Maurice Hamilton’s book Chequered Conflict: The Inside Story on Two Explosive F1 World Championships documents the parallels between the 2007 World Championship and the 1986 World Championship, 21 years its senior.
Both had one thing in common: three drivers spanning two teams being in contention for the Drivers’ Championship entering the season finale. Not since the 1986 season, when Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet battled with themselves as much as the rival McLaren of Alain Prost has a championship season been so intriguing to fans worldwide – for both on-track and off-track incidents.
The 2007 World Championship shouldn’t have mirrored the 1986 title fight. Fernando Alonso joined McLaren as the undisputed double World Champion, and the unspoken assumption would be that a hat-trick of titles would be his. Were it so easy…
One thing – or person, rather – no one had factored in was a certain Lewis Hamilton, a 22-year-old GP2 champion who had been entrenched in the McLaren system since the age of 14. A young man who would upset the applecart and the form book with some astounding performances to mark the best debut season by any driver in the history of the sport.
Combine this with the rapidly deteriorating relationship between McLaren and arch-rivals Ferrari, with the impact of the Spygate scandal set to flex its muscles over the course of the year. As the relationship between Hamilton and Alonso reached fever pitch, it was the unfancied Kimi Raikkonen who would emerge from nowhere to snatch the title in the final reckoning.
In rewinding to 1986 the Williams team, armed Honda engines and with a great driver line-up with the two-time World Champion Nelson Piquet and the emerging Nigel Mansell, would be a force to contend with in 1986. But its world was rocked by the tragic car accident that befell team founder Frank Williams, who would emerge paralysed.
The season that followed saw the relationship between the Williams drivers descend into chaos as Nigel Mansell upset the established Nelson Piquet, who felt that it was his right to assume number-one status. As their infighting grew with each passing race, so it allowed McLaren’s Alain Prost, unbelievably, to snatch the Championship from under each driver and claim it for himself.
Maurice Hamilton interweaves these two chapters in the motorsport tapestry with the greatest of ease, applying his 30-plus-year experience as one of Formula 1’s premier journalists to provide readers with an informed and balanced account of two of the most intriguing seasons in F1 history. Few stones are left unturned as each race in both seasons is carefully analysed and each driver is objectively critiqued.
What struck me with Hamilton’s great book was how much F1 has changed and yet how much it has remained the same. It is truly a worthwhile read.
Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we award Chequered Conflict: The Inside Story on Two Explosive F1 World Championships…
OUT OF A POSSIBLE 5.
Chequered Conflict: The Inside Story on Two Explosive F1 World Championships (© 2009, Simon & Schuster, hardback edition) is available at Amazon.com