“Team Schumacher” (Timothy Collings, 2005)

Michael Schumacher is heading for retirement, so place your bets now on how many new Schumacher biographies will be out in time for the Christmas market.

There are plenty of books on the controversial seven-times champion already, though, one of the most recent of which is Timothy Collings “Team Schumacher”. This is not so much about Schumacher, but detailed and revealing portraits of those closest to him personally and professionally.

It’s an unusual approach but one unqiuely suited to Schumacher that provides fascinating new perspectives on his career at Ferrari.

Collings sets out his objectives quite clearly with “Team Schumacher”. He asks: “This is the team built for Schumacher, carrying all before it. But is it the team that Michael made, or is it the team that Ferrari forged?”

The answer comes through a sequence of biographies of prominent Ferrari figures, including Ross Brawn, Jean Todt and Rory Byrne, plus other vital members of Schumacher’s inner circle: manager Willi Weber, wife Corinna and others.

The unique and important relationahip with Bridgestone even gets its own chapter (“Loyal partners”).

In looking beyond Schumacher to the exceptional people around him Collings runs the risk of undermining the contribution of Schumacher – unintentionally or otherwise.

The bludgeoning consistency with which he scores points race in, race out, would be impossible without the contribution of Rory Byrne, the wizard behind the exceptionally fast and virtually bulletproof F-2002.

This book is best read as a sequence of biographies – it seems to lack something in the way of a glue holding it altogether. After pinning down the terms of his argument so clearly in the introduction I expected more finality in the conclusion.

But there’s no denying all the material is there. This is one of the better Schumacher books for a long time and will probably has more to say than any cynical quick-buck cash-ins that pop up between now and December.

It is a shame that recent developments have rendered parts of it immediately dated. It would be fascinating to see how Collings fits his interpretation of “Team Schumacher” with the conflicting views on how his retirement was agred and announced, and what role te arrival of Kimi Raikkonen had to play.

Collings’ conclusion provides some intriguing hints: “It is perhaps the greatest loss to the current era of motorsport that Schumacher has never had a team mate on such a level of completeness, and with such back-up, as he.” How prescient that has proven.

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