This month sees the launch of a wonderful new book from Evro Publishing that follows the rise, fortunes and fall of the Benetton Formula 1 team from author Damien Smith with a foreward from British racing engineer Pat Symonds who was Chief Technical Officer at Williams from 2013 to 2016, having previously worked at Benetton, Renault and Virgin Formula 1 teams, and is now Chief Technical Officer of Formula 1.
The Benetton Formula 1 team added some much needed colour to Formula 1, shaking up the traditional mix with its unconventional, flamboyant, and ground-breaking feats. It was also controversial at times.
Viewed by many as the rebels of Formula 1, the team defied the perceptions and achieved great success, particularly in the 1994 and 1995 seasons when they managed to beat the big names in the sport, namely Williams, McLaren and Ferrari, to win back-to-back World Championship titles for the then up-and-coming Michael Schumacher.
The book tells the 15 year history of the Benetton Formula 1 team from 1986 to 2001 with plenty of insightful contributions from many of the key participants in the team, including the flamboyant Flavio Briatore, Alessandro Benetton, British engineer Pat Symonds and South African engineer Rory Byrne. The book also has a lavish array of colourful images mixed in with the authoritative text, and is a must read all Formula 1 enthusiasts.
Author Damien Smith, who is based in Merseyside and has been a motorsport journalist for nearly 30 years. He was an award-winning former editor of Motor Sport as well as editor-in-chief of Autosport, F1 Racing and Motorsport News. Smith was a familiar face in paddocks from Monaco to Pembrey, Indianapolis to Lydden Hill and just about every other paddock around the world. Today, he is a freelance contributor to Motor Sport, Autosport and other titles, and also writes a weekly column as motor sport editor of Autocar.
The book opens with Benetton’s early days and after three seasons as a sponsor in the sport Benetton purchases the ailing Toleman team and creates its own BMW-powered team for the 1986 season, achieving their first win that same year with Gerhard Berger at the wheel.
Soon after, Flavio Briatore arrives on the scene to run the team. With Ford powered engines Benetton begins to see consistently strong performances which include two consecutive wins for Nelson Piquet at the end of the 1990 season.
And in an extract from 1989 in the book:
“Pat Symonds recalls his first encounter with the man with whom he would work closely for a significant chunk of the next 20 years – and what a first impression it was. “I didn’t actually meet Flavio until Brazil,” says Pat. “I well remember him arriving and we had tiny little engineering huts in Rio. Bearing in mind I was one of the senior members of the team, it was a bit surprising we hadn’t met. We had our engineering office and there was also a marketing area. Flavio came in with someone, no idea who, and he sat down while we were in the middle of a meeting. This chap was obviously embarrassed and Flavio said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about them, they’re just engineers.’ I thought, I’m not sure I’m going to get on with this guy… In actual fact I did get on with him very well and he has a lot admirable qualities. There were some big changes in Flavio over the years.”
It was the inspired signing of Michael Schumacher that takes Benetton closer to achieving their World Championship dreams during a 1992 to 1993 high-tech period when the dominant Williams team reigned supreme in F1.
A somewhat tumultuous 1994 season ended on a high for the team despite tragedy, black flags, disqualifications, a pitlane inferno and political manoeuvring, with Schumacher taking the World Championship title for Benetton after a controversial clash with rival Damon Hill in Australia.
The following year, Benetton dominated the season with their new Renault engines, managing to win a second consecutive World Championship following nine wins and Johnny Herbert’s support to help deliver the constructors’ title for the team into the bargain.
Following Schumacher’s departure to Ferrari and the loss of the factory Renault engines, Benetton struggles to maintain its status in 1996 and 1997 with drivers Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi managing to get just one win in the two seasons.
After a somewhat prolonged period of decline for the team, it ended with Renault purchasing the team at the end of 2001.
Publication date: October 2023
UK price: £60.00
Format: 272 x 228mm, Hardback
Pages: 344, 278 photographs
Benetton: Rebels of Formula 1
By Damien Smith with a foreword by Pat Symonds
Published by Evro Publishing
For more information and to purchase your own copy of ‘Benetton: Rebels of Formula 1’ by Damian Smith, please visit the Evro Publishing website. It is also available at Amazon, Blackwell’s and WH Smith.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Images courtesy of Evro Publishing with main photographs by Motorsport Images
Evro will have a strong presence at the inaugural Porter Press Motoring Literary & Art Festival at Silverstone in The Wing over the weekend of 2nd and 3rd December 2023. With a packed programme and a host of interesting speakers, the Motoring Literary & Art Festival is an intriguing new event for the motoring enthusiasts’ diary.
Three of the live events on Sunday will feature Evro authors:
At 11.00am in Theatre 2, Crispian Besley will shine his spotlight on some of the shadowy exploits highlighted in Driven to Crime.
At 11.30am in Theatre 3, Ian Flux, one of Britain’s most colourful and best-loved racing drivers will regale his audience with amusing anecdotes and scurrilous stories from his memoir For Flux Sake: Beer, Fags and Opposite-Lock.
At 3.30pm in Theatre 2, Damien Smith will talk about his newly published Benetton: Rebels of Formula 1.
These authors, and others including Jon Saltinstall (Jacky Ickx: His Authorised Competition History) and Richard Jenkins (Tyrrell: The Story of the Tyrrell Racing Organisation), will also be available on the Evro Publishing stand to sign and dedicate books. For more event details, please visit: www.motorlitartfest.co.uk.