The notes I take while reading a book usually make for dry reading. Not so with Di Spires’ enormously entertaining “I Just Made the Tea”.
“Mario Andretti’s wife stuck in toilet”, reads one. “Driver’s wig came off in balaclava” and “cleaned his ear out with a Twiglet, which someone ate” are others.
Di Spires spent three decades serving up tea, sympathy and a lot more besides to the great and good in Formula 1. Friend and surrogate mother to many of the drivers, her recollections bring alive the human side of the sport we see too little of.
Her memoirs are packed with amusing stories about drivers such as Michael Schumacher (who supplied a foreword), Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and many others.
Within its pages you’ll learn which driver dined on steak and red wine before races and the strange sights on James Hunt’s “naughty tour” of Amsterdam.
There are some inescapably sad moments as well, not least the passage on Elio de Angelis, who chatted with them in their motorhome before getting in his car for the last time at Paul Ricard in 1986.
By that time Spires and her husband Stuart had worked for several F1 teams including Lotus and were now with Benetton. They witnessed the traumas of 1994 first hand including the effect the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna had on Schumacher, who after the Imola podium ceremony sat in their kitchen telling manager Willi Weber “I am just not going to do this any more”.
The author also has a few plain-spoken observations about moments when, in her words “we just should not have been there” in a particular country at a particular time: such as in Mexico following its 1986 earthquake, or Brazil when the country was being ravaged by massive inflation.
But for the most part “I Just Made the Tea” is a candid and highly amusing read. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud while reading a book about Formula One.
I must admit I found the cover, which features a particularly unflattering cartoon of Senna, decidedly unattractive. But should you happen to feel the same way I urge you to get past it: there’s a warm and delightfully funny read waiting for you inside.
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I Just Made the Tea: Tales from 30 years inside Formula 1
Author: Di Spires with Bernard Ferguson
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