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'Inside Track' by Jake Humphrey - Kindle review - Read all about Humphrey's four years in F1 as he prepares to leave BBC role

Published by Christine

If you've followed Sidepodcast for any length of time, you'll likely know we are obsessed with how the sport is covered - be it broadcast, print or online. Upon finding out that Jake Humphrey, BBC F1 anchor 2009-2012, had written a book called Inside Track (not original, but promising), I was intrigued. The story behind the camera, secrets of the broadcasting world? This was going to be good.

Ready, aim, fire

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My expectations were naturally too high. I don't imagine you are allowed to give away all the BBC's secrets, even if you aren't going to be doing the job for very much longer. What made it slightly more disappointing, however, was the mish-mash topics the book covered. There didn't seem to be a clear aim from the outset, with chapters varying from motorsport safety, to how important testing and practice can be for young drivers, to the psychology of an F1 driver. Is it a memoir? Is it a multi-season review? Is it a beginner's guide to F1? Well, it's all of the above.

Having followed F1 for nearly ten years, I don't really need the concept of CFD explained to me, or several paragraphs on what goes into a test session, but I can still recall what it was like to be new and trying to learn. Jake does a good job of explaining some of the fundamental concepts behind F1, but is that what you would want from a book by a TV anchor? His expertise must surely lie elsewhere.

Meanwhile, we do get some good insight into how he got the job, how he felt leading up to the news breaking, the first transmission, and how horrible some of us fans were about his appointment - being plucked from CBBC to front our very precious sport.

Meanwhile, almost every time I picked up the paper it felt as if another name was being linked with the job. Strangely, no one ever mentioned the guy who had hosted such shows as Rule the School, Bamzooki and Gimme a Break, while also dressing up as a pink shellfish and running around the Blue Peter garden popping foam-filled balloons for ‘Mobster Lobster’.

- Inside Track by Jake Humphrey

This is the kind of thing I was hoping for - thoughts on how he got where he got, and what kept him there for four years. Unfortunately, for every sneaky peak at thinks we don't really know about, there's a little bit too much added context. For example, learning how he felt when Honda quit the sport was good, pondering what he was going to do to cover it, but the summary of how it all panned out and the subsequent Brawn speed was overkill.

Focus or favouritism

I can already hear some of the criticism aimed at this book and its lengthy discussions on the psychology of Lewis Hamilton, or the driven nature of Jenson Button. Plenty of the topics start with, centre on, or veer towards the British pair. I suspect it is because, as a British broadcaster, these are the two that Humphrey has had to focus on for most of his F1 career, and he likely had more access to them as the seasons slipped by.

It certainly helped him to get inside the McLaren Technology Centre and describe that for us. In fact, the paragraphs about F1 factories are very good. We've been lucky enough to go to a few of them ourselves, so the section about Brackley wasn't new to me. But not everyone will have been, and it's fun to hear what it's like inside the places that create the technology we see on track. There are some great visions of how on-message Ferrari HQ can be, and how pristine the futuristic MTC is.

I got my first taste of the perfection and attention to detail that course through the veins of the team as I passed the silver and grey McLaren sign and stopped at the security hut. I call it a security ‘hut’, but in fact it was a two-storey building, with sliding doors, white tiled floors and chrome everywhere.

- Inside Track by Jake Humphrey

Those bits plus the snippets about team members colouring over deckchair stitching because it's not in corporate colours - these are the things that only Jake can tell us. The personal F1 history was great, particularly hearing about his first visit to the paddock. A guest of David Coulthard at the China race of 2008, we get a brilliant description of the hustle and bustle of F1 itself, the encompassing feeling of loneliness despite being amongst a throng of others, and the barriers that F1 puts up to newcomers. Perfect.


Book information
TitleThe Inside Track
AuthorJake Humphrey
PublisherSimon & Schuster UK
Published8 November 2012
File size349 KB

Overall, it was a reasonably good read. For me, there were parts that I could skim-read as I had the knowledge already, but for a newbie or someone getting into the sport based on what they've seen on TV, this could be a really good introduction.

It was up to date, which makes a nice change with these kind of books, referencing things that happened quite recently - Sid Watkins' death and the racing that occurred in September. Of course, F1 moves on very quickly, so there had to be two additional end-notes about Jake's decision to leave the F1 coverage and, oddly, Hamilton's move to Mercedes.

I wanted more from the book and was disappointed by how restrained it seemed in places. If it was a bit more obvious which demographic it was aimed at, or if it was a bit less of a mixture of styles, then that would probably have appealed more to me. But, it was clear, concise and well-written, friendly and personable, just as Jake appears on TV.

Rated: 3 out of 5

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