Grand Prix: Formula One in the Deadly Years, by Richard Melville

A lot has been said in the press this past year about how deadly formula one used to be. Earlier this year there was a documentary released on just how bloody dangerous this sport was. In news media ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ is the very sad but true gauge of a successful lead new story at 6pm. Formula One was the very same.

Safety mechanisms were the least priority, as it was a win at all costs situation. The two men at the heart of Formula One, Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley were effectively cast as villains, but at least they were trying. The trouble is, when it comes to car racing, getting the safety aspect right is definitely an uphill journey.

The documentary style worked well for the horrific world of Formula One. To turn that into a novel was always going to be a tall order. Most of what has been said about the dangerous times in Formula One has already been extensively covered in the many films and documentaries. I found Grand Prix to be a little clunky. It’s like it was overdue for it’s 10,000km service and maybe the fan belt was jamming a little.

I best explain. If you are a car enthusiast, especially when it comes to racing cars, then you will get over the poor idling speeds when the author starts to describe relationships between the drivers in the book and other situations. If you are someone who needs a story to be smooth and graceful, with inspiring and wondrous character development, then stick to Pride and Prejudice. I hear there is a Zombie version of that one too. Hmm, see, if there were Zombies in this novel, that may have helped its plot development a bit. Think about it, lots of people dying in car races, then coming back to feast on the other drivers, and those drivers then finding themselves in a ‘race for their lives’. I like it. Nobody steal my idea.

I can’t fault the author, Richard Melville, on his experience and knowledge of cars and his indepth and first hand experience of Formula One racing during it’s darkest days. He is truly brilliant and when the book heads off down the pure racing aspect of the novel, it’s inspiring. I think the book would have been pure class if he had focussed on that side of his knowledge, it didn’t really need the rest because the subject is both horrific and fascinating on its own without delving too deeply into someone’s feelings.

Again, it’s a great book for the anyone curious about motor racing, but don’t look for any prose to melt into over a nice wine and some dark chocolate.

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Drew Thompson Drew operates a successful hobby farm for pampered cattle in rural South Auckland. He once dabbled in education, where he discovered any book was a good book. As with most ex-teachers, he realised he was better off spending his time and patience on his own awesome children.

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