- Author Steve Matchett
Life in the Fast Lane guides us through one single year in the company of Steve Matchett as mechanic for the championship-winning Benetton team. There are plenty of highs and lows to be covered through the year, though, as 1994 was one of the most tragic and troublesome seasons Formula One has ever seen. Matchett covers all the difficulties surrounding Michael Schumacher and a black flag, he talks candidly about the refuelling flash fire that occurred on Jos Verstappen’s car, and briefly touches upon Ayrton Senna’s death. As Steve quite rightly says, that race in Imola was just too personal to go into too much detail.
Throughout the book, though, Matchett doesn’t shy away from any subject and is very honest about his own feelings about situations - even where they differ from the teams. Matchett’s writing is smooth and clear, guiding you through the months easily. Transitions between subjects are done really well and there were no jarring moments that jogged you out of the narrative.
At the start of the book, there’s some great insight into how the team go about testing - their daily routine and the different conditions you might find at Silverstone versus Jerez. I found this fascinating, particularly as we don’t get too much test coverage elsewhere.
However, as the book progressed there did seem to be quite a lot of detail included that I could have done without. There was a lot of jumping in and out of the shower, and plenty of very specific alarm calls. There’s only so many times we need to hear about the hotel routine, I reckon. It’s only a mild irritant, though, and worth sticking with because the off-track moments give you some great insight into the drivers as well.
There’s a lot of serendipity gone into this book. Matchett couldn’t have known that he would be part of the crew working on a championship winning car when he started making notes in early January. He couldn’t have known there would be so many accidents to talk about, and so many pit lane incidents that affected him personally. It could have worked out to be a very dull (and short!) tale.
Thankfully, that couldn’t be further from the truth, and I found it an interesting and engaging read from start to finish. It’s a viewpoint we don’t get to see much of, and although some of the F1 technology has moved on and changed, the main philosophies are all still there.