“Life at the Limit” – Sid Watkins

The work of Professor Sid Watkins revolutionised Formula 1 in a uniquely important way, transforming a sometimes lethal sport into one that combines the thrills and immense requirements of bravery demanded by driving cars at over 200 mph with the optimum levels of safety for its participants and observers.

Life at the Limit, his first book, explores the development of safety standards at Grand Prix circuits in the two decades following his arrival on the scene in 1978. If, on the face of it, this may seem a fairly dry subject, it is told with great character, by turns revealing funny anecdotes about favourite drivers and sensitively-handled moments of poignancy.

Watkins hops the globes and medical institutions of the world with the Formula 1 circus and reveals the often hostile attitudes towards improving safety in the sport he encountered.

It makes for an absorbing read. Watkins weaves tales of the escapades of stars like Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg into his narrative.

The book covers some of the most dreadful crashes in the last few decades of Formula 1: Ronnie Peterson, Gilles Villeneuve, Ricardo Paletti, Didier Pironi, Martin Donnelly, Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna.

But Watkins steers well clear of making the book a litany of gore and in fact what stands out most strongly is his own good humour.

One appendix make especially enlightening reading including a few figures about a Formula 1 driver’s average heart-rate that are worth remembering for those tedious arguments down the pub about just how fit you have to be to race F1 cars.

This is really must-read stuff for Formula 1 fans.

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