On the other hand, in 1978, we had 3-litre V8, V12 and flat 12 engines, and V6 turbos, all sounding utterly different to each other and largely brilliant. The cars looked wonderful standing still and even better on the move because the ground effect technology that would stop F1 cars sliding remained in its infancy. And the drivers: in 1978 we had Ronnie Peterson, Gilles Villeneuve, Mario Andretti, Patrick Depailler, Jody Scheckter, Didier Pironi, John Watson, Alan Jones, James Hunt, Jochen Mass and many, many others. These people didn’t just have superhuman talent, they were true characters, mavericks, off-message daredevils who every time they climbed into an aluminium bathtub swimming in high octane fuel, genuinely risked their lives. They did knowingly, and they did so happily.
How did they become so sanitised? It’s down to teams who race no longer for the sake of racing, but because they have something to sell, be it energy drinks or motor cars. And where there’s something to sell, so too is there a message, and if you’re an employee you must be on it.
Of course, many of the tracks have gone too. In 1978 they raced at the original Kyalami, Long Beach, Paul Ricard, Brands Hatch and the Osterreichring, circuits the current crop would scarcely believe could be considered fit for top level racing, least of all with cars made out of nothing more than bent metal.
Of those still in use today, Monaco, Monza and Montreal are alone in surviving in anything close to original form. In their place, a succession of Tilke tracks in places with plenty of money but no history, playing out to often empty grandstands in countries whose people just don’t care about F1.