Formula 1 drivers are some of the fittest people on the planet. They train hard and eat healthy. The thing I admire the most is their ability to concentrate and focus during the race. How do they prepare for a race and what can we learn from that?
As a young boy in the 80’s I dreamt of being a successful Formula 1 driver. In my dreams it was so simple: just drive fast around the track, overtake the other cars and finish first. When I played the computergame Pitstop on my Commodore 64 it was also really easy to win a race. The only thing I had to do is push the joystick button to accelerate and move the joystick from side to side to swerve around the other cars.
You guessed it: I never actually became a race car driver. But I still love to watch the Formula 1 races on tv. Later on I learned that winning a F1 race is not that simple. It is extremely hard.
Formula 1 drivers push their bodies to the limits
It is not easy to become a Formula 1 driver. They are some of the fittest people on the planet. Besides that they need split second reaction speeds, cunning and endurance. Formula 1 drivers really push their body to its limits. They have to be extremely fit to maintain almost superhuman levels of focus and concentration.
The thing I admire most is the mental fitness of the F1 drivers during the race. Extreme focus is vital. A Formula 1 driver once described how what this feels like during a race: ‘Actually running a race is an amazing experience for the way your mind goes into almost an altered state of consciousness. Time seems to slow down. You think of nothing else and you have to be able to sustain that for the duration of the race. You can never relax or slack off for even a second.’
So what do F1 drivers do just before a race to prepare themselves for this almost superhuman performance?
Sebastian Vettel listens to a playlist with uplifting music. He has had that same playlist since he was fourteen and likes going through all the emotions again and again. When he is sitting in the car on the grid before the race he also takes time to realize the privileged position he is in.
Daniel Ricciardo also listens to inspiring music that gives him positive energy. Besides that he sharpens his reflexes by catching tennis balls that are hurled at him by one of the team mates. After that he does a game of shadow boxing to get him energized, worked up and a little aggressive.
Know when to peak
What can we learn from this? First of all we need to know when to peak. Formula 1 drivers drive 20 races every year. They only really need to peak during the hours of the race (and obviously the training and qualification the days before). Those are the moments they are preparing for the rest of the time. That is why they train, eat healthy, relax and constantly sharpen their reflexes.
In your work you also need to recognize the moments when you need to peak. Those should be the very moments to prepare for. The rest of the time you need to keep ‘sharpening the saw’. You have to be smart to save your energy and build up (and store) new energy at the same time. Last but not least we need to learn a lesson from Sebastian Vettel and take time before our performance to realize how privileged we are to be able to do what we do. Have a good race!