It’s a great time of year for all of us as F1 Bobblehats, as hot on the heels of Jenson’s book launch, we have another one that will be right up our street – “The Mechanic” from Marc Priestley aka @F1Elvis.
Marc is most often on our screens right now as part of the Sky Sports F1 Midweek Report and has been heavily involved in the Formula E coverage, but as most fans of the sport may already know, before all this, he was part of the McLaren team. Here we are privileged to have Marc’s take on the Formula 1 world from the inside.
Marc speaks candidly about his decade ensconced in a business where the high are very high, and the lows can be oh so low, but all come packaged with the same amount of hard work when you are a mechanic in one of the top teams. He takes us through how he developed his love of Motorsport as a child living right by Brands Hatch, and worked his way up through the lower series helping out with a Formula Ford team, building Caterham 7’s, always maintaining that determination to make it to the top tier. One day, his letter writing paid off and he received a positive response from Woking which was to set him on his way.
He joined McLaren, initially as part of their test team, and he shares some great insights with us into a sport at a time where the budgets were sky high, and where things like chartering a helicopter to dry out a wet test track didn’t seem so out of the ordinary! Marc talks us through what it was like to work on the team from the inside, giving great detail to landmarks in his career like his first pit stop. (See mention of that here too in our previous interview with Marc)
He also talks us through the work hard/play hard habits, and what ‘the boys’ got up to in the very little free time that they had on the road when not rebuilding a car until the early hours…It’s fair to say that from some of the tales in the book, he was very lucky not to get in more trouble over the years!
Practical jokes and banter aside, what you pick up on consistently through the book is a real vibe of “team spirit”, embroidered within the historical fact of the drivers, races, and championships at the time.
Marc was lucky enough to work alongside David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, among others, but it is his close relationship with Kimi Raikkonen that we gain most insight into as we read. I’m delighted to see that a tale Marc once told me at an F1 event is included as it’s a classic – I won’t reveal that to you, you need to buy the book and find that for yourself – I’ll just say “blue dye”!
We are also walked through Marc’s view of the 2007 Hamilton/Alonso season with his inside opinion of how that can split the sides of the garage, and also the emotions of being in the garage for the final race of 2008, when Lewis became world champion and we all repeated “Is that Glock?” along with the television commentary. In short, it is a must read for any F1 fan, and I can highly recommend.
We posed a few questions to Marc ahead of the books launch this week:
Marc, why does now feel like the right time for you to put pen to paper?
“I’ve had some kind of book in my mind ever since still working at McLaren, but never got round to doing anything with the idea. A year ago I was approached by the publisher and it gave me the kick up the backside I needed, as well as the opportunity to make it happen. I’m really grateful.”
I know from chatting with you that you have so many stories and insights into F1. Was it difficult to narrow it down to the ones you included in the final book?
“Yes, although remembering them all was the most difficult part.”
With that in mind, I’m sure you have plenty more that you could share. Already planning a follow-up?
“No plans at the moment. It took every spare moment in my life to get this one written as it was!”
You share some insight into your close relationship with Kimi in the book. As a notoriously private person, did you feel duty bound to double check with him first before including it?
“I did indeed send him some chapters to read in advance, but he’s very low maintenance in that respect.”
And on that note, whilst I wouldn’t want you to reveal anything, I would imagine there were things you have had to leave out?
“There’s probably a whole other book I could write, but it would have to wait until I retire from F1!”
Lastly, your book is surely going to be on every F1 fans Christmas list this year, from conversations I’ve seen on social media. How does that feel? It’s a bit cool, isn’t it?
“Honestly it’s mind blowing. I’ve just seen the finished book and held it in my hand for the first time today and it feels totally surreal. I hope people enjoy the stories and thank you to everyone who takes the time to read it, I really appreciate it.”
The Mechanic is available from 2nd November 2017, and you can get your hands on your own copy here.