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Features

The best racing books for Formula 1 nerds

As the Formula 1 summer break draws to an end, there is still plenty of time to get another beach read in or tackle another book on your Goodreads challenge. If this is your first F1 break and you’re a newer fan, this is a great time to dive in with some of my favorite racing books.

Something you will realize quite quickly is how intertwined all these stories are within this industry and how everyone plays a part in the others’ stories, so to speak. 

1) Surviving to Drive – Guenther Steiner

Why not start with the most recent entry? Guenther Steiner, the lovable foul-mouthed team principal of Haas, gives you a play-by-play of a full F1 season in this book. What’s especially interesting about Guenther’s encounters are all he had to deal with in the timeframe he’s writing about: managing a smaller team, guiding a rookie with a very famous last name, navigating the politics of having a Russian driver, maintaining momentum during a pandemic, and keeping your sanity at 140MPH. This book is very much laid out like diary entries if the diary is that of a surly 58-year-old Italian running a $710 million motorsports team. 

As you would expect, if you’ve seen a presser with Guenther, he’s blunt, funny, and always real, which you have to appreciate running the smallest teams on the grid. He references several big moments from his perspective in this book. Rewatch the last Driver to Survive in tandem with this. It’s quite a tall tale.  

2) How To Be An F1 Driver – Jenson Button

This is hands down my favorite of all of the books. Yes, I have mentioned Jenson Button many times, but I truly believe his How to Be an F1 Driver is an amazing primer for even the most casual of fans. Jenson is so unbelievably cheeky and charming, which comes through in every chapter. Dare I say this book made me love him even more? 

He gives a lot of admirable life advice anyone could benefit from, not just the best drivers in the world. And again, their stories are all intertwined. His old karting partner was Sophie Kumpen… Max Verstappenโ€™s mom. He talks about being dragged into covering for Fernando Alonso in 2017 at the Monaco GP, where the famous “Yenson, my friend!” quote comes from.

In a playful way, Jenson gives you an especially real look inside what it’s like to be a Championship driver in an ever-changing landscape of technology, rules, and relationships.

If you follow Jenson online, you can tell something is brewing. This man is poised for a comeback on some circuit beyond the occasional NASCAR spin and driving the Garage 56 car around the world. I, for one, would love to see more of Jenson behind the wheel. Overall, it’s a funny, quick, and insightful read. It’s the ideal summer book. 

3) Racing Green – Kit Chapman

I’m just at the tail-end of finishing this book, and while there were times when my brain was challenged on the technical aspects of lithium batteries, its teachings were quite comprehensive. This is a book you need to read if you’ve ever had an interest in Formula E or just electric technology in the automotive space (check out our EVs Explained series, wink, wink).

Kit Chapman makes some otherwise nonsensical technical jargon far more palatable for us mere mortals not into physics or aerodynamics. There’s love and humor that comes from him as he retells the history of the cars and people in this space. Focusing on some notable moments in motorsports, Chapman weaves the old and new ways together.

This book also serves as a travel diary, further proving how global the minds and hands dedicated to motorsports are. The technological advances made within motorsports are far-reaching, and the findings can improve many aspects of our lives.

This book is, in fact quite hilarious, so don’t let the big-brained concepts scare you off. You’ll be able to drop some fun historical racing historical factoids to your friends after reading as well.

4) How To Build A Car – Adrian Newey

If you want to know the nitty-gritty process of building an F1 car, this is the book from the man who has designed for champions. Adrian Newey is a Red Bull engineer who knows his stuff. He’s the guy in the room everyone looks to when there’s a problem. Being one of the most prolific engineers in the sport commands a heightened level of respect and delivers a perspective others don’t have, and this book breaks down years of his designs and thinking. It’s quite technical at times, but even if you don’t understand every facet of its teachings, it still makes a gorgeous coffee table book with beautifully detailed diagrams and graphics. This book will make you look cooler and smarter to your non-racing pals.

5) Max Verstappen (2022 Edition) – James Gray

I am a Max fan. But if you aren’t, this book could make you one. It doesn’t shy away from Max’s messy parts or controversies. He was brash and arrogant when he entered the scene, for sure. The crashes, the attitude, the abuse. It’s all there. It humanizes him and his experiences, especially with his father. His mother, Sophie Kumpe, is honestly the source of his talent, and understanding the inner workings of his family explains more than you’d think. For instance, I actually didn’t know the lion on his helmet was designed by his sister!

The timeline of everyone entering each other’s lives and how young they all were is fascinating. Learning about the first interactions with Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, and Daniel Riccardo is compelling. And yes, “Just an inchidet” is addressed.

That being said, this updated edition does include the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021. And reading the iconic Toto Wolff radio message, “No, Michael, no, no, Michael! That was so not right!” still absolutely hits, even in written form.

@kartworthy

#stitch with @Dr. Sable | Orthodontist So Lewis led most of the race and looked on course to winโ€ฆ. ๐ŸŽ๏ธ๐Ÿ˜ญ Ps. I am in my booth at FlameCon ๐Ÿ˜‚ #formula1 #f1tiktok #f1edits #formulaone #formula1meme #motorsports #f1memes #lewishamilton #maxverstappen #abudhabi2021gp #mercedesf1 #redbullracing

โ™ฌ original sound – Sheilah ๐ŸŽ๏ธ๐Ÿ’Ž๐Ÿ’–

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Lewis Hamilton sitting next to Formula 1 car
Reviews

Lewis Hamilton’s MasterClass is self-help for the people who need it most โ€“ Formula 1 fans

This week Formula 1 sets its sights on the Gilles-Villeneuve Circuit in Montreal. The 2019 winner of this race was Lewis Hamilton. Lewis might be the best-known Formula 1 driver of the last 10 years. My mom knows his name. Even if you haven’t watched the Netflix docu-series Drive to Survive (or read the companion book), you know Lewis Hamilton. When he’s not shattering world records on the track or getting “fun and flirty” with Shakira, Lewis is showing others what it takes to become the GOAT.

When I was offered the chance to review Lewis Hamilton’s “Winning Mindset” MasterClass, my curiosity was piqued. I needed to know how this man has managed to stay calm, cool, and collected over the years in a sport that at times is anything but. In 12 lessons, Lewis reveals how to prepare yourself mentally for a successful life. And with seven World Champions, who are we to argue?

If you’re curious about Formula 1, Lewis could be your gateway. Not only do you get a crash course (so to speak), in the last 20-some years of the sport from a certified GOAT but a very helpful guidebook accompanies the courses. Even I, who is pretty well versed in F1, learned a lot (though I am still very confused about the steering wheel buttons).

I had the very unique experience of going through this class while also reading Jenson Button’s How to Be an F1 Driver. This is significant because Jenson was Lewis’ teammate at McLaren in 2010. A lot of the thought process about training and motivation is the same coming from both. It could be that they are both pretty regimented as Brits, but it could also be that these are the personalities the sport attracts.

But for so many, racing is just in the blood as the great Aryton Senna said. Lewis fought his way in and didn’t come from great money to do so. Humble beginnings might be what makes his attachment so precious. He earned every accolade by being a) very talented, b) obsessed, c) supported, and d) fearless. That’s his winning combo. All of those are easily applied to our own lives and passions.

Image credit: MasterClass

He is quick to remind us several times no man is an island, and neither are Formula 1 drivers. His team at Mercedes is upwards of 2,000 people, and thanks to Lewis’ initiatives, a much more diverse team. Trust is mutual as many have been with him for a decade. Both success and failure are shared, you’re not going through the highs and the lows alone. He mentions a strong support system is key; however, that might look different to you. Lots of credit goes to his father and stepmother for setting a strong foundation, but engineers, team principles, and teammates have played a part. (Sidenote: Valtteri Bottas was his best teammate.)

Forming a close relationship with the late and iconic Niki Lauda was a crucial factor in his arrival at Mercedes. Role models, however they come into your life, can be huge resources for advice and learning your craft. He points out that on more than one occasion he and Niki butted heads. And while there might have been generational differences, he pushed his performance and mentored Lewis, adding value to his life beyond finances.

What stood out throughout the classes is Lewis is a presence who lets his talents do the talking. Outspoken when he needs to be, his words hold more power because he knows when to use them. Thus making him a driver and global celebrity so many look up to. And for very good reason.

Take one race at a time, record-breaking doesn’t happen overnight. World Championships aren’t built in a day. When you’re traveling in a custom-built car that cost millions of dollars moving at aeronautic speeds, staying present is what keeps you alive. The consequences for letting your mind drift can lose you the race, or worse, your life.

Image credit: Formula 1

Deadly crashes are rare in the sport these days given improved safety measures and intricate training, but the possibility is always there, looming in the back of your mind. Each of those 20 drivers connects with a focus and fearlessness within them each race. As the poet Beyonce said, “You got me so crazy in love.” That’s the energy you need to compete in motorsports at this level. So crazy in love with driving that you can’t survive without it.

At 38 years old, Lewis assures us he has plenty of “crazy” left in him and maybe another World Championship title. But one thing is for sure: this man has forever changed not only Formula 1 but racing as a sport. His activism, his talent, and his passion make for a compelling self-help course disguised as F1 education. It takes lessons from motorsports and applies them to other facets of our lives. And, in that sense, it’s one of the best tools for learning the fundamentals of racing before you even set foot on the tarmac.

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