Has Drive to Survive raised the profile of any individual in Formula 1 more than Haas team principal Guenther Steiner?
Sure, Daniel Ricciardo became another favourite figure of the hit Netflix series. But when the Box to Box crew first sent their cameras into the paddock Ricciardo was already a grand prix winner and far better known than the leader of a team which was only in its third season.
Steiner’s plain-spoken, unfiltered and often profane reactions to his team’s fluctuating fortunes certainly helped him become the unlikeliest break-out star of the series. But how well does that style come across in book form?
In Surviving to Drive (you can see what they did there) Steiner retells the story of the 2022 season, adding in snippets of his backstory. This is all told in some approximation of his mannerisms familiar from a dozen DTS memes – in other words, heavy on the expletives, including over 300 uses of ‘fok’. That averages out at more than one per page.
That’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes, though for me it was less of a problem than how forced the narrative feels. There’s no end of cheeky chappy what-is-he-like ‘Banter Steiner’, which starts to grate about three pages in, but other passages read like rehashed press releases.
It’s repetitive, too, and not just in its self-references. Many of the recaps of 2022 races boil down to little more than luck going against them. Mentions of the ‘ongoing silly season’ crop up in close succession.
The limitations of the style would be tolerable – just – if Surviving to Drive brought compelling new insights into the goings-on at Haas last year. But it adds little to what was reported over the course of 2022 and too often lapses into bland explanations of aspects of the season unrelated to the team.
Its most enjoyable passages are the handful of anecdotes about the early stages of his career. Perhaps because the author assumes the reader is less familiar with the stories – and in spite of his apologies for including them – these are the most colourful and entertaining sections of the book.
Steiner also lives up to his reputation of being unwilling to pull punches. Andreas Seidl gets some largely good-humoured stick, Ralf Schumacher the same but without the humour (and with his name misspelled).
Surviving to Drive also stands out as being a rare example of an F1 team principal putting pen to paper at all, never mind while still an active competitor. That makes it an interesting case but given its other shortcomings is not enough to earn it a recommendation.
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Surviving to Drive
Author: Guenther Steiner
Publisher: Bantam Press