Clive James on Formula 1 — a few highlights

There are lots of things you could say about Clive James, whose death has been announced today. I remember seeing his TV shows as a child in the 1990s. Beyond that, Clive James was a prolific writer, poet and critic. I am qualified to comment on little of this.

But I was, of course, particularly drawn to his work in Formula 1. This makes up so little of his contribution to the world that most obituaries will probably not mention it. So here are a few of my favourite moments of his F1 commentary.

In the earliest days of Bernie Ecclestone’s Foca empire in the 1980s, Clive James narrated the official season review videos. His commentary was so acerbic, you can hardly believe it was official.

Here is his review of the 1982 Italian Grand Prix, in which he is rude about almost everyone involved, including Ferrari, Bernie Ecclestone and the then-Fisa president Jean-Marie Balestre.

Another notable moment is his description of the physical scuffle between Nelson Piquet and Eliseo Salazar at the 1984 German Grand Prix: “This could be the high point of Salazar’s career, so let’s see it again.”

Then there is the Clive James Formula 1 Show, shown by ITV ahead of their first race broadcast in 1997.

Here he interviews a wide selection of drivers from up and down the grid. His direct questions were often hilarious, but also telling:

Ukyo [Katayama], in your first Formula 1 season you had three shunts. In your second you had four. In your third, six; and in your fourth, seven. What are your plans for this season?

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