Formula 1 is one of the biggest sports in the world. Over the season, around 2 billion people tune in to watch its races on TV and millions more pay to attend the races in person.
In 2020, it celebrated its 70th anniversary and even hosted the uniquely named 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone. Over these last seven decades, a lot has happened in Formula 1. The sport looks incredibly different to how it did back in the 1950s, almost to the point where it is almost unrecognisable.
The cars themselves have changed from giant barges on wheels to scientifically designed rocket ships. The circuits have been transformed from airfields lined with hay bales into purpose-built facilities with state-of-the-art safety systems.
Away from the circuit, television coverage has evolved from a short story narrated by a guy with a BBC accent into hour upon hour of live programming, providing fans with blow-by-blow updates of everything happening on track.
In more recent years betting on Formula 1 has also become more commonplace, in line with the growth in the activity in general. The sport’s owners have signed deals with betting companies to allow them to use more of its telemetry data, creating the possibility for new markets and bet types to be created. As a result of this change, it is much more commonplace for Formula 1 fans to use the free bet promotions run by bookmakers for making F1 wagers.
Many of the changes seen in the sport can be followed by reading the books written by those involved in the sport. There have been hundreds of titles published by drivers, journalists, officials, team owners, and commentators over the years, but here are some of the best.
Beyond the Limit – Professor Sid Watkins
Many of the most famous names in Formula 1 are drivers and former drivers. Ask any generation of fan and they will reel off a list of the most successful and notable drivers of their era. In the 2000s, they’d name Schumacher and Alonso, in the 1990s, it would be Senna and Häkkinen, and in the 1980s it’d be Prost and Piquet.
But ask any fan who followed for more than just the last couple of years and they will all be able to name a key figure that changed the sport more than anyone else, Professor Sid Watkins.
Known in the sport as Professor Sid, he was a neurosurgeon who worked in London but worked as a doctor at racetracks at weekends. This was something he continued even when he moved from London to the United States.
In 1978, at the age of 50, Sid was offered the job of the Official Formula 1 Race Doctor. Until his retirement in 2005, he made numerous major upgrades to the safety standards in Formula 1, including having the medical car follow the drivers during the first lap, the introduction of the Medevac helicopter, an on-site anesthetist, and better medical centre facilities.
Several drivers owe their lives to Professor Sid, including Mikka Häkkinen, Rubens Barrichello, and Nelson Piquet.
Beyond the Limit is an autobiography written by Professor Sid that chronicles the struggles he endured to bring in the high safety standards we know today. It’s packed with anecdotes and interesting stories from his time at and around the racetrack and is a must-read for any F1 fan.
Michael Schumacher: The Edge of Greatness – James Allen
James Allen is a Formula 1 journalist and former television and radio commentator. He started his career in 1990 and soon began working for ITV, eventually taking over as lead commentator after Murray Walker retired in 2001.
This meant that Allen’s career overlapped with that of Michael Schumacher who entered Formula 1 in 1991. The German driver caught the eye of Allen, and he paid a keen interest in the future World Champion’s Career in the years that followed.
Schumacher was a controversial character in Formula 1. He stopped at nothing to win and through the combination of hard work and a strong team around him, he was able to break record after record, becoming the first seven-time F1 World Champion. In doing so, Schumacher had some on-track incidents that called into question his sportsmanship and resulted in several disqualifications from both races and even a championship.
Michael Schumacher: The Edge of Greatness is James Allen’s attempt to put all of this into perspective, using first and secondhand testimony. The great thing about a book is that it gives time for the dust to settle on events that are very emotive among Formula 1 fans and it allows everyone involved to tell their side of the story.
The book is an in-depth insight into the different sides of Schumacher and is one every F1 fan should read.
An Independent Man: The Autobiography – Eddie Jordan
Eddie Jordan is another polarising figure in Formula 1, but for different reasons. He was one of the last of the “privateer” team bosses having owned the Jordan Grand Prix team between 1991 and 2005.
Unlike other independent teams at the time, Jordan wanted to create a more professional image so shunned small-fry sponsors and used his gift of the gab to wangle deals with the likes of 7 UP, Total, and DHL.
Several of the biggest names in racing during the 1990s and early 2000s sat in Jordan’s cars, including both Michael and Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli, Nick Heidelberg, Martin Brundle, Damon Hill, Giancarlo Fisichella, and Rubens Barrichello. Over this time, they helped the team to win 4 Grands Prix, secure 19 podium finishes, and 2 pole positions.
An Independent Man tells how Jordan went from humble Irish beginnings to attempting to become a race driver himself, before finally moving into team ownership.
Jordan took a different approach to racing than most of the other teams, becoming somewhat divisive, something that he used to his advantage.
The book is packed with numerous and outrageous stories of a chancer and entrepreneur who made a big name for himself in the world’s biggest motorsport.