Editorial Features

Easy Win for Speed Read F1

by | Apr 11, 2018

Speed Read: F1

Author: Stuart Codling

Publisher: Motor Books

Price: $19.99 / £12.99

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This is the book I’ve been waiting for. For an automotive enthusiast early to the classic car hobby, but late to the motorsport scene, Speed Read F1 by Stuart Codling answers the easy questions I should have learned a long time ago. It is both for the enthusiastic newbie and the die-hard fan, complete with historical insight, unique trivia and the human basis in an industry long about speed, engineering, and madness.

This is the first of several books in the Motorbooks Speed Read collection that I have explored and I very much look forward to seeing what the others have to offer. Where the automotive industry, the world of motorsports and the vastness of F1 seem daunting to a new enthusiast, Codling and this unique series style, help to break things down to bolts in an informative, interesting and accessible way.

Codling divides the story of F1 into themes, rather than eras. More than once, the reader is reminded that Formula One is ancient in the world of motorsports and that the glittering glamor of racing expensive, high tech machines around the Moroccan coast is merely the latest iteration in a sport borne out of post-war petrol rations and woolen caps. The book seamlessly explores the past and present at once, explaining how the modern movement came about through trial and tribulation, passion and circumstance.

And though the sections are simple and accessible, the writing is never condescending or belittling. In fact, it seems to agree with the reader that, isn’t this a fascinating topic? Let’s learn all about the history of F1 together! Even the opening section, comprised of the technical jargon and engineering and aerodynamic expertise that normally makes my eyes glaze over had a familiarity to it, a promise that this information will help me to understand all the rest. 

And, truth be told, once the equations are out of the way, Codling delves into the very human, very fallible past and current history of the sport built upon rivalry, machismo, ego, and drama. He explores some of the most infamous rivalries and standoffs in the history of Formula One, as well as the dynamics between car producers, racing teams, team traitors and best friends. While much has changed in the realm of speed and safety in Formula One, wild, impassioned enemies to friends to enemies stories sprawled across TV and newspaper are as much a staple of the sport as carbon fiber and ubiquitous cheating.

At the end of the day, Speed Read F1 answers the questions we are too embarrassed to ask in mixed car enthusiast company. It chronicles how a ragtag crew of postwar gentlemen racers brought their backyard speed tests to truly remarkable, international acclaim, how Bernie Ecclestone rose and fell from power, how the role of safety evolved from something to be scoffed at to something embraced, regulated and required. It takes places in both the past and present and sometimes the future as well, offering insight into how an eternally evolving sport may continue to grow and change as technology gets better, communication stronger and racing fame bigger.

Speed Read F1 is a short, easy read – perfect for a quick journey through an often overwhelming territory of the motorsport universe. While I do have to voice a complaint about the size and color of the text in the side boxes, it is overall beautifully designed in the pop art style of 1960s racing memorabilia and thick, brightly colored shapes and lines. Whether you are the consummate racing enthusiast or ready to embark on a motorsport adventure for the very first time, Speed Read F1 has something for you. 

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