Mark Glendenning, Australia
IN THE SPIRIT OF SENNA
AND THE SHADOW OF SCHUMACHER
Published by Haynes
David Tremayne must be rather frustrated at the moment. Put yourself into his shoes: it's sometime at the start of this year, and you have just put the finishing touches to a rather good biography of Rubens Barrichello. You put a lot of time and thought into your final chapter, and at the end of it all you have managed to produce a nice, intelligent analysis of where Rubens has been and where he is going.
Along the way, you remark that after a couple of flirtatious but unfruitful meetings with other teams, the cheerful Brazilian is happy with his lot at Ferrari. And how does Rubens repay you? By having a 'straw that broke the camel's back' moment with his teammate at Monaco, calling up his old mate Gil de Ferran, and announcing a few weeks later that he will be a BAR Honda driver in 2006.
Timing-wise, things couldn't have happened more awkwardly. The book has been released a year too early to make any claims about closing the door on Barrichello's career up to and including Ferrari. An alternative in many cases would be to mention the impending move and speculate on what a future for Rubens at BAR might hold (no doubt highlighting the enormous sentimental value that a post-Senna Brazilian winning for Honda could carry), but the announcement came too late for Tremayne to have the opportunity.
So effectively, there was a small window of a few months in which the book could be rendered out-of-date on the spot, and Tremayne was unlucky enough to find it. It's hardly his fault though, and nor should it dissuade you from buying this book. Good biographies of current drivers come along far too rarely to be taken for granted, and this is absolutely one of the better ones to have washed up on the desk over the past two or three years.
Find me a person who doesn't like Rubens Barrichello, and I will go and punch them. Sure, you could argue that his willingness to be a puppet in the Schumacher and Todt show is in conflict with a racing driver's inherent instinct to win, and there have long been hints that Rubens has not always been comfortable with some of those clauses in his contract. Indeed, one of the more telling revelations in this new book concerns just how close he came to jumping ship earlier, but he couldn't agree to the right terms with the right teams at the right time.
Rubens has employed a liberal dose of control and self-censorship when asked about being a 'Number 1 (b)' driver to Michael over the past few years, but chances are that could change when he swaps the red shirt for a white one with red and black bits at the end of the year. If there is a revised and updated edition of this book then Tremayne will no doubt revisit some of these issues with Rubens, and the answers could be intriguing.
But what is there not to like about Rubens? He is endearingly warm and emotional, and in an era teeming with clinically cool professionals, that makes him stand out like the dog's proverbials. There is something about Rubens his speed, his temperament, his values that make him seem like he could have stepped comfortably into just about any era of Formula One since 1950, and there are not many drivers who have that air about them.
I have never interviewed him, but from what I have seen he seems to be one of the most rewarding interviewees in the pitlane. If you give him a well-considered question, he will repay you with an even more well-considered answer, and one that carries a perfect balance between technical/professional insight and emotional response. Rubens seems capable of eloquently describing emotions and feelings that a lot of other drivers are not even aware that they are experiencing.
All of this offers fertile ground for a book, and on the whole Tremayne uses it to good effect. There is a lot of interview material with Rubens, particularly concerning the early years of his career, and when mixed with the thoughts of those close to the story Eddie Jordan, Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert it is engaging stuff.
The only time the book slips is when we move into Ferrari territory, and the book begins to revert to a series of Prancing Horse season reviews. It's not bad, per se, but it's kind of dull, and it could have done with a little more analysis of the ramifications of races such as the staged finish at Indy, or the two occasions in Austria where Rubens sacrificed wins for the 'greater good'. Merely reproducing a sarcastic remark from an 'observer' (who was probably a colleague in the media room) is not really enough.
But generally, that is a small criticism of an otherwise enjoyable book. As is usually the case with Tremayne it is engagingly written (other than the clumsily long subtitle), well-paced and managed to unearth a few previously unknown kernels about Barrichello which is quite an achievement when you are dealing with someone who has been involved in a sport as heavily scrutinised as Formula One for so long.
There are only two more races until the off-season is upon us, and if you are looking for something to help you bridge the gap before the first round next year then this book might be just the ticket.