Formula 1 is all the rage in the UK these days thanks largely to the success of Netflix’s smash hit Drive to Survive. However, the big names of motor racing – both teams and drivers – have been starring on the small screen for many years, featuring in some truly classic F1 TV adverts.
From pizza to pit stops, join us as we make a pitstop to revisit some of the best motor racing TV adverts from over the years…
Lewis Hamilton vs Fernando Alonso – Mercedes-Benz, 2007
The rivalry between multiple-time Formula 1 champions Sir Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso is one of sport’s greatest. In 2007 the duo was battling it out at McLaren, and tensions would boil over during the 2007 season thanks to the infamous Hungary F1 Grand Prix pitlane fiasco during the World Championship.
This tongue-in-cheek Mercedes-Benz advert pokes a bit of fun at the now legendary sporting rivalry, as the two rival drivers take their on-track competition to a variety of settings, from racing each other to check-in to a hotel first, to competing during an intense gym workout. With the real-life drama well-publicised, plus a cameo appearance from former driver Mika Hakkinen, it’s no wonder this TV advert has become a long-standing fan favourite.
Damon Hill and Murray Walker – Pizza Hut, 1996
A true classic fan favourite TV advert featuring F1, this Pizza Hut advert has become even more beloved following the passing of iconic commentator Murray Walker. Walker joins British F1 champion driver Damon Hill in the funny sketch set at a Pizza Hut, which was to promote the chain restaurant’s Pepperoni Stuffed Crust pizza.
The Formula 1 ad plays on Walker’s classic commentary of Hill’s famous races, as the pundit narrates every step of the driver’s meal – from arrival to ordering to eating and, finally, when Hill loses his cool. Walker drops in classic Grand Prix phrases throughout – the likes of which we still hear today from Martin Brundle and Crofty on Sky Sports F1. A great way to remember a true icon of the sport.
Kimi Raikkonen – Makia Racing, 2012
Kimi Raikkonen is known as a man of few words with a legendary poker face, a love of parties and a bit of a steely demeanour. He’s become a cult hero amongst fans, particularly in the era of digital platforms and social media, thanks to his cutting one-liners and instantly meme-able reactions.
Back in 2012, Finnish clothing brand Makia Racing capitalised on their countryman’s reputation to make one of the most memorable, eyebrow-raising and funny F1 ads of all time. The advert, promoting the Makia Racing clothing line as Raikkonen’s personal sponsor, takes Kimi’s penchant for a big night and makes it the butt of the joke, as the F1 star is blackmailed into signing with Makia Racing.
The advert starts with a bound figure with a bag over his head being driven to an isolated meeting place. He’s then shoved into a chair across the table from some shifty-looking men, who rip off the bag and present Kimi, the kidnapped man, with a contract to sign. Kimi at first refuses, though he’s eventually persuaded when presented with an album of what seem to be photos of the driver in a range of compromising situations. The provocative and surprising short film certainly stands out from the crowd in the league of F1, just as Kimi did during his years on the track.
James Hunt and Morecambe & Wise – Texaco, 1977
Legendary British F1 driver James Hunt became famous not just for his success in the World Championship, but also for his charisma and charm. In 1977, petrol brand Texaco paired the then McLaren driver with comedy duo Morecambe & Wise for a star-studded advert.
The ad sees World Champion Hunt sitting in a pitted racing car being tuned up by Morecambe & Wise as engineers. After explaining that everything from the chassis to the suspension has been altered, the comedians are puzzled about what could be wrong with the car. They then realise it needs petrol, and comically turn to the camera to explain that “you can’t buy better petrol than Texaco”.
Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg – Mercedes-Benz, 2011
No list of the top Formula 1 anything would be complete without an appearance from Michael Schumacher. One of the greatest athletes of all time, the seven-time World Champion has been out of public view for years following a skiing accident in 2013. This advert from two years prior sees the sporting great star alongside Nico Rosberg, who would himself go on to be a German World Champion a few years later.
In the ad, a couple is stranded with a broken-down car at the side of a road at the worst possible time – the woman is in labour. As they argue, a slick Mercedes-Benz pulls up, and Rosberg steps out. Then, a second Mercedes parks and reveals Schumacher. The couple, seemingly forgetting about the urgency of their impending baby situation, argue about which driver would be the better choice as a makeshift ambulance driver. A funny look at the never-ending arguments amongst fans about who is the greatest F1 driver of all time, the advert is all the more cherished now for Schumacher’s appearance.
Do you have another favourite F1 ad that didn’t make the list? Let us know your top motorsport adverts in the comments!