Driven: The Men Who Made Formula One

“Driven: The Men who Made Formula 1” reviewed

F1 review

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I spend a lot of time writing. So believe me when I say it gives me no pleasure to describe why I don’t like someone’s book.

Particularly when, as in the case of the preceding review to this one, the subject is a fascinating individual out of the cockpit and a championship-grade talent inside it.

Happily, Formula 1 fans didn’t have to wait long followed the disappointment of Kati Hotakainen’s biography of Kimi Raikkonen for a more compelling read.

Kevin Eason spent two decades as motor racing correspondent for The Times, during which time he clocked up more than 300 grands prix. But he’s also reported from other major sporting events, interviewed prime ministers and covered general elections.

He therefore offers a breadth of perspective to the sport which specialised motor racing coverage tends to lack. He’s brought that to bear in “Driven”, a broad history of the sport chiefly concerned with how Bernie Ecclestone transformed it from the amateurism of its early years to the global cavalcade Liberty Media shelled out eight billion dollars for in 2016.

Eason adds colour and revealing new insight to his story from conversations with many key names: Bernie Ecclestone, Max Mosley, Flavio Briatore, Ron Dennis and more. Just as importantly, he’s spoken to those unknowns in the know: Brenda Vernon, for example, Enzo Ferrari’s former secretary who reveals much about the inner sanctum of F1’s most famous team.

“Driven” opens with Eddie Jordan taunting its author about his limited knowledge of the sport. This is obviously included as self-deprecation: not only is this a well-sourced read, but a well-researched one too.

Again, obvious major works are referenced: Tom Bower’s probing 2011 biography of Bernie Ecclestone and Virginia Williams’ intimate and revealing A Different Kind of Life. But he’s also dug out F1’s more obscure literary gems: It was a pleasure to be reminded of Di Spires’ warm and funny account of paddock life I Just Made The Tea – essential reading for all F1 fans. I have no hesitation in recommending “Driven” even more highly.

Inevitably, telling its story involves retreading familiar ground. But even committed F1 fanatics will find plenty new here.

Criticisms? Only quibbles, really. With so much narrative crammed into 400 pages, at times the histories are a little too potted. Perhaps some room could have been found by trimming the lapses into Sunday colour supplement territory some of the interviews fall victim to. Jackie Stewart’s warts-and-all accounts of running an F1 team are why I bought my ticket; I don’t care what he was eating while telling the tale.

But as a primer on how F1 got to the state it is in – and who got it there – you couldn’t ask for much better. “Driven” tells you more about any of its subjects in a handful of pages then the last book I read on F1 managed in 300. And in doing so, it offers a fresh and personal perspective on the sport’s recent history, from someone who knows it better than Eddie Jordan gives him credit for.

RaceFans rating

Rating five out of five

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“Driven: The Men who Made Formula One” by Kevin Eason

Author: Kevin Eason
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 2018
Pages: 408
Price: £20
ISBN: 9781473684539

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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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  • 19 comments on ““Driven: The Men who Made Formula 1” reviewed”

    1. Happily, Formula 1 fans didn’t have to wait long followed the disappointment of Kati Hotakainen’s biography of Kimi Raikkonen for a more compelling read.

      Not all fans may enjoy it. That book never did promise any insight to the driving instincts, team briefs and what not that we normal people miss, did it? At times, I really feel you are completely biased towards Kimi. But hey! everyone’s entitled to their opinions/views. I respect that. But to call a book and comparing it to another new release is a tad too biased in my view.

      1. P.S: I am a Kimi fan. But I love F1 more :)

      2. I wonder where Keith bought that book. He may have bought some joke book, because Kati was not the original writer of “The Unknown Kimi Räikkönen”. Kati is a woman while original writer Kari is a guy.

    2. ”the disappointment of Kati Hotakainen’s biography of Kimi Raikkonen.”
      – I didn’t find it to be a ‘disappointment,’ though.

    3. …The never ending Collantine anti-Kimi drive. It’s getting boring.

        1. Islander, except that Keith has repeatedly pointed out that his criticism is aimed at the author of that work, and quite a few people who have read the book have suggested that the problem is that the translation from Finnish to English has been botched.

          I guess that it is easier and lazier to throw complains of “oh, you don’t like Kimi” rather than considering the possibility that Keith might have genuine reasons to criticise a work which he feels hasn’t been done well. A botched translation would certainly explain a number of the stylistic oddities that Keith noted, such as using the wrong tense in the wrong context and creating confusion about what the writer was trying to say – it sounds more like your ire should be directed towards the publishing house and the fact that they seem to have rushed their translation in order to cash in more quickly.

          1. As pointed out above, Keith is just a capabl;e of “botching” things up – like when he writes that the Kimi biography was witten by Kati Hotakainen [a WOMAN] when the actual author was Kari Hotakainen [a MAN].

            Pots and kettles spring to mind.

            1. “capable”!

    4. A book with Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton on the cover? Whatever

    5. Sounds like a must-read, adding this to my wishlist for Christmas :)

      1. That’s what I thought, just in time for Christmas!

    6. Nice to not even mention the most successful F1 driver ever

      1. To be clear, the review doesn’t mention Michael Schumacher but the book does.

    7. I love your book reviews Keith, thank you for helping me not waste my money!
      Every book I’ve purchased after reading a review here has been spot on!

      1. @scottie Excellent, I hope I can keep that streak going! Mind if I ask which ones you’ve bought?

        A few years ago it felt like good new motor racing books were getting worryingly thin on the ground, but we’ve had some really good ones recently.

        1. @keithcollantine
          So far the collection includes:

          Watching the wheels – D.Hill
          The Mechanic – M.Priestley
          The Art of War – A.Parr
          I just made the Tea – D.Spires
          Michael Schumacher, The edge of greatness – J.Allen
          The Chariot Makers – S.Matchett
          No Angel – T.Bower
          Senna versus Prost – M.Folley
          Unless I’m verry much mistaken – M.Walker

          Sure, they’re not all 5-star publications, but agree with your findings on them in your reviews.
          I also enjoyed ‘racing in the rain – Garth Stein’, but I’m not sure it’s within the context of this site.

    8. I will probably buy this one as it’s written by a credible writer and I have saved my money on the Kimi book thanks to the previous review.

      What worries me is the “very very good” description of Kimi’s book from Tom Clarkson in the Jackie Stewart episode of Beyond the Grid podcast. I can’t square this with Keith’s review, so is KC mistaken or is TC just a massive sell-out to commercial interest? Neither is an attractive proposition if journalistic truth is at stake.

    9. Nope, won’t be buying it, Can’t stand Kevin Eason! Have watched him interviewed over many years on several F1 programs and all he seems to do is trot out the same tropes and biased comments about various teams and drivers without offering any insight and his newspaper column is much the same.

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