James Allen seems to be able to handle criticism rather well. Here is a man who was subjected to constant sniping from a section of fans during his reign in the commentary box for ITV, which culminated in the website Sniff Petrol producing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Stop The Cock” on them.
I doubt therefore he will have any sleepless nights about what I have to say about his new book: “James Allen on F1 – 2009: A Revolutionary Year”.
For those that don’t know, James Allen has been keeping himself busy penning entries for his own website since Auntie Beeb clawed back the rights to show Formula 1 in the UK and decided his services were no longer required.
His website, James Allen on F1, has steadily gained momentum since it was launched at the start of the year and, credit where credit’s due, draws in a loyal following with often hundreds of comments per article from various armchair critics across the globe.
What I would be interested to know is when the following conversation took place: “Hang on a minute. We’re receiving loads of hits to the website, but we make very little in the way revenue? How can we cash in on this?” And quicker than you can say Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, almost the entire contents of his website have found their way into his latest book offering.
At approximately 250 pages, “A Revolutionary Year” takes us through the many ups and downs of this season. Unfortunately it’s a case of more ‘downs’ than ‘ups’, as we are reminded of Formula 1’s ability to constantly shoot itself in the foot. It’s all here in black and white. From the medal concept, passing through the whole ‘liegate’ McLaren affair and then flittering through double diffusers, budget caps, potential breakaways and the Renault’s Singapore scandal along the way.
There is some focus given to the more positive aspects of the sport, particularly how the established order on track was overturned by the likes of Brawn GP and Red Bull Racing, but these are few and fair between. There is also very little in the way of extensive race coverage or in-depth analysis of each race weekend.
But where this book fundamentally falls short is that the aims and objectives between online and print should be two different things, and in the context of a snapshot of an entire year, it doesn’t really work.
A website like James Allen’s is a place where you can dip your toe in every now and again to read the latest goings on in the sport. Do you really want to spend a prolonged session reading over gossip and the sad state of Formula 1 again, even with the added bonus of hindsight?
Whether you’ll like this book or not does depend entirely on whether you enjoy the whole soap opera aspect of Formula 1. As a snapshot it reminds us just how thoroughly depressing everything became at times this year. The book does however have the added benefit of not succumbing to popularity and vanishing off the face of the Internet just as things do genuinely become interesting.
If you’re looking for more positive spin on the year, I would recommend you look elsewhere.
James Allen on F1 – 2009: A Revolutionary Year is now available to buy from Amazon.