Best F1 Books Of All Time

With the rise of popularity of Formula One as a result of the recent Lewis Hamilton vs. Max Verstappen and the dramatic end to the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi, the demand for Formula One content has never been greater! Fortunately, there are numerous books for both new and veteran fans to enjoy.

Formula One books run the gambit of autobiographies, historical anthologies, and complex breakdowns of rules, regulations, and technological innovation; therefore, the following 16 books, while not a definitive tiered list, look to introduce new and veteran fans alike to various topics. 

While the books listed below showcase publications across the last three decades, many of them are extremely popular and thus have remained in print! Thus, for ease of access, a reference list has been provided below for access to various sites to order any books that you find interesting.

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1. The Unknown Kimi Räikkönen

Published in 2019 by Simon and Schuster and written by Kari Hotakainen. This international bestselling autobiography follows the life of notoriously elusive Formula One Champion Kimi Räikkönen.

Dubbed “The Iceman,” Kimi Räikkönen continued Finland’s long-standing history of world-class racing drivers while also emulating the most aloof and eccentric characteristics of his predecessors.

Exploring his career success in Formula One from his first race in 2001, his maiden championship win with Ferrari in 2007, and his induction into Alfa Romeo (the team from which he would eventually retire in 2021), this autobiography gives insight into one of Formula One’s most seasoned drivers.

Further to his Formula One career, the book also explores Kimi Räikkönen’s sabbatical in NASCAR and Rally driving while also spending the time to explore his upbringing, family relationships, personal life, and philosophies. All of which have famously eluded journalists over the years.

In light of his retirement from Motorsports following his unceremonious exit from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021, there is no better time to relive the life and times of one of Formula One’s cult heroes!


2. A Different Kind Of Life

Published in 2017 by Echo Point Books & Media, this book follows the relationship between Ginny Williams and Frank Williams following a car crash on the way to Nice Airport in 1986 that left Williams founder and principal in a quadriplegic state.

An honest and raw account of Sir Frank Williams’s success as the founder of Williams Racing and the tragedy that would befall him on the eve of winning his 3rd constructors’ title, this book tells a story of triumph over adversity.

Penned as a first-hand account of life before and after the accident from Ginny Williams (with the assistance of Pamela Cockerill), the story follows her initial meeting with Frank Williams, their turbulent relationship, and subsequent reconciliation following his accident.

An inspirational, heartfelt, and at times humorous story, A Different Kind Of Life spawned a major motion picture along with international acclaim and remains the definitive account of Formula One’s most famous family.

In a similar vein to Kimi Räikkönen’s retirement, but on a more somber note, Sir Frank Williams passed away in 2021; as such, there is no better time than now to read the trials and tribulations of one of Formula One’s most celebrated figures.

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3. Murray Walker: Unless I’m Very Much Mistaken

Published in 2003 and written by Murray Walker himself, this book shifts the focus away from Formula One drivers and principals and instead focuses on the familiar, public face of one of the sport’s most well-known commentators and public figures.

Named after his now-famous catchphrase Unless I’m Very Much Mistaken is an autobiographical account of a figure that introduced millions of viewers to the previously inaccessible world of Formula One.

As the model and blueprint for future commentators, the book follows Murray Walker’s journey through childhood under his British motorcycle champion father Graham Walker, his service in World War Two, and his failed motor racing career.

Fortunately for fans of motorsport, his failure as a racer resulted in his appointment into the BBC commentary box, where his passion, insights, and unique delivery helped shift Formula One from obscurity into a globally popular sport.

Not one to mince his words, Murray Walker provides first-hand accounts and opinions on the evolution of Formula One, the passing of Aryton Senna, his partnership with the enigmatic James Hunt, and his thoughts on numerous drivers. 

With close to 50 years of experience as a commentator and analyst, this autobiography is a must-read for any Formula One fan that owes their allegiance to the sport as a result of world-class commentators such as Murray Walker.

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4. Total Competition

Published by Simon & Schuster in 2017 and written by Ross Brawn with the assistance of Adam Parr, Total Competition: Lessons in Strategy from Formula One is a hybrid combination of modern motorsport philosophy and practical life lessons.

As one of the most successful technical directors and team principals in Formula One history, Ross Brawn draws on four decades of experience with Benetton, Ferrari, Honda, Brawn, and Mercedes to paint a picture of both defeat and triumph.

Reflective and inspiring, the book reflects on the author’s interactions with world champion drivers such as Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button, and Lewis Hamilton to unpack successful (and unsuccessful) strategies and life lessons.

In contrast to their control and success in the pit lane, the book also provides a brutally honest account of the cutthroat nature of Formula One, where coming second is not an option, and how these pressures led to direct conflict with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.

This book is recommended for more seasoned Formula One fans that want to have a better understanding of the strategies of the sport and who may wish to implement this “win-at-all-costs” mentality into their own lives.

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5. To Hell And Back: Niki Lauda

Published first in 1986, with a later revised version in 2021 by Ebury Publishing, this autobiography (written with the assistance of Herbert Volker and E.J Crocket) follows the life of one of Formula One’s greatest racing drivers.

Having been immortalized in Formula One folklore and the 2003 blockbuster film Rush, Niki Lauda has become famous for his tenacity and grit as both a driver and survivor of a life-threatening crash in 1976 that left him permanently disfigured.

Analytical, thoughtful, and fearlessly determined, this autobiography is written with Niki Lauda’s “no-nonsense” approach to life and work, outlying his challenges and rivalries throughout the years with his signature calmness and insight.

A raw and, at times challenging read, given Niki Lauda’s strict childhood, parental disapproval, and visceral depictions of pain he suffered while racing just 33 days after his Nurburgring crash; To Hell And Back is an unfiltered look at the life and philosophies of one of the sport’s most decorated champions.

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6. Chequered Conflict

Published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster by Maurice Hamilton, Chequered Conflict: The Inside Story on Two Explosive F1 World Championships follows one of the greatest Formula One seasons of all time, that being the 2007 World Championship.

As the first season since 1986 to feature three drivers entering the final race of the year with the possibility of being crowned world champion, the book chronicles Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Räikkönen, and Fernando Alonso throughout the season. 

Following the drama both on and off the track, including allegations of spying between McLaren and Ferrari, this book explores one of the greatest seasons for fans while also highlighting the millions of pounds in fines and ill feelings between teams and the FIA that nearly threatened the global integrity of the sport.

Penned by an award-winning journalist with over 30 years of experience, Maurice Hamilton expertly weaves a story of drama, conflict, and triumph while contrasting 2007 with 1986 for a holistic review and evolution of the sport over the years.

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7. Life In The Fast Lane

Independently published in 2018 by author Steve Matchett Life in the Fast Lane is the first book in the critically acclaimed Formula 1 Trilogy (the other two being: The Mechanics Tale and The Chariot Makers – both of which come highly recommended!).

The book takes a unique approach to story-telling, rejecting a grand narrative in favor of monthly diary entries from a Benneton grand prix mechanic time during the team’s turbulent 1994 season.

Responsible for catapulting author Steve Matchett from a self-published author to an internationally acclaimed commentator and analyst, Life in the Fast Lane ignores the glamor of Formula One and turns the lens on the gritty and difficult world of the pit lane and behind the scenes life on the road.

Providing a first-hand account of Verstappen’s fiery explosion at Hockenheim, the death of Senna, the penalties imposed upon teams throughout the heated season, and the collision between Schumacher and Hill to finalize the season; the book remains essential reading for any fan of the sport.

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8. Winning Is Not Enough

Published in 2009 by Headline and written by Sir Jackie Stewart, this autobiography follows one of Formula One’s greatest and most esoteric racing drivers.

Sporting his signature black cap, sideburns, and aviator sunglasses, Jackie Stewart’s domination throughout the 1960s and 1970s are given first-hand recognition as he powered his way to three Formula One World Championship titles.

However, despite his success on the track and his personal life leading up to his career as one of the greatest drivers of all time, his emergence as an internationally acclaimed businessman through a miasma of celebrity and controversy provides insight into life post-racing, which few books on this list explore.

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9. My Greatest Defeat

Published in 2019 Evro Publishing and written by Will Buxton (with beautiful illustrations from Giuseppe Camuncoli of DC and Marvel fame), My Greatest Defeat: Stories of hardship and hope from motor racing’s finest heroes is a must-read anthology.

While not strictly a Formula One book, as it covers stories from 20 of the greatest racing drivers of all time across Formula One, Indycar, NASCAR, Le Mans, and Rally, it remains an F1 staple for its cross pollination of stories across motorsport.

Featuring some of the biggest names in Formula One, including but not limited to Niki Lauda, Damon Hill, Alain Prost, Jackie Stewart, Felipe Masa, Mika Häkkinen, and Carlos Sainz, the book covers the flip side of success – that being defeat.

While at times grim and challenging, the book is a celebration of grit and determination overcoming hardships of some of the greatest drivers of all time, be they personal, financial, or health struggles, many of which are a direct result of the high octane, dangerous world of motorsports.

Stretching across decades, sports, and focusing on a multitude of world-class drivers, this anthology and its use of illustrations is easily one of the most unique experiences for fans of all motorsport on the market.

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10. Jensen Button: Life To The Limit

Published in 2018 by Blink Publishing, this autobiography explores the life of Formula One world champion and subsequent Sky Sports commentator Jenson Button.

As one of the most seasoned Formula One drivers with over seventeen years of racing experience, the book follows Button’s career from nursing underpowered vehicles around the track to his extraordinary world championship win in 2009.

His extraordinary win with the unsponsored and unfancied Brawn GP team stands as a testament to Button’s time as a Formula One racer and the media’s portrayal of a disinterested playboy with minimal to no prospects of success in the sport.

Outside of open and honest reflections of his relationship with his motorsport enthusiast family members, rivals such as Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, and Fernando Alonso and Formula One figures such as Bernie Ecclestone, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, and Ross Brawn are first-hand accounts of racing.  

To this end, Jenson Button portrays the actual sensation of racing better than most other Formula One drivers; whereby his follow-up book How To Be An F1 Driver: My Guide To Life In The Fast Lane is recommended as a complementary novel.

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11. Formula 1: The Official History

Published in 2020 by Wellbeck Publishing and written by the aforementioned Maurice Hamilton, Formula 1: The Official History stands more as a centerpiece of Formula One literature rather than as a showcase of individual stories.

Beautifully illustrated, this hardcover book traces the history of Formula One from its first race on the 13th of May 1950, all through the 70 editions of the Driver’s Championship up until the 2020 season.

Given unprecedented access to all areas of the sport, the book charters the history of the sport in excruciating detail, outlining the highs and lows of the sport, including but not limited to: driver profiles, records, socio-political growth and diversity, safety, and performance innovations, and rule changes.

Leaving no stone unturned, this celebration of one of the world’s most popular and glamorous sports is well suited in the collections of new and veteran fans alike!

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12. Senna Versus Prost

Published in 2010 by Random House and written by Malcolm Folley, Senna Versus Prost tells the story of arguably Formula One’s greatest rivalry between who many considered two of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time.

For the majority of fans and competitors the primary appeal of Formula One is the rivalries that develop between drivers and teams during a season, many of which result in conflict, drama, and tension both on and off the track.

While originally McLaren teammates, the clash of personalities and driving styles created a rift between Alain Prost and Aryton Senna, resulting in hostilities that extended beyond them no longer being teammates in subsequent seasons.

Alain Prost, as France’s sole Formula One champion, epitomized his moniker of “Le Professeur” with an intelligent, smooth driving style; this was seen in contrast to Aryton Senna’s intense and ruthless driving, which earned the Brazilian driver a fierce reputation.

Sadly, the rivalry would come to a tragic end with Senna’s fatal crash at Imola in 1994. However, with insights from Martin Brundle, Damon Hill, Sir Frank Williams, Bernie Ecclestone, Derek Warrick, Johnny Herbert, and Gerhard Berger, the lasting intensity of this rivalry has continued through Formula One folklore.

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13. Watching the Wheels: My Autobiography

Published in 2016 by Macmillan, this autobiography marked the twentieth anniversary of Damon Hill’s coronation as Formula One world champion.

In doing so, Damon Hill managed to step out of the long shadow cast by legendary father Graham Hill and won the 1996 World Championship in one of the golden eras of the sport, having competed against both Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna on his way to victory.

Watching The Wheels takes an unflinching look at the realities of Formula One and the dangers the sport presents, whereby this confrontation with one’s mortality has haunted Damon Hill from the age of 15 as a result of his father’s early and tragic demise in an aircraft accident in 1975.

Further to this honest and candid exploration of his own mortality comes with his exploration of his teammate, Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994 and what this meant for Damon Hill as a teammate, rival, competitor, and father of a racing driver himself.

Formula One drivers during one of the golden eras of the sport often seemed to exhibit a desire for thrills at the expense of safety (when compared to modern machinery and safety standards).

As a difficult concept to grasp and rationalize for third-party observers, Graham Hill seeks to bridge this gap in understanding and does so openly and honestly.

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14. Flat Out Flat Broke: The Original Stig

Originally published in 2013 by PerryMcCarthy, this autobiography has become a subsequent bestseller and remains one of the most unique and humorous stories to arise out of the world of motorsport.

While the focus of the book is not entirely centered on Formula One, it does follow the life of ex-Formula One driver Perry McCarthy and how, at the age of 18, he opted to break into the world’s most expensive sport with no money, sponsorship, familial connections or racing experience!

Despite these challenges Perry “Mad Dog” McCarthy achieved his dreams through a rollercoaster adventure both on and off the track, which eventually cumulated in his alter ego as “The Stig” on BBC’s Top Gear and international stardom.

At times “laugh out loud” funny, and at other times, a heartfelt and challenging read, Flat Out Flat Broke: The Original Stig, weaves a narrative unseen in the history of motorsport.

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15. How To Build A Car

Published in 2017 by HarperCollins How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer is a fascinating, humanizing memoir of one of Britain’s greatest engineers.

Considered by many to be a true engineering genius, this autobiography explores Adrian Newey’s deep fascination with cars from his early sketches as a 12-year-old student at a welding summer school, all the way up till his breakthrough designs in IndyCar and Formula One over the course of his 35-year career.

With beautiful illustrations along with comprehensive, passionate, engaging, and detailed descriptions of the design process, Adrian Newey successfully demystifies and engages with the reader over some of the most complex feats of engineering in the history of the sport.

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16. The Edge Of Greatness

Published in 2008 by Headline and written by James Allen, The Edge Of Greatness is considered to be one of the most thorough and honest explorations of Michael Schumacher’s entire career.

Arguably the greatest driver of all time, trying to select just one Michael Schumacher biography for this list proved a daunting task, The Edge Of Greatness uncovers the true nature of both the sport and driver: unrelenting ruthlessness.  

A controversial figure, role model, and for many fans watching in the 90s and early 2000s, Michael Schumacher remains the face of Formula One over a career that extended over 15 seasons from his time at Jordan to the accumulation of seven world championships by his retirement.

Although the book was published prior to Schumacher’s tragic skiing accident and does not explore this aspect of his life, the details housed within explore the career and life of a driver that has seldom been topped by any other piece of media.

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Conclusion

Formula One is a diverse, detailed, and expansive sport that has created its fair share of tragedies, victories, innovations, heroes, and villains over its long 70-year history.

Fortunately, this means that there is a wealth of literature that all people can enjoy, the above list being but a snippet of content for intrepid readers to embark on!


References

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