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FIT FOR F1: The mental preparation drivers need to succeed

Special Contributor

Justin Hynes
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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB prepares to

Absolute commitment, unwavering focus, total concentration. For a Formula 1 driver it isn’t just physical strength and endurance that counts towards points, podiums and wins. Mental strength is just as crucial and being in the right headspace – in the moment and more widely – can massively affect performance. As F1 prepares to embark on the longest campaign in its history, how will drivers stay positive, resist pressure and stay in the zone for 24 races?

Daniel Ricciardo knows more than most about how that pressure can impact performance. The Australian’s final spell at McLaren was a mentally fatiguing spiral that eventually led to a mutual termination of his contract.

“I had doubts, especially in those last few months at McLaren,” he says. “There was a question of ‘have I lost it? Am I not the same?’ That's obviously doubt and it starts creeping in. You question many things and that was one of them. Coming back last year and driving again, that just confirmed to myself that I'm not there [losing it] yet. That was such a relief for me.”

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And having stepped back from the sport and returned, the Honey Badger says that while his approach to pressure hasn’t changed, his manner of dealing with it has.

“Honestly, taking that time off [at the start of 2023] made me view the sport a little differently,” he says. “On the one hand I like a little bit of pressure, because I think it drives me to work a bit harder and to prove myself. So I’ll always hold on to a little bit of that pressure, but what’s different is I would say I no longer put the weight of the world on my shoulders. I don't carry that weight and that pressure anymore. I have that belief again and with that, I don't fear any kind of failure. I know not every race will be perfect, but that's the way the sport is. There will be days where we might be scratching our heads a little bit, but I don't fear those days.”

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