. This film has all the Hollywood glamour (starring Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl as Hunt and Lauda respectively) but that does not take away from its racing spirit.

Netflix: Available with subscription
Amazon Prime Video: £3.49
YouTube Movies: £2.49
Google Play: £2.49

Williams

More than anything, Williams is an intimate look into the heart of the Williams family. A combination of new and archive footage tells the story all the way from Frank Williams founding the team to his daughter Claire taking hold of the reigns today. At the focus is Virginia Williams, wife of Frank and mother of Claire, and the part she played in the family's success. Interviews with Nigel Mansell and Sir Patrick Head, among others, helps to bring the tale of a true family business alive.

Netflix: Unavailable
Amazon Prime Video: £3.49
YouTube Movies: £2.49
Google Play: £2.49

Weekend of a Champion

Roman Polanski had the good fortune to be close friends with Sir Jackie Stewart, making his 1971 documentary covering Stewart's Monaco Grand Prix weekend a real insight. With so much access to the star himself the documentary gives fans a window into life as a racing driver during a grand prix, from the seriousness of racing to light-hearted moments of fun. For those wanting to be a fly on the wall of a world champion, now is your chance.

Netflix: Unavailable
Amazon Prime Video: £3.49
YouTube Movies: £2.49
Google Play: £2.49

Crash and Burn

Tommy Byrne has dropped out of the public consciousness but Crash and Burn is doing its best to reverse that. The Irish racer was once mentioned in the same breath as Ayrton Senna and this film considers the reasons he never became a household name. The inaccessibility and snobbery of F1 takes a kicking, as does Byrne's fiery temper and the culmination is a potential unfulfilled. The film leaves you with no doubt that it was a loss to the entire motorsport world that this colourful character could never find his fit in the shiny world of F1.

Netflix: Unavailable
Amazon Prime Video: £3.49
YouTube Movies: £2.49
Google Play: £2.49

Ferrari: Race to Immortality

Ferrari: Race to Immortality documents the golden era of the 1950s when Ferrari was rising to prominence. Tragedy and triumph occur side by side with Enzo Ferrari at the centre building his empire. By telling the story of how Ferrari became legendary, the documentary highlights the team's rich motorsport history, from cinematic drama to heartbreak and success tinted with sadness.

Netflix: Unavailable
Amazon Prime Video: £3.49
YouTube Movies: £2.49
Google Play: £2.49

Senna

There's no one in motorsport who captures the imagination quite like Ayrton Senna. This documentary covers his life from 1984 to his death in 1994, making use of an abundance of previously unseen footage. Everybody knows what happened that weekend in Imola but following Senna through a decade of his life makes its sudden end shocking and deeply moving. Senna is gone but not forgotten, and the success of this documentary shows how much of an appetite there still is for an insight into legend.

Netflix: Unavailable
Amazon Prime Video: £3.49
YouTube Movies: £2.49
Google Play: £2.49

Motorsport Heroes

The Motorsport Network's very first film commission comes from acclaimed writer of Senna, Manish Pandey. Motorsport Heroes tells the story of double F1 champion Mika Hakkinen, Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen, WRC's only female rally winner Michele Mouton, former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa and F1 legend Michael Schumacher. It's 111-minute run time serves up an emotional experience, backed up by archive footage from all drivers' careers.

Motorsport.tv: Available through subscription to Motorsport.tv on the monthly or annual packages.

The drivers walk along the track toward a group of photographers

The drivers walk along the track toward a group of photographers

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Drive to Survive

One of the most well-known Formula 1 documentary series, Netflix’s Drive to Survive provides unparalleled behind-the-scenes access to F1 teams and drivers. It showcases both the races and the people who make them possible, giving viewers a rare glimpse behind the curtain of Formula 1 and showing how events really play out (rather than the PR-friendly version you might read after the fact). Drive to Survive has come under fire from existing fans of Formula 1 due to its creative interpretation of some events, as well as its dramatization of others, however it’s a perfect gateway into the world of F1 for new fans.

Netflix: Available with subscription
Amazon Prime Video: Unavailable
YouTube Movies: Unavailable
Google Play: Unavailable

uan Manuel Fangio, Mercedes W196, 1955 British GP

uan Manuel Fangio, Mercedes W196, 1955 British GP

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Life of Speed: The Juan Manuel Fangio Story

Juan Manuel Fangio is often heralded as one of the best to ever grace a Formula 1 track, however, with his final F1 race being over 60 years ago, the story behind the name is comparatively little-known. This documentary aims to shed light on that story, covering both his racing career and his life in general through archive footage, interviews with his contemporaries and competitors, as well as what he did after racing. For people who want to know why Fangio is cited as one of the best, this is a must.

Netflix: Available with subscription
Amazon Prime Video: Unavailable
YouTube Movies: Unavailable
Google Play: Unavailable

Jochen Rindt with team boss Colin Chapman, Lotus

Jochen Rindt with team boss Colin Chapman, Lotus

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch

Jochen Rindt: Uncrowned Champion

Jochen Rindt was the Formula 1 World Champion in 1970 and is, to date, the only posthumous champ. This Sky Sports documentary looks at who Rindt was and the career that was tragically cut short. From interviews with drivers to breath-taking footage from the 1960s and ‘70s, Jochen Rindt: Uncrowned Champion captures the glamour and danger that was synonymous with Formula 1 at the time.

YouTube: Free for selected regions

Willy T. Ribbs testing the Brabham BT54, Formula 1 Testing, Estoril, Portugal, December 1985

Willy T. Ribbs testing the Brabham BT54, Formula 1 Testing, Estoril, Portugal, December 1985

Photo by: Motorsport Images/Sutton Images

Uppity: The Willy T. Ribbs Story

While not entirely about Formula 1, Uppity tracks the life and career of Willy T. Ribbs – an African-American racing driver who carved a route through motorsport. From his start in the British FF1600 series through to becoming the first African-American to both test a Formula 1 car and qualify for the Indy 500, it showcases the difficulties and racism he endured on his journey, and his unstoppable drive to break through it.

Netflix: Available with subscription
Amazon Prime Video: £3.49
YouTube Movies: Unavailable
Google Play: Unavailable

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