With the arrival of “Formula 1 Car by Car 1990-99” author Peter Higham has extended his decade-by-decade series into the nineties, and chronicled every machine which competed in well over 600 grands prix during the first half-century of the world championship.
The nineties produced some of the most dominant machinery ever seen in F1, usually produced by Williams during their ultra-successful alliance with Renault. Along with McLaren and Benetton, they did much of the winning in this period – note the absence of Ferrari on the cover, as was the case for the eighties edition too.
But it’s a credit to the thoroughness of the research Higham has undertaken that even cars which seldom made it any further than pre-qualifying get half-a-dozen paragraphs – and tightly-written, detail-rich ones at that. Over 500 full-colour pictures ensure not only every car is covered, but each of its drivers are shown in action – all six in the case of Lotus’s swansong 1994 campaign.
This is the book to arm yourself with to settle once and for all the debate over which was the lousiest car ever entered for a grand prix – the Life L190 or Andrea Moda S192.
It’s easy to look back on that period with a touch of wistful nostalgia for the days when F3000 teams with F1 dreams could cobble together a chassis and fit it with the near-ubiquitous Cosworth DFV and customer gearbox. After all, one such example in this book – Jordan – remains with us still as Aston Martin. Another nineties newcomer, Stewart, fared even better after it became Red Bull.
This book is also a history of how teams like these disappeared. Of course, it wasn’t just the likes of Coloni and Forti which fell by the wayside, but champions like Lotus, Tyrrell and Brabham too, each one a link to the past terminally severed, and a once-great racing heritage squandered.
So a decade which began with grids not far south of 40 cars ended with just 22. Later chapters of this chronological volume therefore tend to get shorter, though Higham partly makes up for this with longer sections on the cars from the end of the decade.
He gives a well-judged overview of the key technical developments on each chassis: The vital points are addressed without getting dragged into the minutiae of race-by-race tweaks. Ample context is provided in the form of changes in driver line-ups, major personnel and, of course, the ever-evolving rule book.
Aside from a few minor detail errors, the nineties edition of this series upholds the high standard set by the earlier books. It is highly recommended, though you may find yourself pining for the days when F1 grids had more than just 10 teams.
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Formula 1 Car by Car 1990-99
Author: Peter Higham