Was thinking about this just the other day. I have no idea when I started watching Formula 1. According to my mum, I begged her to teach me to read when I was 3, because I wanted to be able to read the tv listings in the newspaper. I can only presume it was in order to watch sport, seeing as that has been my viewing of choice ever since. I am pretty confident that by the age of four I was a fairly regular viewer of BBC’s Grandstand and ITV’s World of Sport. I can clearly remember seeing Niki Lauda’s crash on the news, and seeing James Hunt win the world championship a few months later. And since then, I have been a devoted fan of it.
Except for one year. I believe it was the Belgium Grand Prix, in the early 80s (probably 81-82). There was an accident on the starting grid, where someone broke down before the start. A mechanic rushed out to assist, but then the race was started. Circumstance led to a car hitting the mechanic directly, breaking both his legs. It was pretty horrific, and I had nightmares about it.
I had, up until then, enjoyed seeing big crashes, and thought no more of the consequences. For some reason this hit home to me, I understood properly the dangers involved, and it really put me off for a while. I came back a wiser fan of motor racing, more appreciative of the drivers and what they did. Also having James Hunt starting to commentate over this period meant I learnt a hell of a lot (best colour commentator ever).