Formula 1 Fanatic
A passionate book about the poetry of the ultimate racing sport
What possesses a civilized and culture-loving man to get out of bed in the middle of the night to watch breathlessly a couple of racing cars zoom round in a circle? It’s one of the questions that Koen Vergeer tries to answer in his personal but informative book about the premier branch of car racing, the Formula One Race. The book reads like a report of a long-standing obsession, not so much with the danger of the race, but rather with the heroism and the character of the different drivers, the technique, tactics, esthetics, the powerful sound and the violence…
Of course the Angel of Death also lies in wait and sometimes hits mercilessly. Vergeer himself became gripped by the sport when as a young teenager he went to a race at the Zandvoort circuit. Despite the tragic death of driver Roger Williamson, burnt alive in his car because of track officials’ negligence and inadequate safety measures, it was the beginning of a fascination which has continued to this day. Vergeer began collecting information, put together scrapbooks, and started writing his own race reports. The seventies were one of the most dangerous periods in the history of racing: the cars were much less safe than nowadays, and the circuits – like the treacherous dunes of Zandvoort or the hell of Monza – didn’t meet or barely met the regulations as they apply now.
The lives and deaths of such legendary drivers as Jochen Rindt, Ronnie Peterson, Gilles Villeneuve, Ayrton Senna and many others are described compellingly by Vergeer. The titanic fights at the end of the eighties between the ‘professor’ Alain Prost (cool, precise, seldom failing) and the ‘son of God’ Senna (incredibly fast, but at times unpredictable) sometimes reached dramatic heights, for instance when John Watson was left dumbfounded by the arrogance and virtuosity of Senna who had just passed him in an impossible turn at Monaco. Afterwards Watson drove into the pit and, still dazed, said to his team leaders: ‘I just saw something.’ ‘Yes, yes,’ came the answer, ‘we know.’
For anyone enthralled by the sport, De Formule 1-fanaat is a feast of recognition and nostalgia; those who know nothing about the sport but are receptive to it will be gripped.