Formula One is just one of the sports that Richard Williams covers for the Guardian, and that breadth of knowledge gives him a refreshingly broad approach to the often insular world of motor sport in general, and F1 in particular.
He is also the author of several books on motor sport and in this biography he tackles a colossus of motor racing: Enzo Ferrari.
The ingegnere lead an increasingly secluded life and ceased visiting Grands Prix in person decades before is death in 1988. Williams’ penetrating insight reveals the man in remarkable detail.
What emerges is a story that can only be described as remarkably unremarkable. The success of the Scuderia in the early years certainly owed much to Ferrari’s application and preparation.
But there were times when the team found themselves up against a wall, and fortune intervened.
Such as Mercedes’ arrival on the voiturette scene in 1939 with the devastating 1.5 litre W165s, only to be thwarted by the outbreak of World War Two. And the withdrawal of the same team in 1955 after the tragedy at Le Mans.
Williams peers into the back-stabbing, Machiavellian world of Enzo Ferrari’s team and the fierce competition between engineers and drivers for the affection of the ingegnere.
We see, too, Ferrari’s human side and the personal tragedies that struck him. Aside from the deaths of many of his racers (including his beloved Gilles Villeneuve in 1982) his father and brother died when he was eighteen.
His first son, Dino, suffered from Duchenne’e muscular dystrophy and died at the age of 24. “The only real love possible in this world is that of a father for his son,” said Enzo.
“Enzo Ferrari: A Life” is one of the best motor sport biographies I’ve read for some time. The text is well supported by contemporary accounts and revealing interviews. Ferrari himself is quoted at length from his own memoirs.
Most intriguing of all are two crucial decisions Ferrari took during his career: first, to quit racing as a driver, and later, to sell Ferrari to Fiat. Ferrari describes these decisions only cryptically, and these are the only two occasions where Williams’ insight into the man are severely compromised.
But this remains a compelling and engaging biography that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.