James Hunt and Niki Lauda are two highly skilled racing car drivers who first develop a fierce rivalry in 1970 at a British Formula 3 International Series race at the Crystal Palace circuit in London, when both their cars spin out and Hunt eventually wins the race. Hunt is a brash, self-confident and cocky individual, while Lauda is a cool and calculating Austrian technical genius who relies on practice and precision. After a falling out with his wealthy grandfather, Lauda takes a large bank loan and buys his way into the British Racing Motors Formula One team, meeting teammate Clay Regazzoni for the first time. Meanwhile, Hesketh Racing, the fledgling racing team Hunt drives for, enters Formula One as well. Lauda then joins Scuderia Ferrari with Regazzoni and wins his first championship in 1975 Formula One season. Hesketh closes down after failing to secure a sponsor, but Hunt joins McLaren when Emerson Fittipaldi leaves the team. During this time, Hunt marries supermodel Suzy Miller, while Lauda develops a relationship with German socialite Marlene Knaus.