F1 Retro 1980 Review

Building on the critical acclaim of F1 Retro 1970, world-renowned motorsport journalist Mark Hughes looks at the twists and turns of the 1980 Formula 1 season

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The turn of the decade brought with it fundamental and lasting changes as Formula 1 moved into 1980. In the midst of America’s nuclear standoff with Russia, John Lennon had been assassinated, the British car industry was on its knees and the FISA and FOCA were at loggerheads.

Documenting that intense battle between sporting bodies is F1 Retro 1980 – the second in the series from eminent F1 journalist Mark Hughes. Adopting much of the same successful approach as its 1970 counterpart, the book is a fantastic retrospective that traces the unseen, the relationships and the conflicts that eventually boiled over into the public domain.

Hughes explores the tidal shifts as ground-effect became a must and as turbocharging developed into a competitive and reliable technology. With cars now instantly so much faster, the strength required to maximise their potential had grown.

The old guard was gone too. James Hunt and Niki Lauda had retired – albeit the latter only temporarily – and Ferrari was nowhere as its flat-12 massively compromised design freedom. Williams and Brabham were now serious title contenders for the first time as were their number one drivers Alan Jones and Nelson Piquet. A ‘brutish’ new age had arrived.

Hughes guides the reader through it all as the key battles are told and with chapters dedicated to each race of the season. Across it, he teases aspects of a person’s character, their background and ability. Above all, though, despite the results being known, despite the events already having unfolded, he still sets an utterly compelling and suspenseful scene.

The latter third of the book focuses on the technical and statistical elements of the season. Engineers’ drawings, team checklists with notes added in biro and other scans all give off colour and are a welcome inclusion. Dr Gordon McCabe’s computer fluid dynamics analysis of the title-winning FW07 is mostly accessible – a good balance between insightful but not too diluted.

The book itself is a quality item. The paper is thick and glossy to the touch, but perhaps that’s a given when it costs £60 RRP.

With a first cursory flick through, the blend of images stands out. Each one is well thought out to support the narrative on the corresponding pages. Of particular success is the variation between drivers, figureheads and cars being at the focal point or capturing the locations and the emotions of the era.

Put simply, the book is excellent. It’s expensive but builds on everything that worked well with F1 Retro 1970 both in style and substance. It’s been lavished with time and comes across as a real passion project. It hits all the facets of F1 in that it appeals to fans regardless of whether it’s the numbers, the politics or the racing that has the biggest draw.

It is not something to be stowed on a bookshelf, rather it’s a work that continues to offer more with each read and each study of an image.

In short, it’s a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.

Images courtesy of F1 Retro 1980

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