The Powerbrokers: The battle for F1's Billions, by Alan Henry

Revving the engine of Formula 1
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The Independent Culture

If time travel were possible, it would be entertaining to pluck, say, Machiavelli from the 16th century and give him a Formula 1 team to run - and then engineer a dispute with Bernie Ecclestone. The phrase "babe in arms" comes to mind. In a cut-throat sport this diminutive mogul wields the biggest razor. Formula 1 is governed by what Alan Henry refers to in this thoroughly readable book as "an almost mystical regulatory protocol" - the Concorde Agreement, according to which every person on the planet is legally obliged to give all their money to Ecclestone. Or so it would seem.

Motorbooks International, £16.99, hardback For the past 20 years or so, the head of Foca, the Formula 1 Constructors' Association, has micro-managed the sport, making millionaires of many and a billionaire of himself. With his close ally Max Mosley, the president of the governing body, Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, he has tightened his grip - as much constrictor as constructor - and in many ways the story of modern Formula 1 is the story of Ecclestone's rise and rise and rise.

Thanks to his visionary realisation that whoever controlled the TV rights would hold the aces, he worked his way up from mere team boss to over-arching supremo, and although Henry covers all the bases in this compelling account, the former car dealer dominates.

Henry refers to Formula 1 people as "a mildly dysfunctional family", which is about right - in the way the Borgias were mildly dysfunctional. Business negotiations and endless technical disputes would seem unpromising material, but Henry has fashioned a genuine page-turner. In fact, reading this book beats watching the races themselves.