Michael Schumacher is no stranger to controversy in Formula 1, and when his life story is examined by a man, former Grand Prix commentator James Allen, who is (at times) also a controversial figure, it should make for an interesting read.
Today, Allen is a well-rounded and fascinating freelance commentator and F1 journalist, and he shows a more even-handed approach to his writing than was perhaps evident when he worked as a commentator for ITV.
Certainly his second Schumacher biography, The Edge of Greatness, is perhaps one of the earliest insights into this approach that F1 fans will have seen in Allen, but he certainly doesn’t shy away from critically examining some of the more controversial incidents in Schumacher’s at-times chequered F1 career.
Quite a few Schumacher biographies – some of which are reviewed on this very site – have been decidedly one-eyed in their view of Schumacher, and it’s all the more worrying when the authors are veteran F1 journalists who should have the best access and insight into the sport.
It’s unlikely Schumacher ever gave his blessing for Allen’s work that’s now under our spotlight, but perhaps that’s neither the point, nor was it necessary.
Allen doesn’t have to rely on Schumacher’s own testimony here; instead, he uses lengthy interviews with former team-mates, team personnel and sparring partners in compiling this profile of Schumacher, which opens with a lengthy examination of the infamous ‘Rascasse-gate’ incident from the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix.
An often-repeated theme is how Schumacher would often preach one particular style of driving, and then display quite the opposite approach on track; certainly, his ruthless defence of his position in recent races would give support to arguments that a leopard never truly changes its spots, even at the age of 42!
There are also some less-explored areas of the Schumacher persona that are given some attention in this book. Certainly, there’s an excellent focus on the build-up to Schumacher’s first World Championship in 1994, and a detailed examination of the steps he took to improve his own skills.
In all, this is certainly one of the best Schumacher biographies on the market – but it also equally serves to highlight that there is a definite market for some first-hand accounts from the man himself. Perhaps we’ll finally have an authorised biography (or dare we dream, an autobiography?) when he calls time on his incredible F1 career.
Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we award The Edge of Greatness…
OUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE.
Michael Schumacher: The Edge of Greatness is available at specialist bookstores and Amazon.
Click here to return to view other book reviews by Richard’s F1.