“The Art of War” by Adam Parr reviewed

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Adam’s Parr’s departure from Williams was one of the most startling news stories of 2012.

Mere weeks after Frank Williams hailed the team’s chairman as his “natural successor” came a stark press release with the headline Adam Parr to Leave Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC. That something was amiss was not lost on the readers of F1 Fanatic as can be seen from the comments at the time.

Sure enough, Parr eventually revealed his departure was linked to Williams’ Concorde Agreement negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone, who Parr believed was trying to force him out of F1. He first made the claim in this book, which tells his story of being at the helm of Williams during a turbulent few years.

“The Art of War: Five Years in Formula One” reveals the inner workings of F1’s ‘Piranha Club’ and how they reacted to the escalating financial crisis from the end of 2007. This runs side-by-side with Parr’s arrival at Williams, and he also tells the story of his efforts to put the team on a more solid footing for the future.

In what is probably a first for an F1 book of this type, Parr’s tale is told as a graphic novel. This makes a refreshing change from the norm and adds impact and style to what might otherwise be a rather dry story of people sat in rooms talking to each other.

A glance at illustrator Paul Tinker’s website led me to expect caricatures and amusing designs. Sure enough the major players are well-drawn – you’ll have little trouble recognising them – and there are occasional touches of humour in the artwork. But a sport as vibrant as Formula One deserves a bit more colour than the occasional perfunctory splash of red.

Parr’s dispute with Ecclestone, stemming from his and Williams’ opposition to the introduction of customer cars, is a central theme of the book. The reader is left with the clear view that Parr’s refusal to yield ground on the issue of customer cars was what led Ecclestone to force him out – as it turned out, a little more than a month before Pastor Maldonado scored their first race victory in eight years.

The insight into the competing factions vying for control over F1’s future is fascinating. Parr lays blame for the failure of the Formula One Teams’ Association to achieve further costs reductions beyond 2010 at the feet of Red Bull – who opposed them – and McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh, who in Parr’s view yielded too much ground to achieve consensus.

There are other interesting revelations along these lines, including Flavio Briatore calling Parr in 2009 to request that his engineers be allowed to look at the double diffuser on the new Williams. “Sadly, we were not able to show Renault what we were doing,” notes Parr.

The story unfolds at a very brisk pace. In places it would benefit from fleshing out certain stories more than it does.

We see one panel about Parr’s “truly hateful task” of having to drop Nico Hulkenberg (one week before his sensational pole position in Brazil). As Hulkenberg was elbowed out to make room for Maldonado and his millions, this subplot has obvious resonance with the rest of the story and is one of a few points I’d like to see covered in further detail.

Of course, we are only shown one side of the story. It’s hard not to sympathise with some of Parr’s points, such as his frustration with those who opposed cost controls even when their own teams were poised to quit the sport.

But the shortcomings of his preferred solution – a budget cap – are glossed over. Not least whether it would ever be possible to police such restrictions effectively.

That said there was much I appreciated about this attempt to tell an important story in an original way. It offers a glimpse into the secretive power games that shape F1 and reveals much about the rivalries that frustrate good governance of the sport.

At 25 the slim hardback version is on the dear side but for F1 fans with e-readers this is a must-buy.

F1 Fanatic rating

Buy The Art of War – Five Years in Formula One (Hardback)

Buy The Art of War – Five Years in Formula One (eBook)

The Art of War: Five Years in Formula One

Author: Adam Parr (foreword by Max Mosley)
Publisher: Haymarket
Published: 2012
Pages: 80
Price: 25 (Hardback) / 4.94 (eBook)
ISBN: 9780957453982


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Author information

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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22 comments on ““The Art of War” by Adam Parr reviewed”

  1. Good! Will it be release out of UK, continental Europe?

    1. I got this as a christmas present, and I live in Belgium. You can just grab a copy off Amazon :)

  2. “But a sport as vibrant as Formula One deserves a bit more colour than the occasional perfunctory splash of red.”
    Perhaps he should have chosen two colors; #1280C6 and #6C9A30 anyone?

    1. Why would they use hex colours for a printed book?

      NB: I know what you are getting at

    2. @ady Like it :-)

    3. Good colours indeed! Seen them before somewhere.

    4. This comment is too clever for me. (Yes, I searched the colours!)

      1. I think he’s just referring to Keith’s logo…..

      2. Let’s see if this works, blue and green.

        1. nope, it didn’t (style tags not allowed in comments).

  3. Bit off topic, but great to see graphic novels making a break into mainstream literature.

    1. Well, they have being doing it for a while now. Graphic novels have won bliteral awards… I recomend you look for Clover by Clamp, it was highly priced…

  4. I’m quite interested by this. I think it’s pretty intriguing for him to try and tell his story in such a unique way and I’m interested to see what he has to say as well as how he presents it.

    1. I’ve got it for my Birthday, its worth it.

  5. Sounds like the book is a worthwhile effort on two counts: the novel format for a business-oriented memoir, and a willingness (even if it’s only partial) to address outsiders directly about the inner workings of a very secretive club. Usually we’d have to wait 20 or 30 years for insider information to make its way into the public domain like this. For that, Parr deserves a clap on the back.

    Funnily enough, the inflated price tag for an 84 page book rather contradicts Parr’s recent comments about F1 not respecting the value-for-money formula where fans are concerned…

    1. The price may be related to a very small print run, but then there’s a much cheaper foward-looking e-book version.

  6. I’ve just read the book. What is very interesting is that it appears (page 49) Parr holds Whitmarsh & Horner as the culprits for FOTA’s demise. Many people said FOTA disbanded because greedy Ferrari left it because they must have somehow got from Bernie the money they had been asking for.
    Otherwise I fully agree with Keith, the budget cap was a good idea but totally impractical to police. Which makes me think Red Bull has probably been the biggest money spenging machine for the past 3 years…..

    1. Which makes me think Red Bull has probably been the biggest money spenging machine for the past 3 years…..

      No doubt but they’ve also used it very effectively.

  7. Wonder how Adam Parr managed to get Mr. E’s permission to portray him (Mr. E) in the novel. May be Bernie asked for some money (extra). There.

  8. Sounds very interesting! I was pretty disappointed when Parr left but this seems like a fair compromise.

  9. Enjoyed it but.. it read like a diary and was far too nice to everyone who appeared in the book. I was waiting for the “bloody *******!” moments. Visual style was more old school British weekly comic than ‘Graphics Novel’.

  10. I read it and found it to be quite agreable. Parr seems to have a very positiv outlook on everyone (from Montezemolo to Chavez, Mosley, even Bernie). The guy must be either uber cynical or just non judgemental. He sees positivs in everyone ! I liked the insights (and those small details, like a FOTA reunion in what appears to be a smallish hotel room etc…) but I would not recommend it to a non fanatic. My (ever so patient and supportiv of my hobbies) wife picked it up and was quickly lost. I have the feeling even to us it will be unreadable in say 10 years when we will have forgotten all of the background of the 2008-2012 years.

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