The Keanu Reeves-led, big-budget, Disney-hyped story of Brawn GP’s unlikely rise to glory is understandably commanding a lot of attention and excitement among F1 fans. Further away from the mainstream spotlight, though, is another tale that deserves your attention.
There’s no Hollywood star fronting it. No major backing behind it. And (currently) no global streaming powerhouse making it available to the world. Unless you think a private ‘on-demand’ release on Vimeo fits that billing.
Once you’ve devoured the story of how Ross Brawn and Jenson Button conquered the world against the odds, seek out a different kind of F1 tale: that of brief early-1990s backmarker no-hoper Andrea Moda.
That’s right, one of F1’s most infamous and disastrous teams has its own documentary too. And believe us, it’s well worth watching.
For those who don’t know the little Italian team’s story, we’ll give you the short version. And if you want the long version, head back to series four episode eight of our Bring Back V10s classic F1 podcast for a deep dive into it.
Andrea Moda was a shambolic F1 team that was in way over its head, operating on a shoestring budget as so many teams during the memorable ‘pre-qualifying’ era of F1 did.
Yet for all its failings, including a complete inability to ever field two cars that could run properly, and similar difficulties when it came to paying bills, somehow this ragtag team managed to qualify for a race - in Monaco, of all places.
That was the only highlight of a season that was cut short when mysterious team boss Andrea Sassetti was arrested in the Belgian GP paddock later in the season. Despite attempts to be let into the paddock next time out at Monza, and even filing an entry for 1993, the team was never seen again.
In the three decades since, the Andrea Moda story has become a legendary oddball tale. Its failure effectively represented the end of hopeless chancers taking a shot at F1, and the shambolic stories of what went on in the team that year have become iconic.
A BUMPY ROAD TO REALITY
This isn’t just some glorified YouTuber-reads-Wikipedia re-telling of the story. The crew behind this, who aren’t motorsport fans, overheard the story of the team in a bar in late 2019 and were so fascinated by it, they became determined to make a film about it.
Fittingly given the subject matter, their task wasn’t straightforward. As they began their hunt for people who had been associated with the team (spoiler alert: they found plenty of them in the end), the COVID pandemic hit.
And there were other obstacles to overcome. F1 refused to cooperate on the film, denying access to its archives. That cost the production company a deal it had agreed with Sky in Italy.
Late-on in production, a decision was made to follow advice to change the title, as there was a risk that the original, ‘Last & Furious’ could get them in trouble with Universal, the owner of the Fast & Furious franchise. So the title was changed to Andrea Moda Formula - The craziest team ever.
There was also a reprieve from F1. The filmmakers tracked down F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, who found the idea of the documentary so amusing that he not only agreed to open up F1’s archives (for a hefty price, of course) but volunteered to be interviewed on camera!
A DEEP CAST OF CHARACTERS
While the former Ferrari F1 boss has nothing to do with the Andrea Moda story, Domenicali’s presence - filmed in his London F1 office - adds credibility to the film, which is split into three, roughly 45-minute episodes.
Nigel Mansell appears, too. His relevance to Andrea Moda doesn’t stretch any further than the fact he won the world championship during the team’s only season, and despite declaring he remembers Andrea Moda well, he has a fair bit of trouble pronouncing its name correctly.
But that doesn’t matter. Names like Domenicali and Mansell add gravitas, while it’s the people who were part of the team that are the beating heart of the story.
Various mechanics and team personnel have been tracked down, including Nebojsa Borkovic, who had a long career in F1 including an extended stint with Ferrari later in the 1990s. It’s a nice reminder that not everyone who was associated with Andrea Moda was automatically clueless about F1. And Borkovic adds some balance by not looking back on his Andrea Moda stint with quite as much romance as some others do.
Drivers Roberto Moreno and Perry McCarthy appear at length, as does Alex Caffi, one of the drivers the team initially signed before he agreed to walk away, and Antonio Tamburini, who drove an Andrea Moda-liveried Coloni at the Bologna Motor Show’s Indoor Trophy at the end of 1991.
Caffi (above) comes off as charming and not at all bitter about the nightmare situation he managed to extract himself from, while McCarthy delivers his classic one-liners in a style you can tell has been perfected over many years.
But it’s Moreno who is the hero of the story. He’s the man who performed the miracle of Monaco, somehow dragging an Andrea Moda onto the grid for a grand prix. And he stars in the film as well. You can tell how much it meant to him to lead the team, you can tell he cared (even if he admits he was doing it for the money) and how proud he was to achieve something nobody else can say they did.
UNSEEN FOOTAGE, UNHEARD STORIES
Monaco is naturally one of the key parts of the story, and it’s told well in the film. We won’t go into too much detail here, because there is a revelation about how such a wayward team suddenly had a car capable of qualifying for a race, and we don’t want to spoil it!
The story of that weekend is also supplemented brilliantly by self-shot footage from a friend of Sassetti’s who attended the event, giving it a raw, behind-the-scenes feel that takes you beyond what the F1 cameras captured.
And that’s where a big part of the charm of this story lies. Without so many people around the team filming things at the time, it wouldn’t work. Yes, the story would be the same, but the visuals are a huge part of any documentary. And if you’re going back 30 years, you want to feel like you’re being taken back to that time, and you want to see things you’ve not seen before.
This film delivers on that, all the way from Sassetti hooning around the streets in a red and white Coloni he bought for personal use before he got into F1, to extensive footage of what he did with his remaining cars after F1’s doors were slammed in his face.
The ‘what happened next?’ part of the Andrea Moda story has never been told before, and here we get to not only understand what Sassetti & co. got up to, but we get to see a lot of it too. Again, no spoilers here - although it’s fascinating to see how many dusty car parts and bits of equipment from 1992 are still being kept in an Italian lock-up somewhere.
The story even takes a detour late on that you get the impression caught the producers out. While Sassetti retained the Coloni cars that he tried to enter at the start of 1992 (he admits in the film that the FIA saw through his ‘trick’ when rejecting this plan), what happened to the Simtek-designed cars the team ran on race weekends has been shrouded in mystery.
In the crew’s mission to find out where they went, the story takes some unexpected turns, all very befitting of the bizarre narrative that has been built around this team’s short existence.
THE MYSTERY MAN
The key to any good piece of storytelling is to get access to all the right people. And in the case of Andrea Moda, that means you need the boss: Andrea Sassetti himself.
Given he has barely spoken about his F1 story in the years since, just seeing him and hearing from him feels significant. But he’s not just a talking head.
We get to hear a lot more about his background. There’s the story of how he built up his fashion label, his general interest in F1, and what made him decide to take the plunge into team ownership in the first place.
Whether it’s for show or not, it seems fitting that for his interview he’s wearing a leather jacket.
Lots of people have talked about Andrea Moda, and often mocked it, over the years, but Sassetti has barely told his side of the story.
You get a sense of the real person behind the F1 caricature. He’s one of many people who get emotional recalling Monaco, and you get the impression that it means more to him now than it did at the time.
For all that there’s a consistent narrative throughout the three episodes that Andrea Moda was unwanted by F1 and treated poorly, there’s an acceptance from Sassetti that he made mistakes too, which he puts down to being “young and swaggering”.
If that paints quite a sympathetic picture of a man who raised plenty of suspicion during his brief dalliance with F1, well of course it does. That’s almost always the way with documentary storytelling where there’s a lead protagonist. You’re bound to hear one side of the story most predominantly. The same could be said for Netflix’s epic ‘The Last Dance’ and Michael Jordan.
And while Sassetti admits to some mistakes, there are parts of the Andrea Moda story that go unanswered. There’s the odd mention of why a certain bill didn’t get paid to a key supplier, but it’s not explored in any depth just how few bills were really being paid, and why that was the case.
And while McCarthy’s comedy travails in the second car are given plenty of airtime, there’s no real explanation given for why this team was so incapable of rolling two functioning cars out of the garage every weekend.
The obvious answer is money, but again, the finances aren’t addressed in great detail. The main focus is on how these against-the-odds warriors were the victims of poor treatment by F1.
Make of that what you will, but don’t let that cloud your judgement of the documentary itself. If you’re aware of the Andrea Moda story and want to hear first-hand accounts of just how crazy it was, and see what it was like behind the scenes, check this out.
And if this is the first you’re hearing of it, you won’t want to miss a real insight into a bygone era of F1, and just how shambolic things could be for those trying and failing to make the grid.
As a final disclaimer, we’ve not been paid to promote this film. We even paid our own money to watch it, rather than receiving free access for a review. We’re sharing this story with you because it’s a small, independent project that has done an incredible job digging up a famous but unfashionable story - and it deserves to be seen by more people.
Watch Andrea Moda - The craziest team ever on Vimeo.