Reviews, November 2004

Martin Brundle: Working the wheel

with Maurice Hamilton

ISBN 009190062X

Published by Ebury Press


Since his reluctant retirement from the Formula One cockpit at the end of 1996, Martin Brundle has established himself as one of the most eloquent and insightful TV commentators – in any sport. This skill, combined with the vast racing experience that you would expect from 158 grand prix starts, makes his first book a real gem.

The help of respected F1 writer and journalist Maurice Hamilton, who is also a rival commentator for BBC Radio Five Alive, is undoubtedly at the heart of this work’s success. Anyone who is familiar with Hamilton’s easy, engaging writing will recognise his input into this work. But Brundle’s entusiastic narrating voice, so familiar from his TV work, is never smothered.

As he makes clear in the introduction, this is not an autobiography. It’s actually something more interesting. The work is a drivers’ guide to 18 circuits around the world, 17 of which have been used as grand prix venues. The other is Le Mans, a track that Brundle also knows intimately. The technical stuff about driving these tracks makes for great reading, but it is the anecdotes that really hook the reader, whether it’s the stories of crashes like his horrible barrel-roll in Melbourne or descriptions of the parts you don’t see on TV during GP weekends. He also gives an insight into what some of these places are like to visit. Descriptions of trips to Rio and Sao Paulo, for example, add colour and take the reader beyond the circuits’ perimeter fences.

While Brundle clearly loves F1 as much as he ever did, parts do emphasise how some of the fun has gone out of grand prix racing for those who work in the sport. The final pre-season test in Rio, for example, allowed the drivers and mechanics to enjoy a bit of sun and relaxation before the slog of battle commenced. Today’s tight scheduling rarely allows for such luxury.

During the Belgian GP, Brundle was heard to shamelessly plug his book during commentary – but he can be forgiven. The thing is, he really does have something very good to shout about. DS