Badger Guest-Contributor, Georgina O’Hara Smith has written a review of John White’s great little coffee-table F1 book – “Formula 1 Miscellany” – ready why you should consider it for your wish list…
Being a Formula One fan and a bit of a geek I love books that give me more insight into the wonderful world of F1. But, however keen I am to learn who won the 1954 World Championship (Fangio with 42 points) I do find trawling through encyclopaedias and stats books a little dull. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great if you just need to answer a question or find a fact but they’re not particularly fun reading.
That’s where White’s Formula One Miscellany comes in. Admittedly it wouldn’t be my first choice for fact finding – even if it does have a useful and usable index and a helpful list of links to F1 related websites – but it is my first choice for dipping in and out of when I get 30 seconds to spare. The content of the book, as the title suggests, is essentially miscellaneous facts, stats and stories collated in an almost completely random order. The book opens with a charming foreword by Sir Stirling Moss in which he describes White’s Miscellany as a ‘true treasure trove of facts and figures’. I have to admit I agree with Sir Stirling but it is not just the basic facts and figures – such as tables of the top ten in the drivers and constructors championships from there beginnings until 2007, or lists of all Silverstone (1926 – 2007) and Monaco (1929 – 2007) winners – that make this book so accessible and absorbing.
The Miscellany is by turns funny and poignant and interesting and informative. There are wonderful and totally pointless facts like Durex (yes, that Durex) at one point sponsored an F1 team and Michael Schumacher did a L’Oreal advert (which has to be seen to be believed) and that Bridgestone are called Bridgestone because the founder of the company, Mr Ishibashi’s name literally means stone bridge. There are also some slightly bizarrely thought up ‘Fantasy Starting Grids’ for drivers from Great Britain, France and Italy, but not Germany (for no apparent reason), the rest of Europe 1 and 2 (probably to account for the lack of a grid for German drivers), North America, South America, the rest of the world, Ferrari and McLaren.
Equally there are many useful facts and lists including lists of ‘Lost circuits’ and driver nicknames, and the name of the oldest F1 driver (Louis Chiron aged 55 and ¾) and the name of the only car with a 100% winning record in F1 (The Brabham B46B). White has also compiled nice mini biographies of 16 of the greatest drivers from Ascari and Alonso to Senna and Schumacher which contain information on team, world championship ranking, early history, date and place of birth, and sadly often place and date of death. Almost all the biographical sections and some of the facts and stories are finished with a ‘Did You Know That?’ item which gives an extra piece of information in some way, albeit often loosely, connected to the biography, fact or story adding a more conversational touch to the book.
The ‘Fast Talk’ quotes are also fascinating and varied and give an insight to some of the weird and wonderful characters in F1. The quotes range from the ironic – ‘He thinks he’s bigger than the sport, too, but he isn’t. And when he retires, and no one really remembers him, that will become clear’ Jaques Villeneuve on Michael Schumacher – to the amusing – ‘My Italian blood respects Ferrari’ Frenchman Jean Alesi – to the painfully sad – ‘It would be a personal victory for me to convince Ayrton that there are more things in life rather than just racing’ Alain Prost, ‘If I have a serious crash, I’d rather lose my life in it than be stuck in a wheelchair… I have such an intense life…’ Ayrton Senna. One thing I would say is that, although Murray Walker (or Muddly Talker as he is aptly described by White) has a page dedicated to his classic commentating, I personally would not have minded if White had included more Murrayisms and more comment from non drivers especially as some of the facts are repeated (the story of Alonso taking victory at the Hungaroring to become the youngest ever F1 winner can be found on pages 52 and 56 for example).
Obviously, as the updated version was published in 2008, one or two of the facts and stats are out of date and incorrect. For example, Fernando Alonso is no longer the youngest man to win a race or a world championship, Jenson Button can no longer be classed amongst the ‘One F1 win wonders’ and there have now been ten British F1 World Champions as opposed to the stated eight. Also there are no pictures within the Miscellany and although it would increase the size and, one must assume, the price of the book it would enhance it and give it greater mass appeal.
All in all The Formula One Miscellany is a well researched and interesting collection of random Formula Oneness, a gem of a book which is perfect for coffee table (or bathroom) reading. It would be nice to have an updated, updated version containing a few spectacular images of F1 through the years but who knows when or if that will come along. However, until White does update the Miscellany, this is still a great little book and, in my opinion, definitely worth owning.