Racers by Richard Williams, Viking, £16.99, ISBN: 0-670-87225/3
The life of a modern Grand Prix driver is a strange one. Paid huge amounts to do something they love, the pressure of expectation heaped upon the very best is unimaginable to the armchair viewer.
In his 290pp book, Richard Williams (Sportswriter of the Year in 1995 and ’96) tries to show this, with some success. Using Damon Hill’s World Championship season as his back drop, Williams explores the rare breed that fill the grid on Sundays at two o’clock. Based largely around the camps of the three main protagonists Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve Racers probes at the whims, fancies, insecurities and psychological wargames that can mean the difference between glorious success and ignominious failure.
Damon Hill’s career in general and the 1996 season in particular come under the closest scrutiny as Williams examines the way in which this thoroughly decent man struggles to come to terms with being first a media scapegoat (as Schumacher wins his second world title) and then a national hero as he takes the world crown despite being unceremoniously dumped by his team mid-season.
‘Racers’ is an original way to tackle the reporting of Grand Prix racing in general. There’s not a picture in sight, but Williams’ thoughtful and precise writing style paints all the images you need from a season filled with melodrama. I’ve spent the last three years reading more Grand Prix copy than most would want to in lifetime and didn’t think I could learn much more. I was wrong and that’s some recommendation. MF