The Limit: Life and Death in Formula One’s Most Dangerous Era by Michael Cannell


Readable account of the rivalry between Ferrari Grand Prix drivers Phil Hill and Count Wolfgang von Trips, which ended in victory for one and tragedy for the other


The Limit is a readable account of the rivalry between two Formula One Grand Prix drivers as they competed for the 1961 world championship. Both were driving for Ferrari, and the title was decided at the Italian Grand Prix with triumph for one racer and tragedy for another.

In an era before driver safety was a concern, there were no seatbelts, crash helmets or roll cages, and drivers had a chance of between 30 and 50% of actually surviving their career. The deaths of drivers and spectators brought an end to road races like the Mille Miglia and Carrera Panamerica, and the Le Mans 24 Hours race saw the biggest tragedy in the history of the French event.

American Phil Hill overcame a nervous disposition outside of cars to become a successful racer behind the wheel, with a career that ranged from American dirt track and oval racing to events like the Mille Miglia and Carrera Panamerica before they were stopped. In the process he became an official works Ferrari driver, but still had to prove himself before finally getting into a Formula One car.

By comparison, Count Wolfgang von Trips was an accident-prone aristocrat who endured serious illness and the experience of wartime Germany to become a racer. Initially prone to crashes and later suspected of being an undiagnosed diabetic, he managed to continue racing long enough to mature as a driver and become consistent as well as fearless.

The stage was set for a showdown between the cool, calculating American who was known as a nervous worrier away from the track, and the glamorous German aristocrat who was fast, fearless and looking to inspire his fellow post-war Germans.

Cannell is not a motoring journalist, which means the book focuses on the people involved rather than the machines being raced. His accessible writing style covers the icons of the age, including Enzo Ferrari himself, and drivers including Peter Collins, Eugenio Castelloti, the Spanish Marquis Alfonso de Portago, Mike Hawthorn and more.




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