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'The Mechanic's Tale' by Steve Matchett - Kindle Review - How Matchett made his way to F1 and stayed there

Published by Christine

Steve Matchett has been associated with Formula One since 1990, with experience on both sides of the business. He's been an engineer, working on a championship-winning car, and he's been a broadcaster, explaining some of the difficult technical concepts to the armchair F1 fan. Matchett has seen it all, and took the time to write three books sharing some of his wisdom with us. The Mechanic's Tale is the second work in the F1 trilogy.

In the pits

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The three books follow distinct paths - the first an entire year with a championship winning team and the third a look at how to put together a fast race car. The second book, the one I'm reviewing today, focuses on life as part of the pit crew. From getting the job, through winning and losing as a team, to desperately trying to get out, the book expands on its predecessor with more experiences from the F1 paddock.

Rather than covering a single year, this book spans a decade, starting with how Matchett found his way into F1. It ends with his final moments as part of the Benetton team, covering everything that happened along the way. From the specific details of promotions and payrises, to the rather more philosophical thoughts that come from motorsport, Matchett misses nothing and explains everything - clear and concisely, open and honestly.

You could, perhaps, argue that he's honest to a fault. Revealing some innermost thoughts can occasionally herald paragraphs that are a little harsh. You have to really believe in yourself to get ahead in F1, but sometimes I wonder if that requires believing so little in other people. Having said that, when it comes to safety, there's no room for messing around!

It is a sad fact of life, but just occasionally someone, loaded with go-kart enthusiasm, will be small enough to wriggle through the sieving effect of the interview net and plunge himself into the grown-ups' end of the engineering pool, only to find that he is completely out of his depth and floundering for direction while all the time the driver's life is dependent on his very next action. Quite, quite frightening!

- The Mechanic's Tale by Steve Matchett

The writing is excellent. Give or take the odd misspelling of Stirling Moss' name and you have some great descriptive work that brings you right out to each circuit. Engaging and heartfelt, with just a slight edge of disapproval, it all comes across as a level-headed piece of writing.

More than just nuts and bolts

There are really two sides to the story, with most focusing on the Grand Prix lifestyle and a little bit detailing how Matchett approached publishers and sold them the first part of the trilogy - Life in the Fast Lane. It's an interesting hybrid, part memoir, part diary, part discussion on how to do your best writing and how to get the best out of a pit crew, there's a little bit of everything thrown in.

Occasionally, there are some great snippets that just make you smile, things you would never normally find out about a Formula One Team.

The one overriding memory I have of that first trip to Benetton was how fantastically uncomfortable the chairs in reception were; black leather and chrome, with the seat raked backwards at a jaunty 45 degrees.

- The Mechanic's Tale by Steve Matchett

There are insider stories about drivers and you may find another side to them that you hadn't previously known. I particularly liked the notes on Schumacher's cycling, Brundle's crazy phrases and Piquet's thwarted last hurrah.

As you'd imagine, there's plenty of technical detail involved as well, and Matchett does a fine job at clarifying the fundamental aspects of making a car go faster. Occasionally, he teeters on the edge of over-explaining something but in a book like this, it is far better to be on that side than to be incomprehensible to the less hardcore fan.


Book information
TitleThe Mechanic's Tale
AuthorSteve Matchett
Published21 December 2010
File size2776 KB

Excellent writing, with a strong story to tell, there's plenty to keep you going through the book. You may find that one of the topics doesn't interest you as much - the writing/mechanic hybrid has a strange appeal to me but may not be as enticing to others. The Mechanic's Tale is a great insight into the F1 world, expressing the highs and lows without sugar-coating or exaggeration.

Rated: 4 out of 5

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