What Formula1 Can Learn From Rush

I am all about sports, be it in real or reel; and of course real scores over because a lot sports movies tend to over-dramatize to please the audiences. A few good sports movies that come to my mind would be Invictus, The Hurricane, the Rocky series, Million Dollar Baby, Jerry Maguire, Lagaan, etc.

In the genre of sports movies, movies on car racing are far too little to talk about. I think Days of Thunder has probably been the best in this genre and Driven the worst. And if you’re an Indian, Ta Ra Rum Pum probably embarrassed you the most followed by Shah Rukh Khan’s attempt to lose a race in Baazigar.

In that light, I think making movies on racing is far more difficult than making one on sports that are played indoors or in a stadium with rackets, bats and body armour! Notwithstanding the millions it would cost to just repair and restore the machines needed for the shoot and the extra millions to fund travels to various circuits around the world. Thankfully in the world of computer graphics, it isn’t absolutely necessary to hire expensive racing car drivers! And then if you’re making a movie on ‘Formula1’, the copyright fees that one would need to shell out to Mr. E!

When you keep all this in perspective, you realise that Rush is a brilliant attempt at making a movie on one of the world’s most popular sports, Formula1. And if you think this post is about the review of the movie, direction, screenplay, cinematography, etc. you will be disappointed; because my knowledge of movie making is limited and hence I stick to my topic of Formula1 and its marketing. (Read: Formula1 Needs To Market Itself Better)

Rush, the Formula1 movie (Courtesy: Rush)

The storyline of the 1976 World Championship between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, which is extremely thrilling to read about, has been brought to life in a very apt manner, and by that I mean ‘Formula1’ manner. I have been lucky to attend quite a few races in my life and I must say that the depiction of the sport on and off track is as good as it can get. The balance between the drama and technical aspect is well maintained which means that it appeals to a larger audience. It tells the world the early need of sponsorship in a racing car driver’s career and how funds are needed to back the best talent too! It also exposes the bigger truth, that while the focus for each team is to make money, they barely do. And how driver decisions are made and contracts negotiated! (Read: Formula1 Drivers To Play Musical Chairs)

There has been a buzz about the movie’s launch in India and an interesting one at that. While it would be an obvious ‘must watch’ for Indian F1 fans (yes, the ones who have not helped the cause of the Indian Grand Prix), I have noticed a high-level of interest from non-Formula1 followers; ones who know about the sport of Formula1 but haven’t really bothered to follow it. While data would be absolutely raw and untested, the cinema hall last night was nearly 50% full and this is a week after release and it was a late night (2300hrs) mid-week show.

This made me wonder, should Formula1 use the platform of ‘movies’ to attract more audiences? Well, if not the established ones, could it do so in the emerging markets? Whether movies or documentaries, can Formula1 content be re-packaged and sold differently to a different set of audiences? After all, fans who have been following the sport for a while would agree that nearly every third World Championship fought is as interesting (if not more) as the one that was fought in 1976. The battles during the days of Schumacher, Senna, Hill, Villeneuve, Hakkinen, Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton and now Vettel are extremely interesting ones to record, edit and broadcast to an audience that has interest in the sport but doesn’t have the attention span that pans over near 20 races held for over 9 months of the year!

The benefit of such an option would mean that ‘boring’ races wouldn’t drive away the audiences (lesser blame to Pirelli!) and the possible elimination of the technical aspect of the sport could actually attract more eyeballs to the sport. And don’t get me wrong, while I absolutely love the technical aspect of the sport, there are millions who prefer the wheel-to-wheel racing minus the geek talk and with oodles of drama that it would offer. And while it would be absolutely impossible to gauge, I would like to see how many cinema-goers who liked Rush actually turn into Formula1 viewers starting the 2013 Korean Grand Prix (damn! That’s a bad first race for anyone to see!!).

The idea of an annual Formula1 movie seems like a possibility because the assets (drivers, cars, circuits, team owners, etc.) needed to produce and direct a film would anyway assemble at a different racing venue twice every month and this would also include world class camera equipment and renowned reporters and journalists too! So quite simply put, all one needs to do is put the idea together and execute it after an approval from Mr. E. And what could accelerate the process of approvals would be the fact this could be an additional source of revenue for the FOM. Now to write to Mr. E and seek my appointment!

Scheduling issues have dogged the last two episodes of the Inside Line F1 Podcast. However, we will be back in full force pre-Korea. Tune in! 

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

8 comments On What Formula1 Can Learn From Rush

  • Loved the movie! Hunt’s role could have easily been made to look ‘bad/villainous’ by any XYZ director…but Ron made sure he depicted Niki and Hunt as completely different yet absolutely normal people who kinda complement each other.
    Whoa 50% audience attendance, seriously???
    I have a very different picture here, the multiplex I watched the movie in, had a total of 6 people around including me and two of them never came back after interval. Last time, I watched a movie like that with very few people around, it was 3.5-hours-long man-made-disaster called ‘What’s your raashee’……..HeeHee.
    With this, I do not think the yearly movie idea is a profitable one, may be those movies can be produced as souvenirs & archived.
    About sports movies: Remember the Titans?? – Yes, a tad bit dramatized….but works for me 🙂

  • Yeah Kunal, you are absolutely right about the movie and the possibility of an annual movie but i remember this annual movie is nothing new, it there in the 80s and early 90s before the advent of satellite television. The annual race edit would come in a video cassette as a magazine and would be available in the video shops. I watched my first F1 race, 1987 Monaco and British Grand Prix in a video magazine in 1990. So what you are saying is good idea but in the big screen and i also heard some small theatres screened MotoGP movies like Fast and Faster and also Senna in the US. Your race edit idea should be good.

  • And about the movie RUSH, it was absolutely fantastic, though few elements were overly dramatized from the real life which a serious F1 follower would know about but the masses wouldnt like the Social Network, this was too 90% accurate. The enactment of a real life action into a reel life drama and being exactly close to it has to be appreciated. The movie showcased how dangerous racing was and how safe in terms car design, track design and medical support and stuff.
    Actually i went on a Saturday afternoon and the Multiplex was full with varied kind of people, teenagers, middle aged office goes, journalist, movie buffs who came after seeing the 8star rating in IMDB and women too. Being Chennai the racing capital of India, i witnessed people clapping for couple of scenes when Niki says to the Ferrari engineer, This car is shit, in front of Enzo and few whistles too in some scenes as if it was Rajinikanth movie. Yes i was surprised. And finally the whole theatre clapped at the end of the movie showing appreciation to the real stars and the reel stars. It was fun watching!
    The Nurburgring action was very thrilling and i was nervvous till the accident, bcos i knew it was going to happen and the hospital scenes were totally mind blowing and to know how much the driver suffered and the comeback after 2 races was even more thrilling.
    The final race in Japan with rain has been shot brilliantly. The movie is totally mind blowing being fan of Lauda and F1. Lauda was the first F1 star i knew through the magazines in 1983. I remember seeing a photo of a man without hair and eyebrows and playing with his pet leopard. I got shocked and asked my uncle who is this? and he said its Niki Lauda, he was burnt in a race car accident and the most feared race driver. Knowing all this i saw the movie and i too didnt feel James as a villian if u see it as movie.
    Many people who saw think its just a movie but to know most of it happened in real gives the real thrill.

    • Thanks Binoy, trust you to know these absolutely hilarious movie plots! 😉
      Ahmed, thanks for reading and the comment. Yes, those race edits were available back then and I have heard of these stories earlier too. Thanks for highlighting. And good review on how the movie has been accepted in Chennai during your visit. And crucial to mention that James wasn’t the villain, he just did what he loved to do!
      And yes, for movie purposes and for the audiences, I agree that it was probably over-dramatised, but I guess that’s pardonable given that 90% (like you agree too) of the movie seems very very real. I only wish there was some more wheel to wheel and high speed action shown, but I guess I wouldn’t complain too much about the balance maintained.

  • You forgot to mention the epic movie – Janasheen. Probably the only Hindi movie to feature SBK. You can get an idea of its epicness from a scene where a sniper tried to puncture tyres of the leading riders. I have no idea why people didn’t find it believable that you can puncture someone’s bike that’s zipping at 300 kmph, from a distance of 500 ft.

  • @Pavithra, what’s your rashee? really?? OMG! But am glad you decided to see Rush and liked it. Very likeable and a great job by Ron, no doubt. Worth a second dekho!

  • Muito bom este post. Estou #em pulgas” para ver o filme, que será em 3D. Gosto da foto (portuguese).
    Great post. Great movie, hi hope… Love the photo!

Leave a reply:

Site Footer

Sliding Sidebar

Open chat
Let's Talk Formula 1
Happy to share my passion for Formula 1 with you. If you have specific queries about the sport, feel free to ping me.

In the meanwhile, I welcome you to subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast for insightful conversations around Formula 1. We release an episode every week.