“Formula 1 Drive to Survive: The Unofficial Companion” reviewed

F1 reviews

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Whatever your views on Drive to Survive, it has utterly transformed interest levels in Formula 1. Many of us have colleagues who previously showed zero interest in the sport who now watch occasionally, drawn in by the personalities and drama of the Netflix smash hit.

It is therefore no surprise that the cash-ins are starting to appear and, as is the always the case, of somewhat mixed quality. Guenther Steiner’s book (reviewed here previously), from the excerpts I’ve seen, is a crime against language – foking terrible – whilst the slew of celebrity F1 podcasts must surely be getting close to diminishing returns.

Into the mix comes Drive to Survive The Unofficial Companion by Stuart Codling. A journalist with a renowned track record, most recently Codling has penned photograph-led coffee table books such as Art of the Formula 1 Race Car.

The Unofficial Companion isn’t quite the book I was expecting: It’s more a primer and potted history of the sport than a direct tie-in to the Netflix series. As you’d anticipate it is solid stuff, with decent sections on the great cars, circuits, rules et cetera interspersed with smaller articles on key incidents in the sport’s history.

Unlike many recent F1 history books there is extensive acknowledgement of life before the 2000s. The editorial selections are well-crafted, covering a lot of ground in not too many pages.

Drive to Survive season five screengrab
Feature: Netflix’s ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive” season five: Spoiler-free review
But I don’t really know who this book is for. My friends and colleagues who got into the sport through Drive to Survive would no doubt be more interested in something that told the full story behind each episode or focused more on the personalities who’ve been introduced through the series.

It feels like a missed opportunity not to link more directly to the incidents shown in Drive to Survive. Less of a ‘companion’ to the series, more a potted history of its subject.

My other gripe is that the book is priced at £22, but in layout and content is closer to a ‘bookazine’. At £10 on a supermarket or airport newsagent shelf this would be cracking value.

But it is easy to be sniffy – when I was discovering American football and cycling through Channel 4’s television coverage I was crying out for books like this. For new fans to F1 there are far, far worse primers out there.

RaceFans rating

Rating three out of five

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“Formula 1 Drive to Survive: The Unofficial Companion”

Author: Stuart Codling
Publisher: Motorbooks
Published: 2023
Pages: 192
Price: £22
ISBN: 9780760380673

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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