Automotive journalist James Allen was an on-air Formula 1 commentator for ESPN and ITV in the 1990s and 2000s and wrote biographies of famous drivers including Michael Schumacher and Nigel Mansell. But his reporting on the race goes back further than that. His father, Bill, was a factory endurance driver for Lotus, and Allen grew up watching the races in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He found a way to relate the details of what he saw, even at the time. “I did it like kids do at that age,” he said Car and Driver. “Making drawings and such.”
His new book, Ferrari from Inside and Out (ACC Art Books, $75) covers an intense period in the marque’s racing history, from the 1960s to the 2010s, when racecars carrying galloping horses were among the most formidable (and sometimes most frustrating) competitors on the field.
Two Photographers and Their Separate Approaches
Despite the depth of written and spoken knowledge he has previously shared on the subject in his on-air and magazine work, Allen has chosen to showcase a different way of covering the topic. While the book covers the inside of Allen’s smooth prose, it focuses primarily on a pair of photographers—Rainer Schlegelmilch and Ercole Colombo—who made their name shooting F1 teams, races and racers.
The title of this book comes from these two shooters and their main differences. “I’ve always liked the kind of reporting style of photography,” Allen says. “Rainer started to do that, and there are real echoes in his work of the likes of Cartier-Bresson, or Capa, or the great Magnum photographers.” Schlegelmilch began shooting the race from this perspective, focusing on the drivers, “especially the look of fear on the driver’s face before the start of the race,” Allen says. “This was the 1960s, probably the most dangerous time in Grand Prix racing.”
But as his career progressed in the sport, he developed new techniques. “He came up with the idea of using this zoom lens,” Allen said. “And he practiced his technique where he would move the zoom and create these explosions of speed and color—he called it painting with race car colors.” This technique has become the standard in the field, but Schlegelmilch was an innovator.
The other photographer the book focuses on, Columbo, is much further away from the sport and the brand. “Enzo Ferrari hired him almost as an official photographer, even though it was never written into the contract,” Allen said. “He was always called to see things behind the scenes and he got a lot of intimate things with the maker of one of the greatest myths in the automotive world.”
Allen sees an interesting tension in the way these two exemplary artists are portrayed. “The difference between the lived experience on the inside of a brand, and the perception on the outside.” When looking at Rainer, he saw “the greatest outsider looking in” and with Colombo, “the greatest insider shooting out.” From here, he derived the concept for his book, both narratively and visually.
The photographs in the book, reproduced with astonishing clarity while still maintaining a period-correct palette, are a joy to study, showing with vivid evidence the development of drivers, cars, and competition—as well as photographer’s techniques—through the decades. The individual images, selected and honed in conversation with two photographers, both still alive, all come from the Motorsport Image Archive, which Allen describes as the largest in racing (with over 26 million images) and the only one that maintains an uninterrupted visual the history of Formula 1, from the first Grand Prix in 1952, until today.
Lasting Influence F1
Although Allen focuses on the past here, he has worked in the sport long enough to recognize the central importance of F1 in changing consumer perceptions and in advancing new technologies in the wider automotive field. In fact, he made it clear that the key innovations and adaptations found in road cars are often derived from F1 technology. He feels this is especially relevant given the transition to alternative fuels, hybridization, and zero tailpipe emission practices that the sport will implement in the coming years.
“Formula 1 was built at the time this book was written, to become a global phenomenon. Now hundreds of millions of people follow the Grand Prix,” he said. “So I think that the technology Formula 1 is working on—which will then be showcased from 2026 onwards using this amazing global platform that has been built—I think it will play a major role in helping the world decarbonise, far beyond Formula 1 itself. . “
Brett Berk (she) is a former preschool teacher and early childhood center director who spent a decade as a youth and family researcher and now covers children and the auto industry topics for publications including CNN, New York Times, Popular Mechanics and many more. He has published parenting books, Uncle Gay’s Parenting Guide, and since 2008 has driven and reviewed thousands of cars for Car and Driver and Road & Track, where he is contributing editor. He has also written for Architectural Digest, Billboard, ELLE Decor, Esquire, GQ, Travel + Leisure and Vanity Fair.