A new feature-length film focusing on the lives of five motor racing legends will be unveiled this July, in the week leading up to the British Grand Prix. The film, Heroes, has been written and directed by Manish Pandey, who ten years ago wrote the screenplay for the award-winning Senna.
This new movie - commissioned by the Motorsport Network - brings together drivers from F1, sportscars and rallying who tell their stories to each other over an evening in an English stately home.
The four racers are two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Häkkinen, former Ferrari grand prix ace Felipe Massa, nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen and World Rally Championship runner-up Michèle Mouton.
"I wanted to get racers of different ages and disciplines together but in a location that was out of their comfort zone," says Pandey. "When you dig down into these characters, you discover - no matter what their background is - how much they have in common."
Though the motor racing disciplines differ, the stories they share across ten chapters in the film are broadly similar: their love of four wheels growing up, their big breaks, successes, failures, personal struggles and life-threatening accidents. Supplementing their narratives is a wealth of archive material, either gleaned from their personal collections or from the extensive library held at Formula 1 TV's headquarters at Biggin Hill.
Heroes has unearthed some previously unseen archive from key races such as Jerez 1997 (Mika Häkkinen's first win), Interlagos 2008 (when Felipe Massa lost the world championship) and Monza 2006 (when Michael Schumacher's retirement was announced). Of the 65 minutes of archive in the film, over three quarters of it is from the F1 library.
"Movie-making is very technical and there is always a formula," Pandey says, explaining the details of production. "There are three acts. After a short setup where you're introduced to the characters, suddenly there is a twist. That sets you up for the next journey in the film before the final act, which is where everything changes.
"There are techniques you can deploy. However, documentary film-makers have a responsibility when they tell the story of a living or deceased person because it needs to be the truth."
The final protagonist in the story is Michael Schumacher, who at some stage in his career has either worked or raced against the other four racers in the film. Häkkinen's first experience of racing Schumacher was at Macau in F3, before those epic Suzuka showdowns in the late '90s and early 2000s. Massa gets his big break as Schumacher's team-mate in 2006 and looked up to him as a father figure.
After Tom Kristensen beat Häkkinen in the Formula Nordic A-Class karting championship in 1985, he raced alongside Schumacher in a handful of Formula 3 races - before encountering him again in the annual Race of Champions, an event organised and run by... Michèle Mouton.
"It became clear with the drivers we had that while they would tell the stories of their lives, they would also be able to shine a little light on different facets of Michael," says Pandey. "All four of them have Michael in common and I wanted him to be the fifth story. In the years since his skiing accident I've begun to appreciate the immensity of what he achieved on the track and the absolute love that surrounded him - especially at Ferrari."