It feels as though it were a parallel universe, but there was a time – when unsophisticated aero allowed Formula 1 cars to follow each other closely, and radios were an optional extra in your Ford showroom – when the result of an overseas grand prix could take a few days to reach the UK.
Races rarely received TV airtime before the late 1970s, daily papers tended to pay full attention only when a driver was seriously hurt – or worse – and Monday morning’s sports pages rarely carried more than the sketchiest details about who had won or why. Sometimes there was simply no information at all.
If you were living in the UK, chances are that you had to wait until the specialist weeklies arrived the following Thursday to discover the result of the 1973 Canadian GP. Treacherous conditions had triggered all manner of chaos – and F1’s first attempt to restore control through use of a ‘safety’ car made things worse. Experienced lap scorers lost track of who was where and debate about the final result continued long into the evening, way past UK press deadlines. There are some, indeed, who continue to this day to dispute McLaren driver Peter Revson’s victory…
This was frustrating for a 12-year-old who craved as much information as possible about all forms of racing but, at the same time, the sport’s frequent inaccessibility made it seem somehow special. Everybody knew about football and most kids at school could recite the previous 20 FA Cup winners without pausing for breath, but few knew – or indeed cared – that David Purley was dovetailing a limited F1 programme with a full season of Formula Atlantic in Britain.