“Starting from the Back of the Grid” by Kris Henley reviewed


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Starting from the Back of the Grid is the sprightly and often entertaining memoir from Fox South America Formula 1 producer Kris Henley, focusing on his adventures in the grand prix paddock since the mid-nineties (skimming over several lengthy hiatuses producing golf).

Although the non-linear structure takes a bit of getting used to, much of ‘Grid’ is an easily accessible, relatable and self-effacing read. Compared to similar recent memoirs, such as Lee McKenzie’s disappointingly dull ‘Inside Formula 1’, Henley is largely quick to bypass the history lessons and get into the stories ranging from early adventures in producing F1 coverage in Hong Kong, through to adventures in today’s paddock.

Much of the book brings to life the reality of producing F1 (and indeed any live motorsport) coverage juxtaposing the mundane and tedious with the flashes of glamour that makes paddock life so alluring. Whilst not the focus of the book, there are some revealing insights that for the more frustrated viewer explain why so much F1 coverage can feel a bit dull – i.e. don’t cross the teams’ press officers.

Likewise, the realities of lower budget F1 broadcasting are laid bare, the stories of trying to do everything with a three-person crew bringing back my memories of doing exactly the same for several years with the International GT Open. In a similar vein, recollections of the cash-rich nineties broadcasting environment are likely to be triggering for many TV professionals.

Released by Pitch Publishing, a sports specialist publisher which supports newer authors in their passion projects (including – blatant plug alert – mine), ‘Grid’ does have some rough edges – a few thousand words could have been easily trimmed, and the jumping-all-over-the-place chronology will likely infuriate some.

Notwithstanding these gripes, in an era when F1 punditry is concentrated on a few approved individuals, it is great to hear a different and ego-free voice from inside the F1 paddock.

RaceFans rating

Rating three out of five

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“Starting from the Back of the Grid: Misadventures Inside Formula One’s Flying Circus”

Author: Kris Henley
Publisher: Pitch Publishing
Published: 2023
Pages: 320
Price: £25.00
ISBN: 9781801506472

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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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