Revealed: Five forgotten books to supercharge your F1 knowledge

Elizabeth Blackstock
Drivers line up for the 1970 Italian Grand Prix

F1 1970: The subject of 'The Chequered Year'

As we patiently wait to go fully into F1 2024 mode. What better time to get up to speed on F1’s history?

Formula 1 has been captivating the minds and imaginations of people across the globe since 1950, and each generation births new writers who are able to capture the fiercely competitive atmosphere of the sport in the pages of their books.

The books on this list are often forgotten due to their age, but for anyone aiming to gain a greater insight into F1’s history, they’ll make a welcome addition to your bookshelf.

The Men by Barrie Gill

Don’t let its goofy name dissuade you; The Men by Barrie Gill offers a series of profiles of the drivers that competed in Formula 1 in the late 1960s. Those profiles combine to paint a compelling picture of a bygone era, complete with its painful deaths and inspiring breakthroughs.

It comes with a bit of heartache; the book was published before Bruce McLaren was killed testing a Can-Am car, so Gill’s gorgeous picture of a business mogul projected to retire from active competition takes on a new tone in retrospect.

Not only is The Men well written, but it will also teach you more about F1’s past than you might think.

Enzo Ferrari: The Man and the Machine by Brock Yates

Many of the tales told about Enzo Ferrari are firmly rooted in myth. That’s because, for a long time, the primary history we understood to be Ferrari’s was actually a biographical fiction crafted by the man himself.

Published after Ferrari’s death, this biography titled ‘Enzo Ferrari: The Man and the Machine’ by Brock Yates attempts to interrogate those myths about its subject and correct them where possible.

It’s written using interviews with Ferrari’s closest friends and confidantes and deep mounts of archival research to attempt to put together the puzzle of Il Commendatore.

The Chequered Year: The Story of a Grand Prix Racing Season by Ted Simon

Ted Simon spent the entirety of the 1970 season shadowing the Formula 1 circus, and the result is this book – The Chequered Year: The Story of a Grand Prix Racing Season.

Each race, Simon shadowed a different driver or team member, telling the story of both that one driver’s race as well as the story of the season overall.

It started out seeming as if Simon might tell the story of March, a brand-new team that endeavored to take over the grid by bringing as many cars as possible.

Instead, it was a season that saw the deaths of Jochen Rindt, Piers Courage, and Bruce McLaren, and the shock performance of Lotus. Simon handles the ups and downs of the year with beautiful elegance.

Fast and Furious: The Story of the World Championship Drivers by Richard Garrett

In 1966, British teams like Lotus, Cooper, and BRM had arrived to upset what had until then been a largely continental Formula 1 grid.

In Fast and Furious, Richard Garrett delves into the brief histories of those upstart teams, aiming to understand the business and nuance of the sport. It’s a fascinating look at just how much things have changed – and what has stayed the same.

Cars at Speed: The Grand Prix Circuit by Robert Daley

Several modern Formula 1 circuits see their roots in those of the past, but Robert Daley describes the origins and history you likely forgot.

Whether it’s stories about the cases of champagne drivers competed for at the French Grand Prix or recountings of the great Juan Manuel Fangio. It’s an incredible recounting of an incredible era, described with its contemporary focus.

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