top of page

Unpacking the Tunes: A Trip Down Formula One’s Musical Memory Lane

Written by Niels Rooman, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Carlos Sainz is best known for humming to 'Smooth Operator' after a great race; Image Credits - Reuters

A common Formula One saying we can all agree on is, “Everyone is a Ferrari fan”; and it’s also safe to say that “Everyone is a music fan”. So what about delving into music within Formula One? How does music impact Formula One? Does it enhance the experience of the fans? Let’s find out.


F1 drivers love music!

First, F1 drivers, like the commoner, do listen to music. In default of having an auto radio in their single-seater, they occasionally sing their favourite song of the moment to their engineer, through the radio.


We’ve seen it before, with Lando Norris humming Friday (Dopamine Re-Edit) during Free Practice One of the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello. The song is a remix by the English DJ “Riton” of “Push the Feeling On” from “Nightcrawlers” (1992).


Only a year ago, Lando was humming to the tunes of “I’m moving up and down side to side like a rollercoaster”, the one and only lyrics from “Stop It” by “FISHER”, during the 2019 United States Grand Prix. And a year prior, in 2018, the promoters of the GP invited Bruno Mars to perform during the weekend. The idea was to bring added value to the event, and thus welcome more American fans.


Many drivers also share their music taste on social media, such as Daniel Ricciardo, who sometimes posts his playlist on his Instagram stories.


Some drivers even have their own “hymn”, like Carlos Sainz, who sings the 1984 song “Smooth Operator” from “Sade” every time he completes a “smooth operation”. (The last instance being his incredible victory at the Singapore Grand Prix).


Finally, drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc produce their own songs. We never hear about Hamilton’s productions, but the seven-time World Champion often teases his project on social media. He also appeared on Christina Aguilera’s song “Pipe” under the name XNDA, singing the bridge, but only confirmed it was him two years later.


However, we had the chance to hear Leclerc’s piano talent, starting with “AUS23 (1:1)” ahead of the 2023 Australian Grand Prix weekend. This composition garnered plenty of reception: 1.5M streams on Spotify in five days, and 4.2M in one month. He also released a song in Miami (“MIA23 (1:2)”).

Charles Leclerc playing the piano; Image Credits - CharlesLeclerc

Back in the day, Jacques Villeneuve also tried a career in music. He released an acoustic rock album named “Private Paradise” which proved to be rather unsuccessful.


A famous team principal also has links with the musical industry: Christian Horner. Indeed, his wife Geri Halliwell is an ex-Spice Girl. Horner can apparently play the guitar, too, adding on to his repertoire of skills.


The original case of the Pitstop Boys

Some other drivers also have their own anthem made by fans! Indeed, you probably know the “Pitstop Boys”, a group of Dutchies (then three, now two) who hardly support Max Verstappen.


Rob Toonen is a DJ, Jeroen Hilgenberg is a nightclub owner, and Marco Mars (not part of the band anymore) is a singer. The trio started to produce songs to cheer for “Super Max!”, creating a genuine rallying symbol for all the “Oranje army”. The first one was released in 2016, one day after the Spanish Grand Prix, when the young Dutch sensation got his first victory.


At first, the song didn’t garner many views on social media, but Lando Norris popularised it, listening to the song during a Twitch live stream (to this day, the clip has more than 10M views on YouTube!).


Verstappen, who was playing with Lando during the live stream, felt, at first, disconcerted: “I was always embarrassed about the song initially… it really went out of control.” Today, he is more at ease with it, and praises the Dutch fans’ enthusiasm.


Five years later, a remix ("Super Max! Yohé, Yoho!") was released, on 10 December 2021, to accompany the Dutchman during the season's finale against Lewis Hamilton.


To thank Lando Norris (who made their songs famous), the funny friends produced “Let's Go Lando”, to cheer for the second-most popular driver among Dutch fans. Recently, they even wrote a composition for Fernando Alonso: “Vamos Fernando!” released in June 2023.

The Pitstop Boys, famous for their 'Super Max' song that rocked up the F1 world; Image Credits - Spotify

Artists love F1!

Other musical artists chose to make a song about the sport itself! Although, these songs tend to vary in terms of being successful.


Firstly, we can talk about David Guetta, who chose to focus the “Dangerous” music video on F1. Indeed, he invented a story to illustrate his song about a rivalry between two F1 drivers (him and “JP”, played by the British actor James Purefoy).


During the clip, Guetta is driving Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus E20, which served during the 2012 F1 season! To drive a Formula 1 without any previous experience, David Guetta had to follow “Training, including theory and practise, with several smaller Renault cars (F2.0 -210 CV- and F3.5 -530 CV-)”, according to a 2014 article from “AutoBild.es”. Purefoy is probably driving a single-seater made by an old French F1 Team called AGS (Automobiles Gonfaronnaises Sportives).


You can also see Romain Grosjean making a cameo towards the end of the clip, emerging on the podium. The Frenchman plays the teammate of Guetta in the song.


When it went out in late 2014, it was not unanimous, as some observers were disappointed to see how Guetta and the clip producer (Jonas Åkerlund) had portrayed F1: a nasty rivalry, mechanics replaced by women in swimsuits. The music, though, was a big success, and even topped the charts in different countries!


Unlike David Guetta’s song, others didn't have the success they expected… During the Miami Grand Prix this year, F1 proposed to “Will I Am” to produce a song as the race's opening (parade). The target of the Formula One Management was to widen the American audience, but the European one at least wasn’t pleased with… this.


Some comments were quite evocative of the events that ensued: “I have to admit I was expecting a horrible song, got exactly what I was expecting”.

Brian Tyler is popular for composing F1's opening titles; Image Credit - Brian Tyler on X

Grand Prix intros

Another primordial element helping bond Formula One and music is the opening titles during Formula One race weekends! A truly relatable topic for Formula One fans, and how they rush towards their devices when they hear the hymn of the opening titles!


Firstly, there’s always the anthem of the host country played before the race, usually by the national band. By the way, it can lead to amusing moments, such as during the Belgian GP this year, where some drivers were seen holding their laughter…


However, a more pressing case for opening titles were the ones used on television! And this list features some iconic tunes during the sport’s golden years.


One of the first on the block was “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, used by the BBC between 1978 and 1997. Murray Walker was pleased to hear that, for the 2009 season, the BBC would re-use the tube as opening titles for races.


At the time, he admitted to The Telegraph: "Every time I hear that music, I get butterflies. Because I know that when it stops, I start." In 2016, Channel 4 obtained the rights for Formula One broadcast in the UK, and continued to play “The Chain” each Sunday before a GP start.


Between 2006 and 2008, ITV 1 used the electric rock song ‘Lift Me Up by Moby, for its F1 coverage in the UK. The original composition was remixed with F1 sounds to make it faster, and more vibrant. We can feel the nostalgia of some fans in the clip’s comments on YouTube: “This song marked one of the best periods of F1, so many memories…”.

Alistair Griffin's 'Just Drive' gained popularity thanks to its use in the F1 outro for 2010; Image Credits - Alistair Griffin YouTube

Another song which left its mark in the sport is ‘Just Drive’, by Alistair Griffin. Indeed, BBC1 used it at the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2010, illustrating the season’s highlights. It was the song's premiere too, and immediately climbed up the charts! One listen to this song and you will know why it was so high up the charts in no time!


After its purchase by the American group Liberty Media in 2017, Formula One entered a whole new digital era. And only a year later, in 2018, Brian Tyler was commissioned to produce the very first “Official F1 Theme”, played as the opening titles for each Grand Prix. And the Hollywood composer certainly did it brilliantly. His “F1 Theme” is known by every ardent fan, and followers of the sport, who get goosebumps when listening to the masterpiece.


You must have understood some famous tunes within Formula One, then. Do make sure to tune in to the next race at Las Vegas, running from 16th November, 2023, to 18th November, 2023, with the race on Saturday night! Perhaps, you would be able to spot Brian Tyler’s famous hymn then, and maybe discover newer tunes along the way!

2 comments

2 Comments


Guest
Nov 12, 2023

Hmmmm . Very instructif. Will tune in next time 👏👏👏👍

Like
Guest
Nov 12, 2023
Replying to

DR is the guest !

Like
bottom of page