ATLAS F1   Volume 7, Issue 19 Email to Friend   Printable Version


The Bookworm Critique
50 Years Of Formula One World Championships
In The Words Of Those Who Were There
By Geoff Tibballs.
Published by Robson Books.
by Mark Glendenning,

Click here to buy this book" I dream about biscuits sometimes."

If you're wondering which Formula One driver (past or present) said that, the only clue I'm going to give you is that it was not Nigel Mansell. That's the beauty of quote books - you can pull out stuff like this and keep your friends amused/annoyed for hours.

That said, I have to admit that this particular book has forced me into a bit of a corner. As far as the people in the corner offices at Atlas F1 Towers are concerned, the idea of this column is that I read books, decide whether or not I like them, and then tell you guys about it, providing some justification for my opinions along the way. The problem this time around is that I have read the book three times and still can't decide whether or not I actually like it. Let me explain.

Quote books are generally good fun. Done properly, they take the best kernels out of the otherwise mantra-like noises that Grand Prix drivers tend to make about how they or their team have mad a positive step forward, OR are having a development year, OR it was the other guy's fault, he didn't look in his mirrors, OR it's too early to be talking about the championship, OR there are no team orders, and so on…

On the other hand, this very quality creates a couple of problems. First, (and rather ironically, in light of what I have just said), reading quote after quote after quote becomes extremely repetitive, and the impact carried by each piece becomes increasingly diminished. In fairness, these books are not necessarily intended to be read cover-to-cover, but rather to be either dipped into arbitrarily or used as reference material. So from that perspective, I guess it simply boils down to what exactly you're intending to use the book for.

The other problem is that stand-alone quotes are usually presented with no information about the context in which they were spoken or written. Not surprisingly, this can change both the impact and the emphasis of the words quite dramatically. Again, the extent to which this actually matters depends on your reasons for wanting to read the book. From a purely entertainment perspective it's fine, but if, to take the other extreme, you were doing some kind of research (and I'm not suggesting that research can't be entertaining!), then the material in books such as these would really be useful only as a starting point that could perhaps offer you a couple of clues about where you should be looking for the more substantial material that you really need.

Geoff Tibballs, the guy who 'wrote' this book (I'm not sure how much a person can 'write' a book that is a collection of quotes…perhaps 'compiler' would be a better word) was unknown to me until I opened '50 Years of the Formula One World Championship…', but according to the back flap he has previously written books like 'Great Sporting Eccentrics' and 'Great Sporting Mishaps', which I guess makes him the sporting equivalent of those TV producers responsible for shows like 'World's Wackiest Advertisments'. He is British, as most of the people that write about Formula One in English tend to be, and he seems to have aimed the book at a British audience. (Little clues like the description of Murray Walker as one of 'our' national treasures tend to give it away). In some books, this can become quite frustrating for non-British readers, but in this case it presented no real drama.

One thing that was a little disappointing was the balance of the quotes that were selected. There were a few too many isolated remarks about how ridiculously slow/stupid/whatever a certain driver was (usually some poor hack who attempted to qualify for one race, failed, and was never seen again), whereas some of those who really should have been there (especially the supremely quotable Innes Ireland) received comparatively little space.

A pleasant surprise was the selection of photos in the centre of the book. Anybody who had read this column before will probably appreciate that I don’t always shave a lot of time for the photos in the middle of books - all too often, they seem to be there just for the sake of it, and are badly chosen, badly reproduced, and add nothing whatsoever to the book. While I could, in this case, live without the last picture (which appears to show Damon Hill searching for ear wax), the rest offer a great selection of images showing classic cars, drivers, and moments from the past fifty years. They are all stock shots, and there is nothing there that you haven't seen before, but if you are new to the sport then they're worth a look.

Ultimately, it's best to let a book speak for itself, so without further ado, here are some highlights:

"I could never concentrate totally. I would find myself in the middle of the race thinking about the party we would have that night." - Innes Ireland.

"He is hardly likely to go down in history as a great champion" - Denis Jenkinson, talking about Niki Lauda.

"I never raced for fun, although it was fun to race" - Stirling Moss.

"Just driving is a thrilling experience, for you feel every nerve, muscle and fibre of your body is alive and alert, ready to react to the slightest movement of the car, to make it do exactly what you want it to do. There is the thrill of being on the limit of the capability of the car and yourself, knowing that you can get around a corner just so fast but no faster." - Innes Ireland.

"When you are riding on that edge you are in a different world. Nothing else exists at all." - Jacques Villeneuve.

"Being a professional is looking after your own bloody future. No one else is going to do it for you." - Keke Rosberg.

"I dream about biscuits sometimes." - Alex Wurz. (You didn’t think I'd leave you in suspense, did you?)

Mark Glendenning© 2007
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