Not for a moment do I doubt the bravery and skill of modern Formula One drivers. Even through the filter of a TV screen, which makes this high risk sport look like little more than a slot-racing game the commitment of drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg comes across loud and clear.
Yet, at the risk of remembering the sport in a unrealistically favourable light, their deeds really don’t compare with those of previous generations. Modern F1 cars may be faster than their predecessors, but they are also much safer to drive.
Take James Hunt, who drove in Formula 1 for 7 seasons. During that period, six drivers lost their lives during Grand Prix events. Lewis Hamilton has had ten seasons in formula one, during which just one championship driver (Jules Bianchi) has lost their life as a result of an accident at a Grand Prix.
With death such an ever-present companion, it seems astonishing that men like Hunt ever ventured behind the wheel. Celebrating forty years since Hunt’s World Championship win, Maurice Hamilton’s book James Hunt, is a celebration of one of the sport’s legendary figures. Even in an era when top sportsmen weren’t as tightly controlled by agents, management, public relations people and the like as they are now, Hunt was very much his own man. A larger than life personality who did things on his own terms.
Hamilton’s book is filled with the colourful and dramatic photographs that could make this a really appealing coffee-table book, one to be picked up and flicked through. Thanks to the text, it is much more than that: a thoroughly researched biography of one of the best-loved sportsman Britain has produced.
Often portrayed as a womanising playboy who fitted in racing around his social life, Hunt was in reality a dedicated racer whose life was focussed on his motorsport; from building and racing his own car while he was in his teens, to championing the cause of safety for drivers at a time when their views didn’t carry the weight they do no.
From his struggles to get into Formula One to his World Championship win, and his subsequent retirement (which saw him form a memorable on-screen commentating partnership with Murray Walker), this is a fascinating and detailed look at the life and career of an iconic name in motorsport.