Race to Immortality: A reminder of the grim reality F1 left behind

Despite the inevitable complaints in recent days over F1's future, the one positive to take is an absence of discussion about safety. This is not because the subject is either taboo or no one cares. Quite the opposite; safety is enshrined in the sport's thinking to such an extent that the pursuit of improvement is relentless and taken as read. But it wasn't always like this.

If you want a reminder, then go no further than watching 'Ferrari: Race To Immortality'. One or two reviews have criticised the film for not lifting the lid on Enzo Ferrari. That completely misses the point thanks, if nothing else, to copious accounts elsewhere on the life of the irascible 'Old Man'.

With footage unearthed from private archives and never seen in public, the film scores handsomely by shining a light on five of the men who drove Ferrari's cars. Surprisingly high definition colour clips reveal candid shots that help illustrate the lives of Mike Hawthorn, Peter Collins, Luigi Musso, Eugenio Castellotti and Alfonso de Portago; an eclectic quintet united by Ferrari contracts in the late 1950s and the shocking fact that all five were killed in the space of two years.

The central core of the story is built around 'Mon Ami Mate', Chris Nixon's authoritative book on the friendship between the two Englishmen, Hawthorn and Collins. The film does not have interviews as such, and there is no need of them thanks to narrative from those familiar with the period, either as journalists, participants or close friends of the drivers.

Nothing needs to be added to the clip showing the normally ebullient Hawthorn barely capable of speech as he pays tribute after Collins had been killed during the 1958 German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

The sense of loss continues to be evident the following October as Hawthorn tries to celebrate his world championship on the podium in Morocco. It was to be a joyless period in every sense as Hawthorn, fighting a long-term illness, retired immediately and was killed three months later when his Jaguar crashed into a tree on the Guildford bypass.

That accident, although not related to racing, possesses an irony in the sense that drivers of the period were a different breed because of the circumstances under which they raced. This becomes clear from the amateur movie scenes away from the race track as drivers - particularly Hawthorn and Collins - enjoyed each other's company, played out against the unspoken backdrop that the next race could be their last.

Musso, who felt Hawthorn and Collins and joined forces against him, would die when his Ferrari left the road in pursuit of Collins during the 1958 French Grand Prix at Reims. Castellotti was killed while carrying out a pointless test at Modena and the elegant all-round sportsman, The Marquis de Portago, would lose his life, along with his co-driver and nine spectators, on the '57 Mille Miglia.

It was the latter, combined with the loss of Collins for whom Enzo Ferrari had an uncharacteristic soft spot, that would nudge the Commendatore into thoughts of quitting, a reason more emotionally valid than the cause of the latest political threat of withdrawal.

The subtle but nevertheless revealing editing of these particular moments of tragedy is in contrast to dreadful scenes from the Le Mans disaster in 1955 (in which Hawthorn played a part) and detract from the overall tone of a film that is both telling and touching.

None more so than the thoughts of Louise Collins, the beautiful American actress who had married Peter 18 months before his peerless win in the '58 British Grand Prix and that desperate weekend in Germany a fortnight later.

Apart from the opportunity to revel in wonderful shots of drivers working the wheel and cars sliding under power, the film clearly defines how very different this era was. It is something every young motor sport fan should see, if only to note that safety is scarcely mentioned -- for all the wrong reasons.

FERRARI: RACE TO IMMORTALITY is in cinemas and on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital platforms