“1982” (Christopher Hilton, 2007)

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The 1994 season was F1’s last annus horribilis. Before that came the horrors of 1982.

Two drivers died and another was horrifically injured, Suddenly F1’s champions were leaving the sport in droves, and the cars were brutal death traps.

Between the trauma on the track and political chaos off it, it’s a wonder 1982 hasn’t been turned into a film yet. As Christopher Hilton’s latest work proves, there’s more than enough material to start with.

The end of each Grand Prix season is accompanied by a rush of coffee table season reviews – hefty slabs thick with bright photography, leaden prose and typographical errors. Aside from the definitive Autocourse annuals they’re largely forgettable.

It’s rare to see what is essentially a season review published so long after the fact. But 1982 was no ordinary season – it killed, it maimed and it forced the sport into one of its periodic moments of self-realisation and contemplation.

Every single round brought forth some new drama and, very often, another different winner. Eleven drivers won in sixteen rounds – unthinkable today.

It was a pivotal season. After the death and destruction it was unthinkable that F1 could carry on in the form it was in. Circuit and car safety came under ever increasing scrutiny – it would be 12 years before death visited F1 again at a race weekend.

Prolific F1 author Christopher Hilton re-tells the story of a season which was his first in Formula 1 – he began covering the sport for the Daily Express at the Detroit round.

Hilton’s last book was his hagiographic biography of Michael Schumacher which I really didn’t care for. But as ever his ‘topic’ books are a lot more readable than his biographies. “1982” particularly benefits from the interviews he’s had from drivers that raced in the season. But there is still a fairly heavy reliance on secondary material and re-stating of facts.

Its greatest strength is the attention to detail. Each race is meticulously pieced back together – the lap times, the overtaking moves, the incidents.

But it’s weak when it comes to the bigger picture. The season looks more like a series of races without any overaching context. For a season so rich in significance, that’s a real shame.

Having said that it’s great to see that anyone has taken the time to chronicle an important part of F1’s history, when so many new titles are given over to simplistic biographies. “1982” might leave the seasoned reader hoping for more, but a newcomer to the topic may find it highly illuminating.

“1982: The inside story of the sensational Grand Prix season”
Christopher Hilton

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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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