Carrying on our recent theme of Michael Schumacher book reviews, this very early book dates back to the winter of 1994 when the German had just seized his first world championship.
This book makes especially interesting reading in the light of everything Schumacher has accomplished in the 12 years since his first World Drivers’ Championship. Not least of which that the word ‘Ferrari’ doesn’t even appear in the index!
Don’t let its age put you off if you see a copy. Biographies can, of course, become dated – but never really out-of-date. This is a snapshot in time of Schumacher as he had just conquered the world for the first time, before he set about redefining the terms of supremacy in Formula 1.
The tragedies and scandals of 1994 may have rocked Formula 1, but they also brought a new audience to it. That was the inescapable consequence of publicity.
That audience found a sport which, in 1994, had no reigning champion and indeed no former champions competing at all aside from some occasional visits from Nigel Mansell.
They found Michael Schumacher, a young German driver who won half the grands prix in 1994 and was disqualified or barred from a quarter of them. This biography was one of the first to set out who he was – and what he was capable of.
Today it provides a few extremely interesting insights into how Schumacher thrived early in his Formula One career. The political machinations that switched him from Jordan to Benetton are well-known, of course, and this book provides a detailed account of them. But there is much more to it than that.
The details of his training with Mercedes in international sports car racing reveal much. Particularly how well Schumacher was equipped for the legalisation of refuelling in F1 from 1994, having had extensive experience of it in sports cars.
Towards the end of the book it all starts to feel a bit rushed and the controversial events of the second half of 1994 don’t get the attention they deserve.
His disqualification at Silverstone, which gets page after page in Steve Matchett’s Life in the Fast Lane, is covered in a single paragraph. The notorious Adelaide scandal gets barely more than a page – incredible considering the place it occupies in the history of Schumacher and the furore it caused at the time.
It is the books greatest strength and greatest flaw at the same time, given when it was written: some neglected aspects of Schumacher’s career get some much-needed examination; other crucial episodes are marginalised. But it has undoubted value in contributing to our understanding of one of F1’s greatest and most controversial drivers.