Formula One in my day. Having worked behind the lens for more than 30 years, Charles Briscoe-Knight picks his favourite shots from the glory days of grand prix racing. Words and Photography Charles Briscoe-Knight.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS? Snapper Charles Briscoe-Knight dons rose-tinted specs to remember F1 past.
Duke Ellington once sang that Things ain’t what they used to be, but that could have been sung by Bernie Ecclestone every year in the many of his reign at the helm of F1. The expression has real resonance in my mind, having started photographing the sport in the ’60s and gone right through to Schumacher’s dominance. It was truly inspiring for a young kid to pay a reasonable entrance fee, watch the action unimpeded by chicken wire, visit the paddock for free and meet the drivers up close. The likes of Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Jack Brabham and Jackie Stewart were at the threshold when the F1 game all changed, and sponsorship became a key factor in shaping how the sport grew. At that time they were all accessible, and not just to the media: no corrals with PR managers taping their every word, but true stars interacting with genuine fans. You would never see any one of these gentlemen refusing an autograph.
Wandering down the pitlane, snapping Clark, Stewart, Hunt, Senna, Andretti et al, it truly felt like a Golden Era for the sport. To settle down for lunch over the three days with a team or sponsor and be part of the Formula One family was sensational. Many drivers became friends: ‘Our Nige’ was a terrific golfer – who drove the buggy like a bat out of hell – and we often played in the days leading up to a grand prix.
Today, with the many changes in regulations and unbelievable politics, an almost clinical atmosphere prevails – especially in the paddock. It seems as if the sight of a driver out and about before, during and after a race is a phenomenon. Things ain’t what they used to be…