Adam’s Parr’s departure from Williams was one of the most startling news stories of 2012.
Mere weeks after Frank Williams hailed the team’s chairman as his “natural successor” came a stark press release with the headline Adam Parr to Leave Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC. That something was amiss was not lost on the readers of F1 Fanatic as can be seen from the comments at the time.
Sure enough, Parr eventually revealed his departure was linked to Williams’ Concorde Agreement negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone, who Parr believed was trying to force him out of F1. He first made the claim in this book, which tells his story of being at the helm of Williams during a turbulent few years.
“The Art of War: Five Years in Formula One” reveals the inner workings of F1′s ‘Piranha Club’ and how they reacted to the escalating financial crisis from the end of 2007. This runs side-by-side with Parr’s arrival at Williams, and he also tells the story of his efforts to put the team on a more solid footing for the future.
In what is probably a first for an F1 book of this type, Parr’s tale is told as a graphic novel. This makes a refreshing change from the norm and adds impact and style to what might otherwise be a rather dry story of people sat in rooms talking to each other.
A glance at illustrator Paul Tinker’s website led me to expect caricatures and amusing designs. Sure enough the major players are well-drawn – you’ll have little trouble recognising them – and there are occasional touches of humour in the artwork. But a sport as vibrant as Formula One deserves a bit more colour than the occasional perfunctory splash of red.
Parr’s dispute with Ecclestone, stemming from his and Williams’ opposition to the introduction of customer cars, is a central theme of the book. The reader is left with the clear view that Parr’s refusal to yield ground on the issue of customer cars was what led Ecclestone to force him out – as it turned out, a little more than a month before Pastor Maldonado scored their first race victory in eight years.
The insight into the competing factions vying for control over F1′s future is fascinating. Parr lays blame for the failure of the Formula One Teams’ Association to achieve further costs reductions beyond 2010 at the feet of Red Bull – who opposed them – and McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh, who in Parr’s view yielded too much ground to achieve consensus.
There are other interesting revelations along these lines, including Flavio Briatore calling Parr in 2009 to request that his engineers be allowed to look at the double diffuser on the new Williams. “Sadly, we were not able to show Renault what we were doing,” notes Parr.
The story unfolds at a very brisk pace. In places it would benefit from fleshing out certain stories more than it does.
We see one panel about Parr’s “truly hateful task” of having to drop Nico Hulkenberg (one week before his sensational pole position in Brazil). As Hulkenberg was elbowed out to make room for Maldonado and his millions, this subplot has obvious resonance with the rest of the story and is one of a few points I’d like to see covered in further detail.
Of course, we are only shown one side of the story. It’s hard not to sympathise with some of Parr’s points, such as his frustration with those who opposed cost controls even when their own teams were poised to quit the sport.
But the shortcomings of his preferred solution – a budget cap – are glossed over. Not least whether it would ever be possible to police such restrictions effectively.
That said there was much I appreciated about this attempt to tell an important story in an original way. It offers a glimpse into the secretive power games that shape F1 and reveals much about the rivalries that frustrate good governance of the sport.
At £25 the slim hardback version is on the dear side but for F1 fans with e-readers this is a must-buy.
F1 Fanatic rating
The Art of War: Five Years in Formula One
Author: Adam Parr (foreword by Max Mosley)
Price: £25 (Hardback) / £4.94 (eBook)
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