All of the greatest hits
A comprehensive review of all Formula 1’s world champions, but guilty of retreading old ground, says Jake Williams-Smith
All 33 world champions are celebrated in this retelling of Formula 1 history, from the inaugural season in 1950 right up to the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Their careers are chronicled by Maurice Hamilton, occasionally of this parish but who was also the Observer’s F1 correspondent for 20 years between 1990 and 2010. His fine writing is complemented by great imagery provided by Paul-Henri and Bernard Cahier. Beginning with Giuseppe Farina’s title victory all the way back in 1950, Hamilton reflects in turn on the greatest drivers as well as their victories and hardships, though no tale is previously untold.
The wonderful images from the Cahier Archive decorate the pages and detail the journey of every champion in their pursuit of the ultimate goal. Many are previously unseen, helping to illuminate some of the fiercest world championship battles from the past in surprising new ways.
Hamilton’s retelling of the journey each driver experienced on the way to their titles works well, though despite his long and respected career as an F1 reporter and commentator, he doesn’t include personal memories of those champions he has known. This is a shame because doing so would have refreshed some of the well-established storylines included in the book.
Quotes from many of the most famous names to race in F1 fill the pages, but there is a lack of individual insight from each champion that would have been a welcome addition to the book. Hamilton has also managed to persuade Bernie Ecclestone to contribute a brief foreword, which gives the book a bit of added gravitas.
As you would expect the greatest rivalries, most memorable wins, and controversial moments are all here. And it all adds up to create a very hefty several-hundred-page tour through F1’s storied past. In part, because of its exhaustive nature, this is a useful record of those names permanently etched in the annals of racing history. However, you can’t help feeling it would have benefited from more personal insight and a few more surprises along the way.
Formula One: The Champions
70 Years of Legendary F1 Drivers
White Lion Publishing,
Exceptional Cars – Ferrari 250SWB 2689
One and a half seasons of racing is a pretty short career to describe as ‘stellar’, even though the subject of this book finished third in its debut race – which happened to be the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans. An impressive opener for a private entry behind two works Ferrari prototypes. Yet other SWBs have achieved as much and more, not least the TT winner Porter has already featured in its Great Car series, so putting a similar car into a cheaper volume seems odd. Inevitably much of the text is about SWBs in general, always nice to read, but once the subject’s few period and historic races are done there’s a lot about its restoration and concours life in the USA and its current owner. A perfectly good history, but the £60 Great Cars version looks better value. GC
ISBN 978 1 907085 87 1
Formula one 2020
Formula One 2020 is the latest grand prix guide to set you up for the season, but it’s likely to disappoint Formula 1 fanatics, despite providing a useful reference for those new to the championship. Let down by sloppy editing and too many typos, as well as a bizarre insistence on calling the constructors’ championship the “Constructors’ Cup”, the book is handily split into files on the teams, drivers and tracks, with a solid stats breakdown at the rear. Where this book should entice new fans is the dedication to the history of the F1 teams – perhaps at the cost of more relevant 2019 and 2020 preview material – in an easily digestible fashion. But you do wonder if sections of the book were committed to print ahead of the 2019 season run-in, as the lack of real focus on Toro Rosso’s surprise Brazilian Grand Prix second place is a notable omission among others. Still, this book is perhaps aimed at newcomers seeking to get into F1 and could succeed on that front, with the track section in particular a good introduction to new fans. TE
ISBN 978 1 78739 373 8