A review of his book “Ayrton Senna: The Whole Story” appeared here a while ago, which was an amalgamation of four of Hilton’s other works on the late Brazilian legend.
Hilton’s writing on Senna can tend towards the hagiographic. “As Time Goes By” creates an illustration of Senna from numerous interviews with people close to the driver. Is this enough to set it apart from the other biographies of Senna – including Hilton’s?
I first read this book a couple of years ago and only recently dug it out again.
I did so because it was the first of Christopher Hilton’s books I read and, if you’ve read many of the book reviews here at F1 Fanatic, you’ll know I’ve not been all that keen on his others.
It struck me that perhaps if I returned to “As Time Goes By” I’d find reasons to dislike it I hadn’t spotted before – but it turned out quite the opposite.
Despite the maudlin chapter titles (based on, you guessed it, the words of the song “As Time Goes By”) this is a reasonable even-handed biography of Senna. And it’s told with a damn sight more flair than “The Whole Story” or many of the other Senna biographies I’ve read.
The interviews with his old Formula Ford rivals are, for me, the best part of the book. Hilton portrays the young, slightly awkward but still breathtakingly single-minded Senna extremely well.
The heavy reliance on interviews with people who had close, day-to-day first-hand experience of working with Senna gives the book its strength.
Towards the end, sadly, that falls apart a bit. The inevitable exploration of the crash is revealing but painfully monotonous – I forced my way through it once and shall never read it again.
Hilton is also predictably scathing about the trial, which had not yet ended for good when this book was written.
Sadly and, perhaps, inevitably for a figure such as Senna, biographies of him are all about quantity rather than quality. Ironically, one of the better Senna books I have read (which has not yet been reviewed here) is also the shortest – Richard Williams, “The Death of Ayrton Senna”.
If you’re picking your way through the minefield of Senna literature, this is one of the few books worth reading. But Williams’ book is a better starting-point.
F1 Fanatic rating
- F1 books
- “Ayrton Senna: The Whole Story” (Christopher Hilton, 2004)
- “The Life of Senna” (Tom Rubython)
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