From the Bookshelf - Formula 1: Looking back, looking forward

Lewis Hamilton has secured his fourth world title, powered by Mercedes’ current dominance, making him the most successful British Formula 1 champion to date.

Back at the start of this season, with the adoption of some radical new rules and regulations, we looked at some of the books concerning the more analytical, statistical aspects of Formula 1. This time we take a look at how some notable commentators have captured the ultimate formula’s ‘mood’.

Firstly, and hot off the press, there is Mark Hughes’s second volume on a ‘key’ season (1980) that has had a significant impact on the Formula 1 arena in recent years. With a sizeable and occasionally technical chapter on the mechanics of the ‘machines’, its great strength throughout is a detailed, evocative narrative, particularly of the individual races themselves – supported by many strong pictures – as you would expect from this author. Published by Motor Sport, the production values give the impression sometimes of a number of periodical reports woven together – a fine example, though, of its genre. [Hughes’s first volume looked at the 1970 season.]

The two other titles in this month’s selection are both photographic montages. The front-leaf cover of Ingram et al.’s work states rather grandly that the book was ‘conceived as the definitive photographic essay of the atmosphere that surrounds motor racing at the highest level’. That claim is reputedly evidenced through the published pictures being the ‘winners’ of a giant photographic competition. [Whether such a methodology can result thus is a questionable hypothesis.] Nonetheless it’s an enjoyable full-blown colour-fest with a foreword by the then MSA Chief Executive, John Quenby, as the RAC ‘enters its centenary year of service to motoring and the motorist’.

Snowdon and Burnett’s book, on the other hand, is black and white throughout and desirous of capturing ‘intimate glimpses’ behind the sport. It’s superbly strong in its portraiture of the drivers both in their cars and relaxed moments; Graham Hill in swimming trunks, flashing out a table tennis forehand with trademark concentration, is a sight to behold in itself!

All of human life is there (as they say).

- Mark Hughes, 2017. F1 Retro, 1980. London: Motor Sport Magazine.

- Michael Ingram, Rick Tomlinson and Robin Bigland (eds.), 1996. Grand Prix Moods: A Photographic Essay of Motor Racing in all its Moods. Surby, Isle of Man. Moods of Mann.

- Nigel Snowdon and Diana Burnett, 1998. Formula One Through the Lens: Four Decades of Motorsport Photography. Richmond: Hazleton Pub.

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