Saturday, October 5, 2013

One of the worst books on Ayrton Senna ever: "Senna vs Prost" by Malcolm Folley

Undoubtedly one of the worst books written about Ayrton Senna, is this one, released by the publisher Arrow in May 2010, anticipating the huge free promotion that the book would have as a result of the release of the movie "Senna" by Asif Kapadia, in November that same year.

Biased, partial, inaccurate, repetitive, disrespectful, "a masterpiece in Senna bashing", "full of lies"...  are only some of the adjectives and expressions used by actual readers to qualify the book "Senna vs Prost" written by Malcolm Folley, that nothing adds to Senna's already told history, and only very little to Prost's, since the only new piece of material is an interview with Alain Prost, nothing too exciting though.


A true anti-Senna book, on the other hand. Moreover, the book is quite badly researched or edited, since many facts of Senna's life are simply not true nor the account of them is accurate nor trustworthy. The author seems to not have much idea about Senna's life, not the interest in doing well his homeworks before putting himself to "write" the text. The book is so inaccurate that it's the only place where Michael Andretti has become a World Champion in Formula 1!! How about that accuracy? This series of factual inaccuracies end up casting doubt over the new material. In particular, the claim that Lotus made a world champion out of the perennially under-performing Michael Andretti (who once dawdled about in a McLaren) jumps off the page. In fact it was Michael's father Mario, a generation before, that was F1 world champion.

The book seems highly opportunistic of the time when it was released, just a few months before the release of the movie "Senna" by Asif Kapadia, a "nice" try ofits author, Malcolm Follwy to cash some money repeating texts entirely extracted from other books, like Tom Rubython's or Adriane Galisteu's (not a very reliable source of information, either, since she's better known in Brazil for having a very colorful imagination, changing her version of the facts depending on what best arranges her each time).

In short: a waste of time and money, you better go and choose some other books.

Here some of the reviews of readers found on Amazon:

1.0 out of 5 stars LIESNovember 2, 2009
Hank Cnaski 

If you have seen the Grand Prix of Monaco in 1984 and the Portuguese GP in 1988 yourself, then buy the book and tell the author, what a liar he is! Authors should not get away with lies like this, just because it's a a long time ago, so the author thinks he can write plain lies, even tough the truth is documented. First time I read a book so full of plain lies! If you like this book, then you can as well buy a book about "The Holocaust never happened" . Unbelievable how somebody can have the guts to publish such stupied lies. This book is for anybody, who didn't actually see the races. I have nothing but disgust for such an "author".

1.0 out of 5 stars
Disgusting18 April 2013
This review is from: Senna Versus Prost (Paperback)
The book does not live up to it's title: Senna vs. Prost only takes place after the half of the 400 pages. Only then the author has arrived at 1988. Everything until then describes the F1 seasons 1980 - 1987, resp. basks in British motorsport history. In school they would say "missed the point!". But it gets really bad when he misses interesting moments in the history of their rivalry, such as the temporary conciliation at the press conference after Monza 1990.

Someone could not expect a beatification of Senna here. But - in the tradition of many English Senna-Books - this is a masterpiece in Senna bashing. He really must have been a hate-figure in England. There are some exceptions, of course, for example the books of Christoper Hilton. But there are really bad things, e.g. "The death of Ayrton Senna" by Richard Williams or the mocking "The Messiah of Motor Racing" by Richard Craig.

When the author arrives at 1988, Prost was already introduced as a superior super-driver, who manages all critical situations easily, the book is also 80% Prost in a quantitative sense. Senna is presented as a spoilt brad with a rich family behind him, who blasts everyone ruthlessly off the track and who whines and cries, if thinigs not go well.

There's no objectivity in this book at all: A more or less up-to-date interview with Prost is mentioned all the time, while many of Sennas opinions, that are very well existing, were skipped or were given along the way, after Prosts version was almost introduced as a fact.

Someone is reminded to Sennas press conference after Suzuka 1988: I was treated like a criminal ... responsible for everything." The author digs out some interesting opinions: Responsible for Mansells accident in Suzuka 1991 was - Senna! And he was grinning in the cockpit after that. How could he know that and what has this to do with journalism? Senna was criticised for his voting against Warwick in 1986. So was Prost criticised for his voting against Senna in 1993? No! It was SENNA who was the bad boy again! Why? He pushed Prost out of his contract in 1994!

Well, this book is Prosts story telling time.

And of course Senna is responsible for his own death. The only opinion to this matter featured here is that of Damon Hill (not known as a Senna fan as well). Other arguments were not mentioned ("useless"). Senna was also criticised for his statement about dangers in motor racing ("Either you have to face it in a professional way or just drop it."). Sarcastically that quote is mentioned with the conclusion, that he couldn't live up to his own big words when he was faced with death (Ratzenberger) on the track.

Conclusion: Utter crap!

1.0 out of 5 stars A Love Song for ProstSeptember 8, 2012
Evangeline Nola 

This is not a balanced account of one of the most dramatic episodes in F1 racing. It reads like a fan book written by an author completely besotted with Prost. It is also a character assasination of Senna, with the author hand picking and pruning interviews and events to paint Senna in the worst light possible. The author makes assumptions about what Senna's motives were or what his 'true' personal ethics were without consulting people who could speak for Senna. Example? The author claims that Senna ruthlessly divorced his wife when she became an inconvenience for him. Huh? Senna and his wife were childhood sweethearts, married as soon as they were of age, and deeply loved each other. But it was NOT Senna who ended the marriage. Senna's wife could not endure the loneliness of a life lived traveling between racing circuits, nor the intense fear racers' wives live with, that their husbands might be injured or killed or maimed at any time. Senna's wife wanted to live amongst family and friends, in a familiar environment, have children. Senna tried to give up racing for her sake but he was miserable, and she was miserable knowing it. So they ended the marriage. And according to Senna's family, he never got over it. Folley does this over and over. Senna was an egotistical fiend, so self-obsessed that he was incapable of venerating other great drivers. And Folley knows, exactly? He doesn't say. He merely assumes. He is blinded by his love of Prost. He'll say anything if it ultimately flatters his darling love.

The documentary record paints a far different Prost than the idol Folley puts forth here. And instead of looking at the record objectively, getting input from as many sources he could find on both sides, for Prost and for Senna, all Folley does is reiterate the same long whine Prost has been crying from the day he met Senna, a racer born with a preternatural gift that no other racer has yet matched. Prost may have been the Professor, but Senna was the genius in their equation. Clearly, Prost STILL lacks the maturity to appreciate this.

The book is not even well written. The rivalry between Prost, Senna, and the FIA is the stuff of a thriller. So why am I not thrilled?

Folley has not freshened the story at all. And he commits the worst sin in journalism: he writes with a personal agenda, under extreme prejudice. Very poorly done, indeed.

2.0 out of 5 stars Biased Against Senna27 Aug 2011
T. Wright
This review is from: Senna Versus Prost (Paperback)
Don't read this expecting some balanced account of the most famous motorsport feud of all time. I was sadly disappointed with this piece which makes Ayrton Senna the villain of the piece when this story goes far, far deeper with roots in Montreal 1986 when Prost pushed Senna off the track for 2nd place & managed (through great car control and tenacity) to achieve 5th (and yes, you read that right - Prost did this, not Senna!). What is also never deeply acknowledged is the fact that Prost did not get on with ANY of him team-mates and ended up leaving each team in acrimony (including being cermoniously sacked by Ferrari before the end of a season) blaming team-mates, team personnel and other incidents for every failing (which were often his own). His politiking and manipulative character traits were never fully explored either.

Prost's incessant whingeing over the years was bad enough in real-time, without having it all in one place. I put this one down quite alot since it started to gnaw at my will to continue (or should that be persevere?). Also annoying was the psychophantic and grovelling tones of the authors words, obviously well impressed to have been granted an interview with the F1 legend.

As a Senna fan, I expected more from this book in terms of an honest, balanced and in-depth study of both of these complex characters and what drove them. Instead, all there seemed to be within these pages were disrespect and demonisation of my own hero. Prost, the white hero. Senna, the wayward bad-boy. It was so much more than this with strong complex personalities, faults and blazing ambition on both sides. They were two sides of the same coin (and I believe neither would have achieved what they did without the other) and should be acknowledged as such. This book does both of these great men a dis-service by it's bias. Ayrton Senna was also a great man and it's to the authors detriment that he cannot convey this.

2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't bring any new insights 22 May 2009
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase
As someone who has been a Formula One fan for many years and has read many books on Senna and Prost, I was dissapointed with this book. It is basically an account of both Senna and Prost's careers and this has been covered in countless other books in greater detail. I found myself skipping over the race accounts and old interviews which I have read previously, in order to find the 'new' material. The 'new' material is a recent, and fairly underwhelming, interview with Prost which does not add any great insight into the relationship he had with Senna. This may be an interesting read for someone new to the topic but for those who have read other books on Senna and Prost this adds nothing new.

The impression it leaves me is that Folley was so delighted and gratified to be given a nice lunch and a fairly in depth interview by Prost in his Paris apartment in 2008 that his efforts to remain impartial thereafter collapsed into a morass of subtle and not so subtle slips that reaffirmed the narrative of Prost as the ultimate gentleman and Senna as the fragile and ruthless newbie who came and stole it all away. As such, the Folley narrative ranges from fair and balanced, to being rantingly anti-Senna. To the extent that Senna's story is told, or his point of view heard in retrospect, it is through the words of the others of the time: Warwick, Brundle, Berger, Walker, Jardine, Leberer et al, who Folley has at least taken the trouble to interview and quote. (Brundle is impressively self-effacing and candid about his standing against agenda there. Warwick is also remarkably gracious, as he has been over the years about Senna, who he retains an immense respect for). Meanwhile, Folley's faithful repetition, without the slightest irony, of Prost's claim about Suzuka in '89: "I had no interest to make a crash", is a case in point. This is as disingenuous a statement as we have heard from Alain, up there with his equally laughable claim that he never blocked Senna from the Williams team for 1993 (we all know he did, and Senna called his bluff with his 'I'll drive for free' offer to Williams, to make the point). But the narrative treats it without the slightest scepticism, having described the Suzuka collision simply as "a brash manoeuvre" on Senna's part, which "hopelessly misjudged Prost's mood". Never mind that Prost's block is regarded quite widely in the F1 pitlane as the template professional foul, as premeditated as they come, and that attempting to pass someone going more slowly than you is usually regarded as one of the primary imperatives of motor racing. Instead, Alain's 'mood' is what counts. Needless to say, there are valid criticisms to be made of Senna's career and conduct. What is lost in this book is the notion that Prost had a ruthless and underhand streak, too, and was something other than a serial victim.

A good example of what I mean when I say Folley's narrative varies from level headed to openly ranting against Senna, comes at the conclusion of a passage quoting Senna about the notorious incident at Imola in `89, where Prost accused Senna of reneging on an agreement to not attack each other at the first turn after the race start. Here, Folley quotes Senna:

"On the second start, after Berger's accident, he got off to a better start than me. But I got in his slipstream and accelerated quickly. I was going faster than him. I then started the manoeuvre to overtake him. Not at the first corner, before that. It was when we were braking that we were not to attack each other. We had a momentary confrontation, and then I drove clear. He made a mistake and skidded off the track. He had made a driving mistake, but he was trying to make me take the blame. The original idea was simple: no overtaking as we braked on the first bend. After the race, I had a clear conscience. I didn't think that the whole thing would take on such proportions".

So far, so good. Folley is quoting Senna's point of view, and we have already heard Prost's point of view, at great length over several pages. But here's how Folley goes on, and, to be clear, this is our author talking, not Alain Prost:

Folley: Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that he had not been in the race when Pironi, blatantly, and inexcusably, betrayed the promise he had shared with Villeneuve. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that Prost had lived with that haunting memory for seven years and knew it would never leave him. What was it Prost said? "Gilles was angry with Pironi and Ferrari, absolutely furious. Later I would fully understand these feelings because I had this with Ayrton. At the next race, Gilles went too far in the car in practice. He killed himself because of that dispute with Didier." Do you really believe that drivers would enter a pact that involved no overtaking before a braking area rather than a more specific location, such as the first corner?

So here we have Folley pouring scorn on Senna's account and using the passive aggressive, if not openly sarcastic "perhaps that had something to do with..." language to frame the narrative in terms of Prost's feelings about it. All that's missing is the jabbing of the author's finger at Senna's chest (Folley even addresses the reader in the first person, as if we're incredibly dumb to have even entertained Senna's side of the story all these years). Not for the first time, we hear that Senna should somehow have been cognisant that his rival's buried feelings over an accident 7 years earlier, before Senna even entered F1, would be triggered, along with the displaced fury that went with them. It's an interesting idea, that F1 drivers should be aware of all the experiences and traumas their rivals have been through, take account of them and act accordingly. This is not to say that there is no argument that Senna did wrong, though I find it tenuous at best to invoke the events of 1982 as the primary determinant of the rights and wrongs of a passing move in 1989, but the whole passage from Folley reads to me like an outburst, more like something you'd read from a partisan poster on an internet forum than something you'd read in book, written by a professional author, billing itself as an impartial account of a rivalry. Senna could be fully in the wrong on this and the point would still stand. This is not balanced writing, it is a framed narrative from someone who either began the exercise as a firm fan of Alain Prost, or became one through his interviews with the man.

The Villeneuve/ Pironi narrative (not only their clash at Imola and Villeneuve's death, but also Prost's involvement in Pironi's crash at Hockenheim), which legitimately altered Prost's outlook on risk, runs like a thread through the book. This is interesting, but it's woven through the story in such a way that it's clear Folley thinks it is directly relevant to Senna's own penchant for risk. It would have been better to note the point and move on, rather than keep bringing it up every time Senna is seen to challenge Prost on the circuit. And Pironi's crash always was a feeble excuse for Prost's dire performance at Silverstone in '88, but trotted out here nonetheless.

More pro-Prost sympathies are in evidence when we hear, to take one example, that he had niggling clutch problems at the WDC decider in the wet in Suzuka in '88. A detail worth noting? Well, sure, even if it's the first I've heard of it in the intervening 22 years. But driving around minor mechanical issues was par for the course at the time and where is the mention of, say, Senna's pop-off valve malfunctioning in Mexico earlier the same year, and limiting his boost (a race which the book just blandly notes was won easily by Alain, with, quote: "a flawless drive")? If one is worth a mention, then so is the other, but the race accounts are generally bereft of such detail and it creates a false impression.

The cover was designed by an idiot: a picture of Prost & Mansell? on the front, and Derek Warrick (sic) is mis-spelled on the rear cover. There are factual gaffes: for example stating that Watson never drove an F1 car again after 1983. Actually he drove the McLaren in '85 after Lauda hurt his wrist, and made comments about how he knew his career was over when he witnessed Senna at Dingle Dell on a qualifying lap (Watson was on an in lap at the time) - an episode that might actually have served the narrative had Folley been aware of it.

It is also somewhat repetitive. How many times do I need to be told the list of greats who have won Monaco?

Early in the interview, Prost had noted that he knows he can't compete with the ghost of Senna, the legacy of a dead hero. As such, this is a book that might actually plug a legitimate market gap because I doubt that Prost's point of view, laughably self-serving though it is, has been aired as fully as the Senna plaudits have aired the legend of the brilliant Brazilian. Had the book been called "Prost's point of view: a rivalry with Senna", or some such, I would welcome it, as written. Unfortunately it is billed as a fair account, and the flipside of Prost's dilemma is that Senna is no longer around to defend himself at all. As such, and fascinating as it will always be to hear his reminiscences, it almost seems like a cheap shot from Prost to have been behind this book in such a way. The final responsibility, though, lies with the author.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...