“Grand Prix Century”?? (Christopher Hilton, 2005)

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Christopher Hilton’s history of Grand Prix racing from 1906 to 2005 is not for the faint-hearted: Both in terms of reading it, and lugging the 500-page hardback around with you.

He attempts to condense a century of motor sport into a single book – an extraordinary task – and the end product is a unique piece of work in both good ways and bad.

Any book that begins with Ferenc Szisz and ends with Fernando Alonso has to have something going for it. And if you’re after as much history as possible crammed into one volume, “Grand Prix Century”?? is absolutely the place to begin.

Hilton has a stack of Formula One works to his name, mostly biographies, and “Grand Prix Century” builds on the vast amount of work he has published.

His approach revolves around putting the ‘greats’ of Grand Prix racing firmly at the centre of his historical perspective. Chapters are titled “In Nuvolari’s time”??, “In Senna’s time”??, etc…

There are occasional exceptions – one chapter is entitled “Safety first”??, for example – but nowhere does the book deviate from his rigidly chronological framework.

In fitting 100 years of material into 500 pages a lot has gone out of the window. Hence discussion of technical innovation and the politics of the sport are kept to a minimum – “Grand Prix Century”?? has more of a ‘who won what’ approach.

The constraints of this approach, the lack of focus on the big picture, and Hilton’s divisive writing style makes it a bit of a chore to read. You wouldn’t sit down and read the “Grand Prix Data Book”?? cover to cover – but at times “Grand Prix Century”?? feels exactly like that.

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“Grand Prix Century”
Christopher Hilton
Published by Haynes

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Tags: f1 / formula one / grand prix / motor sport

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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One comment on ““Grand Prix Century”?? (Christopher Hilton, 2005)”

  1. I found this book a bit of a disappointing read TBH.

    It feels a little bit rushed in some areas – particularly some of the ‘ripples of races’ and some events being omitted when they probably shouldn’t have, like Fangio’s passing in 1995 (since other quiet deaths like those of Nuvolari, Rudolf Caracciola and Enzo Ferrari are noted, and there is a chapter entitled ‘In Fangio’s Time’).

    Perhaps Hilton was tight on time, but it is still a bit of a shame as his books are usually very good, especially his Senna biographies.

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