What we learned being at the biggest F1 film set in a year
Tue 09, Jul, 2024
Source: The Race

Formula 1’s British Grand Prix turned back into a live movie set as the makers of the new F1 film starring Brad Pitt undertook their most ambitious on-site activity in a year.

It’s been a full 12 months since work on the Joseph Kosinski/Jerry Bruckheimer film, for which seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is serving as a producer, moved into the public sphere with a massive presence at Silverstone for the 2023 race.

That was reprised and then some for the 2024 edition, where a teaser trailer for the movie, which will be distributed by Apple, dropped on Sunday even though there are still months left of filming on-site at more F1 races.

The basic details of the film, due for international release on June 25 2025, have been known for some time. Pitt’s character Sonny Hayes is an older, ex-F1 driver who rejoins the grid alongside rookie Joshua Pierce (Damson Idris) at the APX GP team, the owner of which is played by Academy Award winner Javier Bardem. APX GP is the fictional 11th team and the drama in the film is contained within the team - the current competitors, all faithfully portrayed by the real 2023 season, aren’t villains.

What was new at Silverstone this year, a year on from a massive undertaking of capturing on-track footage in Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, was a bigger emphasis on filming dramatic scenes. Although the modified F2 cars, with Pitt and Idris driving at times, still had on-track sessions as more filming of that variety was completed.

It's pretty obvious that what is being shot around the British GP is forming a key part of the drama in the film, even if we only know snippets of what that is.

At Silverstone, APX once again had a team garage between Mercedes and Ferrari, a pitwall stand, and an improved hospitality unit of a late 2010s Williams vintage. They weren’t present in the pitlane during a live session except for being on the pitwall, capturing the kind of footage that features early in the film teaser.

After last year’s focus on action shots, although with some dramatic scenes captured too, there were two more obvious undertakings this year.

A scene was filmed at the back of the grid on Sunday, with several cast members - it looked like Pitt and Bardem - and two static cars. The cars were removed from the grid at the start of the formation lap; unlike last year, they did not film a scene involving one driving off and one being left behind.

There was also a time-sensitive scene shot in the mixed zone where TV and written media gather after qualifying and the race. Pitt and Idris each filmed scenes being ‘interviewed’ as the movie crew occupied a specific position just like any other broadcaster.

This happened while the real drivers went about their actual post-qualifying and post-race duties, which was quite surreal.

Without divulging too much sensitive information, it’s worth stressing how ambitious this film is. And how unsurprisingly meticulous the making of it has been in the organisation.

Obviously that is to be expected of a film with a budget running into hundreds of millions of dollars but these are usually undertaken in almost total secrecy. Not in public against the backdrop of a billion-dollar sporting event with so many watching. Blending such a presence with the usual F1 circus is no small feat given it is usually quite chaotic in its own right.

The effort with the immersion is impressive and the disruption felt minimal. Maybe that’s because of how erratic an F1 weekend can be anyway. Maybe others noticed it more. But it’s hard not to be impressed by the scale of the undertaking and, at least logistically, the execution so far. And it doesn’t stop here. After filming at Suzuka and Silverstone this year, there will be more stops in Hungary, Belgium, Vegas and Abu Dhabi again, and a new trip to Mexico City.

This is all in the quest to make the most authentic racing movie ever made. Trying to please everyone - racing fans and people new to F1 - is a tough ask. And as the film name and initial promotional material is, simply, the F1 name and logo (with the colour changed!), the championship is tightly linked to this film. It will not live or die based on the film but it will be impacted by it. If the movie is popular and well received then great, if it bombs then not so much.

The bar has been set very high by virtue of the effort the filmmakers are going into, let alone what F1 fans will want it to be. Will it be any good? Well, there’s certainly no shortage of authentic material, whether that’s been captured with the actors themselves in the F2 cars or via other clever trickery and technology.

It was already known that the captured footage would be spliced with real F1 race footage too, and the best example is actually in the teaser itself. What looks like a lap onboard Pierre Gasly’s Alpine from the 2023 race, shot with a much higher-resolution camera than cars are normally fitted with, has been reskinned in APX/Hayes colours.

How the dramatic stuff - which is being shot now - layers onto that will be key to how the film is received.