The touchstone for my lifelong passion for Grand Prix motor racing was that heroic first Vanwall triumph by Moss/Brooks at Aintree in 1957 (Race 61). And when the following season the ‘The Battle of Britain’ played out between Moss and Hawthorn – a rivalry every bit as gripping as Hunt/Lauda, Senna/Prost or Hamilton/Rosberg – little wonder I was hooked.
Once smitten, I began to attend every Formula 1 race possible, and back then we were spoilt for choice. Take 1962. In addition to the nine world championship rounds, there were no less than 20 non-championship F1 races, seven of them held here in Great Britain. The Swinging Sixties wasn’t just a period of social revolution, it was a decade that witnessed unprecedented revolutionary advancement in F1 car design, and happened to be the period when I served my F1 apprenticeship. Ever present at the racetracks, rubbing shoulders with the drivers in the Paddock as was possible then, avidly reading Autosport and Motor Sport, I soaked it all up to form a deep understanding of my chosen sport.
With the change in priorities brought about by family life, F1 attendances gradually reduced during the 1970s, as did the prevalence of non-championship races, the last held in 1983. But there was always the British Grand Prix plus numerous opportunities presented by foreign travel associated with my occupation. Over the decades I have attended countless Formula 1 races across five continents, latterly adding Sepang, Sakhir, Singapore, Shanghai and Abu Dhabi.
Once I became ‘time-rich’ and able to pursue my aspiration to write, I intertwined two key strands from my life. By uniting my passion for Formula 1 with my professional know-how from the world of business information, my first book, Analysing Formula 1, was published by Haynes in 2008. This led to regular appearances on local radio and then in 2010 I was engaged by BBC Oxford, which serves ‘Motorsport Valley’, to present a series of programmes showcasing the county’s Formula 1 community. I also lectured on F1, my most unusual assignment addressing thirty elite Chinese students attending Oxford University Summer School.
By this time a yet more ambitious book project was hatching, inspired, as I saw it, by a yawning gap within my personal F1 library. I had biographies chronicling drivers, cars and teams; reference books heavy on stats but light on words; encyclopaedias relying more on style than substance, while the ‘annuals’ were exactly that, a review of a single year, heavy on price and heavier still on shelf-space. They all had their place, but none fulfilled an essential requirement.
Missing from my bookshelf was a one-stop-shop, a single F1 volume of first resort, a hub, a compass that points the way towards deeper exploration if so desired. I wanted an informative history integrated with an extensive source of reference… but all within one affordable tome. It needed to be a book for drilling into F1 history at any given moment, or to enjoy as an on-going storyline; to be read cover-to-cover, or dip-in-dip-out as and when.
The solution was to tell the Formula 1 world championship story race-by-race-by-race, to focus in turn on each arena where that worldwide gladiatorial combat known as the F1 championship is played out. But with well over 900 races across 60-plus championships to describe, the practicality of packing all this into ‘an affordable single volume’ was challenging. From this ‘Race Pods’ were conceived, a unique communication concept that blends words with information to capture in microcosm the persona of each and every Grand Prix.
The positive reaction to Formula 1: All the Races and its ‘Race Pods’ has been gratifying, not least the nomination for the 2013 British Sports Book Awards. But beyond any other approval, this author treasures two particular notes from readers, the first of which was hand-written:
Dear Mr Smith, We have read your book Formula 1: All the Races. It is FANTASTIC! Love Simon (age 5) and Martin (age 7).
The second came from India via email:
I’m enjoying your book a lot. It’s perfect for people like me who love the sport so much to actually know its history race by race. It makes us appreciate the sport even more and the book is increasing my knowledge about the car technologies too. Through the pages of the book, it has really presented an awesome evolutionary journey of the cars themselves along with the races and championships.
In every theatre of sport it is the true fans, those with passion, that invariably possess a keen sense of history. Youngsters Martin and Simon – just like yours truly back in the 1950s – together with Abhijit Roy in far distant India, are no exceptions. But in the age of Text, Twitter and the sound-bite, F1’s rich history will only be kept alive and remain accessible to future generations if it is communicated appropriately, and in these days of the truncated message, less is more. As David Croft put it in his Foreword for Formula 1: All the Races – “Roger Smith’s ‘Race Pods’ are a masterclass in how to be concise yet comprehensive.”
So enjoy again the races and you know and love… or would love to know.
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Prior to becoming an author, Roger worked for business information leader ACNielsen, latterly as Managing Director, TV Ratings, Europe. His successful 40-year career spanned several international roles and his research findings were published throughout Europe. Roger lives in Oxford with his wife Rosemary. They have three children and three grandchildren. Roger is a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers.