The television advertisement is often a good excuse to do something else whilst not looking at the big screen for three whole minutes.
However, the advertisement can sometimes grab the attention of the viewer, in many different emotions – from joy and laughter to sadness or even getting a serious message across.
Formula One fans in the UK got used to these mini breaks in races during ITV’s 12-year stint as the terrestrial broadcaster of Grand Prix racing.
I’m sure many of us will remember the ill-timed break in the closing stages of the thrilling battle for the lead between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher at the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix.
However, the drivers or even the sport can be the star in a commercial. In this piece, I share some of my favourite commercials over the years featuring Formula One personalities.
James Hunt – Olympus Cameras
Year – c.1970’s
Advert Theme – ‘How easy to use’
This commercial goes back to the 1970s and a national campaign produced by Olympus Cameras which was definitely the camera to have in those days.
1976 world champion James Hunt stars in this commercial alongside Monty Python’s Eric Idle and David Bailey.
Hunt is taking some photographs in an exotic location whilst enjoying a pint when he is interrupted by Idle who doesn’t know who he is.
In fact, he thinks Hunt is actually Bailey, who is sitting next to him.
After some talk about how easy the Olympus Trip is to use, Bailey taps Idle on the shoulder and says: “Listen, I’m David Bailey, he’s James Hunt!”
Idle finishes off by saying: “Who’s she?”
It was a successful campaign. Over 10 million cameras of the Olympus Trip were sold before being discontinued in 1984.
Damon Hill and Murray Walker – Pizza Hut
Year – 1996
Advert Theme – ‘Passion at Dinner’
Legendary Formula One commentator Murray Walker and Williams driver Damon Hill took time out from their busy schedules for a quiet pizza together at Pizza Hut.
That’s not how Murray saw it though.
Seeing an opportunity to get excited again, he starts commentating to Hill’s annoyance, who just wants a break from the pressures of racing.
Murray even gets pizza and pasta confused, before the commercial finishes with him shouting, “And Hill finishes second, again!” in reference to his rivalry with Michael Schumacher.
Hill then gives Murray a good shaking; that pizza wasn’t as quiet as Damon had anticipated!
Michael Schumacher – Vodafone
Year – 2003
Advert Theme – ‘Living the Dream’
Ferrari enjoyed a long partnership with telecommunications giant Vodafone in the early 2000’s and began during Michael Schumacher’s domination on the Grand Prix circuit.
In this advert promoting one of Ferrari’s games on a mobile phone, Schumacher had swapped roles with a normal, average everyday person.
Michael has to put up with the strains of late public transport, repetitive office tasks and loud noises at the breakfast table.
Meanwhile, the normal guy is experiencing the thrill of driving a world championship car and winning.
Rubens Barrichello seems impressed!
Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes-Benz
Year – 2007
Advert Theme – ‘Anything You Can Do’
Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were major rivals on the F1 track and it is fair to say that their one-year together as McLaren teammates in 2007 was toxic to say the least.
However, they did provide plenty of laughs in this commercial for their engine suppliers, Mercedes-Benz.
Starting with the closing stages of a test, where the rookie beat the champion and gives his rival a cheeky wave afterwards, the pair both try to outwit each other and see if they can do better.
This includes a young Hamilton admiring the looks of a woman walking past his car, getting to the lift first and an intense workout in the gym.
The advert concludes with both struggling to deal with the heat in a sauna when another former McLaren driver reveals himself that this is the temperature he likes and as king, they have to put up with it.
Both Alonso and Hamilton realise they’ve been outwitted and can’t help chuckling as the commercial ends.
This was a clever marketing gem from Mercedes.
Nigel Mansell – MoneySuperMarket.com
Year – 2010
Advert Theme – ‘Return of the Moustache’
18 years after winning the world championship, Nigel Mansell returned to our screens in this advert for MoneySupermarket.com.
Mansell is on the phone getting an insurance quote whilst playing Scalextric when he is interrupted by comedian Omid Djalili.
Djalili insists he isn’t getting a good deal until he goes to MoneySupermarket.com, especially as he doesn’t drive a racing car anymore.
Djalili adds his comic appeal to the commercial by ensuring the moustache returns to Mansell’s face – something he was commonly known for during his racing days.
It doesn’t look like Mansell was impressed though by this intervention.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen – UPS
Year – 2017
Advert Theme – ‘Special Delivery’
Great friends and teammates for four seasons, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen did some funny adverts for UPS and this was probably the best.
Raikkonen is enjoying a morning espresso in Finland when he suddenly realises that Vettel’s birthday is today and he has forgotten to get a gift for him.
So, he disappears into a shed with a chainsaw, creates something unknown. Then, he gets a UPS courier to send his masterpiece to Vettel’s rental villa in Spain.
Vettel has received plenty of birthday cards and is on the phone questioning why he hasn’t received anything from Raikkonen when the UPS van turns up with the shed.
Vettel opens it up and it is an ice carving of Kimi from the man himself with the simple message: “Happy birthday from the Iceman!”
Vettel just about manages to find some shade to ensure the ice sculpture doesn’t melt and toasts Kimi’s effort.
Let’s hope the sculpture doesn’t melt as quickly as his championship chances in 2019!
Martin Brundle and Jenson Button – Sky Sports F1
Year – 2019
Advert Theme – ‘Here’s to a New Era’
For F1 fans in the UK, 2019 feels very different.
Excluding the British Grand Prix, there are no races on free-to-air television. The last time this occurred was before the BBC began to broadcast all the Grand Prix events in 1979.
If you want your live F1, Sky Sports is the place to be.
Sky’s coverage can’t be faulted even if for many, the cost is simply too much.
Earlier this year, they hinted at this new era by taking a trip through the history of the world championship.
The commercial begins with the early days, where the driver made the difference to the advances in technology. Later on, we move on to the blockbuster rivalries that made the sport a global phenomenon, before Sky got involved with Formula One in 2012.
The advert finishes with new recruit Jenson Button alongside long-time expert Martin Brundle saying: “Welcome to 2019 live on Sky Sports F1.”