Book of the week: Chequered Conflict- The Inside Story of Two Explosive World Championships, by Maurice Hamilton (Simon & Schuster £17.99

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The Independent Online

There are already signs, as the new Formula One season is upon us, that the scandal surrounding the McLaren team has yet to be buried by all the parties concerned, even though two of the three are supposed to be keen to draw a line beneath events that so sullied the 2007 World Championship struggle.

Author Maurice Hamilton has chosen to chronicle not just 2007 but also another gripping season, 1986, in which the title also went down to the wire with three drivers in play. He was on the scene for every race in each of them, and for all of those in between, so is perfectly placed not just to tell the two very different stories but also to contrast them, and therein lies the hook in this account.

In 1986 there was a Brit, Nigel Mansell, fighting a Frenchman, Alain Prost, and a Brazilian, Nelson Piquet. Mansell and Piquet were team-mates who hated one another, while Prost was the outsider.

Fast forward to 2007, when another Brit, Lewis Hamilton, went up against his team-mate, the Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who was reigning champion, with Kimi Raikkonen as the outsider. There were tensions between Hamilton and Alonso too and, just as in 1986, the outsider came through to win.

But there the similarities end, for no season in Formula One history has been so acrimonious, nor so riddled with politics. Even the governing body, the FIA, had to answer allegations against its own conduct.

Primarily, this is the story of a proud man, Ron Dennis of McLaren, who was to discover in the cruellest terms that he knew less than he thought about what was happening within his team as he was betrayed by his chief designer, Mike Coughlan, who received stolen Ferrari data from his friend Nigel Stepney.

It is a parable of Formula One, primarily of its greed and self-interest. As Hamilton rightly concludes, what happened to McLaren in 2007 was motor racing's equivalent of a tsunami. When the waters receded, the sport's sense of fair play and honour had been swept out to sea.

There have, inevitably, been further developments since Hamilton's book was finished, but this remains a beautifully researched account of what happened.

But be warned: it is an unedifying tale that will change your view of a once-great sport.

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