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Formula One: The Champions – A Coffee-Table Book for race fans

Formula One: The Champions
70 Years of legendary F1 drivers

This new book which covers every one of the 33 F1 champions in the 70-year history of the championship is just what you want for your coffee table. When displayed at home or in your office waiting room, it says that you are a F1 fan with taste. The in-your-face photo of Lewis Hamilton on the dust cover says ‘Formula One’ in all its glory.

This book is an excellent tribute to those racing champions. Of course, a 240-page book cannot tell the whole history of the F1 championship; that would take a massive encyclopedic volume to even attempt to cover that ground. My bookshelf has a series of the AutoCourse annuals – which are essentially year-by-year histories of the F1 series, year-by-year – plus a number biographies of various champion drivers – and this takes up a big chunk of my library shelf space.

No, this book has a different role: it is a ‘coffee-table’ book. While the term is sometimes used in a pejorative way, these books have a useful and legitimate role. They are primarily picture books with limited text that one can pick up for a quick read. As such they can make a statement about the book’s owner – in this case, a racing fan. One can pick up such a book and leaf through the pages and look at the photos – and they need to be compelling photos. The text needs to be organized so that one – whether familiar with the subject or not – can be engaged reading a short coherent section in a limited time, or spend somewhat more time reading through the entire text.

Senna PhotoAyrton Senna

This book meets those criteria well. In its primary role as a picture book, it delves into the photo archive of Bernhard Cahier and his son Paul-Henri Cahier. Combined, they have been covering F1 since 1952. Bernhard is one of the best-known photographers of his era and his son has continued to build the family reputation. In this book we do see some familiar photos but there are many that we have not seen before. Without question, the high quality of the photos is worthy of the coffee-table role of this book.

But there is text as well. Maurice Hamilton, a well-renowned British F1 journalist who has been on the scene for much of those 70 years, has written the story of each of the 33 drivers’ F1 careers, with the emphasis on how they won their championship – or championships. Again, these bios are by necessity less than book-length, but he does a good job of getting to the point and helping us know the essence of each driver’s F1 career.

For me, given that I started following F1 in 1955, there are parts of the 70-year history with which I am quite familiar and other parts (my NASCAR and CART years, especially) for which my knowledge is more sketchy. The short bios here are a good way for me to fill in some of those blanks in my racing history.

For my part, I am sorry that this book’s focus on the F1 champions ignores some of the other greats of F1 – like Stirling Moss and Gilles Villeneuve – who never managed to win a title. But that goes beyond its chosen mandate and the coffee-table scope of the book precludes a more comprehensive coverage of the broader roster of F1 drivers.

I would recommend this book to any race fan – dedicated F1 fan or not – to display on your coffee table to declare to all your visitors your interest in F1 – to enjoy the great photos – and to fill in some gaps in your knowledge of those 33 F1 champions from Farina to Hamilton.

Formula One: the Champions (ISBN: 9781781319468)
• published by White Lion Publishing
• hardcover, 240 pages
• over 250 B&W and colour images
• on sale now: $50 CDN

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