This year's Autocourse is printed on golf-leaf infused paper, using inks derived from the pituitary gland of the Himalayan gazelle.
At least, that's the only justification one can imagine for a price-tag of £50.
There was a time when one could look forward to the stunning photography in Autocourse each year, but those days are long gone. This year's edition contains only one memorable image, a two-page spread of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel, wheel-to-wheel into Turn 3 at the Hungaroring, Hamilton's outside wheels skirting the grass-verge. Unfortunately, most people will have already seen this image, and the photography elsewhere never rises above the mediocre.
In fact, the quality of the photographic reproduction in Autocourse has become remarkably dark, virtually every image dominated by the sheer quantity of black ink. As an indication of this, it's almost impossible to find an image of a car, taken from the front, in which the undernose splitter can actually be discerned. By way of contrast (excuse the pun), if you happen to have the £4.40 Autosport Formula 1 review at hand, compare the picture on p32-33, taken from Ste Devote at Monaco, with the picture on p153 of Autocourse, taken from exactly the same vantage point. The difference is almost literally night and day.
It's difficult to know whether this is determined by the combination of inks and glossy paper used by Autocourse, or whether there's some artistic motivation behind it. There's almost a photophobic, crepuscular mood running through the annual: an article on Pirelli opens with a two-page spread of Hamilton and Webber in the gloaming at Korea; the team-by-team review begins with a two-page spread of the F1 paddock in semi-darkness; the race reports are prefaced with a two-page spread of a Williams passing through a silhouetted Eau Rouge; there's a two-page spread of Lewis Hamilton beneath leaden skies at the Nurburgring; there's a two-page spread of Singapore, in the darkness; and there's a two-page spread of Jenson celebrating his Japanese victory...in the darkness. It's like a book directed by David Fincher.
Formula 1 should be bright and colourful. Autocourse makes it look like an activity which takes place at 7pm on a damp October day in Macclesfield.
So do you get anything for your £50? Well, yes, you get Mark Hughes's team-by-team analysis, which is reliably superb. Mark, of course, also does something similar in Autosport's Formula 1 review, but the Autocourse version is more detailed in places, and contains extended explanation from each team's technical director. Paddy Lowe and Pat Fry, in particular, are fascinating this year as they explain where things went awry.
So there's something good here, but not £50-worth.