“Michael Schumacher: The edge of greatness” (James Allen, 2007)

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Past titles with the word ‘Schumacher’ on the spine vary from half-decent to downright awful. But ITV F1 commentator James Allen’s new book on Michael Schumacher took me by surprise.

Unfortunately Schumacher has not deigned to be interviewed for the “The Edge of Greatness”. Undeterred, Allen nonetheless collared Schumacher’s former team mates Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello plus several top Ferrari personnel. He also got some very interesting remarks from David Coulthard and FIA president Max Mosley.

But most revealing of all are the comments from Mark Webber, who speaks at length about how Schumacher used his position as president of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association to his advantage, and how Webber what he preached to his rivals and practised on the track were often at odds with each other.

Allen picks up this argument and runs with it in a stand out chapter examining Schumacher’s brief but fraught relationship with Ayrton Senna. He compares their disputes with Alonso and Schumacher’s run-in at Silverstone in 2003.

Many other Schumacher biographers have tended to play down the controversial moments. But Allen grabs every thorny scenario with both hands and examines them in detail. Recent new details that have come to light are covered – such as Norberto Fontana’s claim he was ordered by Jean Todt to block Jacques Villeneuve during the 1997 title-decider.

On occasion he perhaps even takes this too far – examining the odd conspiracy theory that Schumacher’s Jordan was sabotaged ahead of his debut race in 1991. But his approach is nothing if not thorough.

Allen presents plenty of interesting observations and points of view worthy of debate. Part of his take on Schumacher notorious championship collisions includes the suggestion that Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna normalised the act of crashing into your rival during their battles, and Schumacher simply carried this on but found himself overwhelmed by public outrage.

It’s an interesting argument, but I’m not sure about the claim that, after Senna took Prost out in 1990: “Everyone involved in Formula 1 knew what had happened the previous year and sympathised: the general feeling was that Senna had been robbed in 1989 and that his retaliation was understandable.”

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The book focuses on some of the under-explored areas of Schumacher’s character, which I enjoyed because I really didn’t need chapter and verse on each and every one of his victories all over again. Instead the author looks at what made him great or, rather, how he made himself great – the work he did at Benetton to improve himself as a development driver.

It’s a good book with some very interesting passages and new insights. Its non-chronological structure means it jumps around a bit, also it leans a little too heavily on some typically spurious comments from Irvine.

Most of all, it really needed some new first-hand perspectives from he man himself, but it could be a while before we see any books with that in. Adapting some material from Schumacher & Sabine Kehm’s book “Schumacher” (published at the end of last year in German only) was a worthwhile idea that unfortunately only goes a short way towards fulfilling that need.

But on the whole it’s a well rounded and thought provoking look at a driver that will continue to be a subject of heated discussion between F1 fans for years.

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“Michael Schumacher: The edge of greatness” is published on September 6th, 2007

James Allen
Headline Books

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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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6 comments on ““Michael Schumacher: The edge of greatness” (James Allen, 2007)”

  1. Sounds like an interesting read – perhaps James Allen is more tolerable in print than on TV!!

    Have just ordered the Coulthard autobiography, so this may be the next purchase after that one’s read…

  2. Not many of the Schumacher books that have been published in the last couple of years have been much good – I think we will have to wait until he has been out of F1 for a few years before a decent biography of Schumi is released. I agree with Craig, though – Allen isn’t a good commentator, we’d probably be better off with Damon Hill.

  3. Allen is usually a very good read if he isn’t biased. His written verdicts on the ITV-F1 website are, surprisingly, objective and mostly free of the Lewis bias we see him with on TV.

  4. This is a trully fantastic book, one of the best F1 books I’ve read.

  5. daykind, I agree with you. The book shows Schumacher in a very objective way!

  6. Willem Cecchi (@)
    18th December 2015, 12:48

    I read the book recently after growing up as a huge Schumacher fan. Great insight into his career which you would not have noticed / known about at the time. Would highly recommend it even though it does not include his last Mercedes soiree. #KeepFightingMichael

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