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 Verstappen’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.