This week we went to see a special screening of the new Senna film put on by the Grand Prix Mechanics Trust as guests of James Allen, by guests we mean that we paid for our tickets and went along with everyone else, regardless of whether they have a moderately successful niche podcast or not.
The night was special for several reasons; obviously the film itself, not released until June in the UK this was an advanced screening that will make us feel smug for a month. Also there was a Q&A with the film makers, Manish Pandey and Asif Kapadia and a host of F1 guests (us not included).
After politely ignoring the request to enter the Tag Heuer raffle (put your name in a twenty pound note and hope for the best) we headed right into the auditorium to bag the best seats. It soon became clear that not many others were (at least, not the ones in suits) and we waited, probably missing the best F1 show ever in the foyer.
After a barrage of
witty tedious twittering the show finally got underway. But not before we witnessed a whole row in front of us being cleared to make way for Tag Heuer reps (which, after 20 years of sponsorship and adverts I finally know how ‘Heuer’ is pronounced, a fact that has sadly been forgotten the morning after, I think its pronounced ‘Heuer’ but frustratingly can’t be sure).
James Allen himself then took to the stage with his slight catchphrase of “Hello Everybody” and went into his introduction of three times world champion Sir Jackie Stewart.
I’ll be honest, sarcastic podcast aside, its the first time I’ve been in the same room as a triple F1 world champion, and looking round I could see both Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell in the audience I quite fancied ringing the thirteen year old me and telling him, but he wouldn’t have been impressed as Nigel Mansell wasn’t there, and the thirteen year old me didn’t much rate Senna anyway.
Then the film, full review here, but suffice to say for an F1 fan who remembers the tension of Senna vs Prost (or Prowst as the film often insists) it’s excellent.
Nearing the end I started to be sure that this would be be kind of night that would break out in spontaneous applause, even a standing ovation for the end of the film. As the credits started, nothing. I, too scared to start the clapping, waited. Hands poised to erupt. But instead once the credits had rolled the applause started, it was slightly lacklustre. Had the film not impressed others as much as it had me? I looked round to see an audience of wet eyes, slightly too overcome by the emotion of the final part of the film. And also realised that this room was mainly full of ardent f1 geeks, hardly the most socially agile set of people.
The Q&A began with the filmmakers and their insights into the the sheer amount of unreleased footage that FOM is sitting on, as well as the soundtrack decisions and quite how they edited it down from an initial seven hour cut. Apparently there is a proper video of this to come on the James Allen site
Then Martin Brundle, clearly loving his lead commentator job, produced an ad libbed lecture on Senna and the film that would rival the most thoughtful article, sharing his insights into knowing the man and relaying how Senna would “drive you off the track then be the first person to check if you’re OK”.
The F1 people kept coming, with former McLaren team manager, Dave Ryan as well as two old Lotus mechanics Clive Hicks and Kenny Szmanski.
But the two guests of honour were clearly Professor Sid Watkins, an integral character in the film and of Senna’s life who gave a moving little interview about Ayrton’s humility and then Terry Fullerton, a karting driver that Senna rated as one of the best.
The Tag Heureurue raffle ended bizarrely with Asif Kapadia winning the super-expensive watch and then clearly grappling with his consicnce from the stage decided to keep it and the £20 note in my wallet pulsed smugly.
For a lifelong F1 fan it was a remarkable night that not even we deemed fit to sully by asking if Alonso is a cunt…