DRIVEN: THE MEN WHO MADE FOR­MULA ONE

Motor Sport News - - Sporting Scene - Jake Ni­chol

“They com­peted on the track and scrapped to outdo each other’s bank bal­ance, yet when­ever sh*t hit the fan, they closed ranks like the Cor­leones.”

Take a mo­ment to con­sider just how many times the names of Bernie Ec­cle­stone, Max Mosley, Ron Den­nis, Frank Wil­liams, Ed­die Jor­dan, Colin Chap­man, Ken Tyrrell, Luca di Mon­tezemelo, and Enzo Fer­rari have graced the pages of Mo­tor­sport News.

Then, lend a hand­ful of thoughts as to why. Why the names of these nine men have be­come syn­ony­mous with For­mula 1.

In­di­vid­u­ally their USPS would make each a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent: Ec­cle­stone’s eye for a deal; di Mon­tezemelo’s suave per­sona com­bined with his links to the up­per ech­e­lons of Ital­ian so­ci­ety; or the in­ten­sity and self­be­lief to make things hap­pen of Den­nis and Wil­liams. “They might not have been much alike,” notes au­thor of Driven: The Men Who Made For­mula One Kevin Ea­son, “but they op­er­ated like a sport­ing Mafia fam­ily.”

Af­ter step­ping down from F1 re­port­ing du­ties for The Times in 2016, jour­nal­ist Ea­son has writ­ten a highly en­ter­tain­ing look back on the char­ac­ters who laid the foun­da­tions for the likes of Chase Carey, Toto Wolff and Chris­tian Horner.

It would be easy to fall into the trap of sim­ply re­gur­gi­tat­ing the same old story about how Ec­cle­stone strong-armed him­self into po­si­tion as F1’s em­peror, right un­der the noses of con­tem­po­raries such as Tyrrell, Chap­man and Wil­liams. But Ea­son aims “not to at­tempt to tackle the com­plex­i­ties of the sport in de­tail, but to paint por­traits of the peo­ple I dealt with in 20 years of re­port­ing from tracks all over the world”.

The main build­ing blocks of the book are the anec­dotes popped into ev­ery chap­ter that re­veal just a lit­tle more about its sub­ject. For ex­am­ple: Ec­cle­stone once of­fered a Mercedes 230SL hard­top to a car dealer who had got one over on him. Never to be out­foxed, for a knock­down price, Ec­cle­stone sold the lucky dealer ex­actly that: a hard­top for the 230SL. Or the time in Kuala Lumpar, when Ed­die Jor­dan jumped in a taxi to Chi­na­town to buy a bag full of £20 ul­tra-re­al­is­tic fake Omega watches af­ter spot­ting Ea­son’s over din­ner.

In its early chap­ters, Driven is a lit­tle jumpy as it tries to chrono­log­i­cally fol­low the en­twined paths of the pi­o­neers. As Ec­cle­stone be­gins to wield in­flu­ence with Mosley in tan­dem in the early 1980s, the book be­comes a lot slicker. Per­haps, there is a metaphor in there some­where…

With such a strong reper­toire of in­ter­vie­wees, it is a shame that the scan­dals of Spy­gate and Crash­gate are not fur­ther un­packed. With Den­nis re­fus­ing to speak about the 2007 an­nus hor­ri­b­lis at Mclaren, that story goes as far as it can. But with Ec­cle­stone, Mosley and then Re­nault boss Flavio Bri­a­tore dis­cussing Nel­son Pi­quet Jr’s crash that aided Fer­nando Alonso’s vic­tory in the 2008 Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix, the reader is left want­ing more.

How­ever that is a mi­nor gripe, for the pre­vi­ously men­tioned anec­dotes make the book fast-paced and dif­fi­cult to put down. A par­tic­u­lar high­light is when Ec­cle­stone, all 5ft 3in of him, al­legedly threat­ened to throw a rant­ing Tyrrell out of a win­dow.

The teams, who cot­toned onto Ec­cle­stone’s unique busi­ness mod­els, were apoplec­tic. But as the now 88-yearold rem­i­nisces: “We didn’t go into the busi­ness to make money. We went in to race and if we made some money then good. But we were rac­ers.”

It can be very hard to strike a bal­ance be­tween stim­u­lat­ing the mind of an F1 devo­tee and a ca­sual fan who might hap­pen across the book on a shelf or on­line. But Ea­son has found a strong mid­dle ground be­tween pleas­ing any reader of the book, mo­tor­sport en­thu­si­ast or not.

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