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Reviewing some Christmas F1 books

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Andrew Benson | 13:00 UK time, Thursday, 17 December 2009

The racing may be on hold, but Christmas is always a time of plenty for Formula 1 fans, with a plethora of books released - and this year is no exception.

I've been sent a handful, and have been busy reading them to give you an idea of what's out there.

Top of most fans' Christmas lists for years has usually been Autocourse, which has been going for decades and remains the definitive F1 annual for aficionados.

This year's book follows a well-worn theme, with a driver top 10, comprehensive reviews of each team's season, full reports from each race, and a handful of other features.

As ever, it is a very strong package.

BBC F1's Mark Hughes is a major contributor - and recommendations do not come higher than that. Richard Williams, the Guardian's brilliant chief sports writer, analyses the state of play at Ferrari - something of a specialist subject - in the wake of their worst season in years. And the book's co-editor, Simon Arron of Motorsport News and the Daily Telegraph, adds his own expertise and trademark humour. Between them and the other contributors, including veteran F1 journalists Maurice Hamilton and Alan Henry, they ensure it is a great read throughout.

As ever, one of the book's major selling points is its photography, from leading F1 snappers such as Bernard Asset and Paul-Henri Cahier.

Autocourse is not flawless. Although it has been updated, the design remains a bit flat and uninspired. But that is a minor quibble.

The book feels - and is - weighty and substantial in both meanings of the words. And, overall, if you're looking for a coffee table-type review of the season with glorious photography that gives you plenty to get your teeth into - and an excuse to zone out at those moments when the whole Christmas thing has got too much - you can't go wrong with it. Even at £40.

Also worth investigating is Jenson Button - My Championship Year, the Englishman's diary of his triumphant 2009 season.

Written with the excellent Daily Telegraph journalist Sarah Edworthy, it's a good read, detailing Button's tumultuous winter after Honda's pull-out and then his progress towards the title on a race-by-race basis.

Jenson Button poses with a copy of his diary of his championship year

It's interesting and illuminating throughout, but it is arguably most effective when it is providing little behind-the-scenes glimpses of Button's thinking at various stages of the season.

So readers learn his thoughts on team-mate Rubens Barrichello's outbursts when things did not go his way; Button's concerns post-Hungary that the championship was slipping away from him; and various other key moments during the season.

There are also sweet little snapshots into his private relationships, including with girlfriend Jessica Michibata, and how he fills his time between races.

It's fascinating stuff and highly recommended, not just to fans of Button.

Then there is James Allen on F1 - 2009: A Revolutionary Year. This is a compilation of posts from the blog of the former ITV F1 commentator.

Allen's blog, written in a casual, approachable style, is one of the best ones out there, so it's no surprise to find that he is a reliable guide to the season.

He's informed and insightful, bang on the money on some things, less so on a handful of others. But then, as I know only too well, that's one of the occupational hazards of trying to report the news in a world as Byzantine as F1.

There are few pictures, and you'd think you would have to be a pretty committed fan to want to go through again a series of columns that, as they are reproduced as they were written at the time, lack the benefit of hindsight - and even more so to want to pay £9.99 for articles that are freely available on the internet. But it is surprisingly fun to take your time looking back through the year and re-trace all the key developments as they happened.

There are plenty of other books out this year, of course, including the Official F1 Season Review, produced in conjunction with Autosport magazine, which has a number of interesting features. Among the best are the teams and drivers reviewing their own seasons, which is a novel idea and works well. It has to be said, though, that overall it does not quite match its rival Autocourse for that quality feel.

A couple more books that were released earlier in the year are worth a special mention.

Anyone wanting an F1 book to really get their teeth into over the Christmas holidays could do worse than pick up a copy of Mail on Sunday journalist Malcom Folley's Prost v Senna, and the paperback reissue of Gerald Donaldson's acclaimed James Hunt - The Biography.

The core of Folley's excellent, very readable, book is a long interview granted by Prost, which helps no end in offering fresh insights into the most compelling rivalry in F1 history.

Likewise, Donaldson's book is a brilliant warts-and-all account of the life of one of the sport's most popular and swashbuckling figures.

Both are well worth a tenner or so of anyone's money.


  • Comment number 1.

    May I also recommend 'Williams' by your 5 live commentator Maurice Hamilton.

    It's a good read from beginning to end, encompassing the entire history of the Williams team, with plenty of anecdotes and quotes to boot.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am looking forward to getting Jensons book at christmas. In respect of the Williams book, I read the originals back in 94 and 95. Sadly Williams is no longer the force it was back then but im sure they will be a good read too. Might have to kepp an eye out for that one.


  • Comment number 3.

    Prost vs Senna seems a good book. Kobayashi got a deserved drive for Sauber in 2010. May I also recommend "My Championship Year" by Jenson Button.

    Books to get:
    The Top 100 F1 Drivers of All Time by Alan Henry and 3 times world champion Jackie Stewart.

    60 Years of The Formula One World Championship by Bruce Jones.
    Fuel-Injected Fact Book by Adam Hay-Nicholls
    Lewis Hamilton: The Full Story by Mark Hughes

  • Comment number 4.

    If you like season reviews, the Formula 1 Yearbook series by Luc Domenjoz are always worth their money. Full of info, great pictures and larger than the official F1 Review.

    They normall cost about £20 new. You can usually find old copies of these going back to the '90s in charity shops. Well worth having.

  • Comment number 5.

    I have to agree that a good book at Christmas is vital to read whilst Sound of Music and James Bond are playing in the back ground.

    I have to concur about James Allen on F1 - 2009: A Revolutionary Year, I like all off your blogs (BBC, Planet F1 etc.) as they are insightful but as I followed last season I did wondered if I would want to re-read much of the web that I have already surfed... but I have not put this down and it has made a few train journeys go quickly. It provided background the reasons behind some of the 'strange' decisions made last year. The mix of the race day reviews and the politics is an enticing read.

    A year in review then ask Santa for this book.

    Steve, not associated at all with Mr Allan's web site just a sad old F1 Fan who loves the politics, technology and the racing.

    Merry Christmas everyone.

  • Comment number 6.

    I always used to get "THE ITV SPORT GUIDE - GRAND PRIX (year)" edited by Bruce Jones.

    It was a very good read, with good pictures and reviews and analysis (and a fair few spelling and grammar errors on the side).

    One was released every January of every year from the late 90s until last year.

    Will there be a new one this year, or is ITV totally cut off from F1 now?

  • Comment number 7.

  • Comment number 8.

    may i recommend, The Brawn Story: The man and the team that turned Formula One upside down, by Christopher Hilton. should be a good read, getting this one myself, being a team fan and all.

  • Comment number 9.

    JB's book is a really great read. I couldn't wait for Christmas before I got mine :)

  • Comment number 10.

    Yes formulaoneman, F1: Fuel-Injected Factbook by Adam Hay-Nicholls is a brilliant stocking filler. Very funny, and great for kids and grown-ups alike.


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