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Nicola Larini: history and successes of a life spent behind the wheel, chasing the dream of Formula 1

By Gabriele Ferraresi / LUZ
Nicola Larini, born in 1964, certified Versilian from Lido di Camaiore, profession: car driver. He has competed almost everywhere and driven everything. Starting at 14 years of age with motocross, he then moved to Formula 3 and then to Formula 1, in minor teams (among which stands out the Modena Team, the old semi-official team of Lamborghini) and then as a tester and driver for the Scuderia Ferrari.

Afterwards, he began racing with the unforgettable touring cars of the 90s DTM - the German Tourism Championship - up to endurance races like the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, where Larini still races today and is back at the wheel of a Ferrari.

The Nurburgring lap
Available and easy going, Larini comes from a dynasty linked to motorsports, where parents, uncles and even his younger brother have either raced or are still racing.

He's the right man to ask what goes through a driver's head during the last lap of the race.

We asked Nicola Larini what comes to his mind when he’s about to drive the last lap of a race. Larini replied: "What's going on in my head on the last lap? Everything! Unless I don’t have anyone behind me I don't think so much about the mistakes, you're usually just hoping that nothing will break!”

A car that does not break would be a great start to get to the chequered flag. However, this is not always the case: "When you are in command for 3/4 of the race the last quarter is an agony - says Larini - maybe you've gained some distance, you're in front, if not leading, and so you're just waiting for the countdown of the laps, which in that phase pass slowly, inexorably. At that point, of course, you start to think: "I’m hearing this noise" "I’m feeling this vibration..." "I’m smelling this smell..." and you get all the mental fixations in the world. Then again, it is all normal.

Being in the lead and with a certain advantage
This is in the idyllic hypothesis of being alone in command: but what if behind it there is someone who follows us? Larini is very well prepared on the subject, and he responds with lightning speed:

If you have someone right behind your back, do not think about anything; think about doing your best. You are super focused, and in that case it's even harder to make mistakes. On the other hand, it's easy to make them when you're relaxed and in the lead, maybe you make a wrong braking because your mind is already on the podium.

Better to chase or to be chased? An easy question for Larini, who replied: "to be chased. You don't think about anything, you just think about going fast. The problem is when you lower your guard level. At that point, you can make a mistake in the trajectory, in the braking; you can maybe find a lapped driver that doesn't let you go through. In any case, they are both stressful situations, either if there is one who follows you or if you are ahead with a bit of margin: you are still under pressure.”

The San Marino Grand Prix in 1989
We ask Nicola Larini about his first time in a Formula 1 Ferrari car: "It was 1989: I drove with Osella, Gerhard Berger drove the Ferrari and had an accident at Imola where his hand got burnt. I was offered to replace him by running two Grand Prix races for Ferrari.

So far so good for Larini: "The first test I did at Fiorano was a bit of a hasty one: they put me in the car, a day of testing and then we had to leave for Mexico". Then? "Then Berger showed up anyway even if he was not ready to race yet. He didn't let me drive the car! In the end, he only did two laps... but you know, we drivers are all a bit like that. Leaving the car to someone else could be "dangerous", and he made sure that I didn't have to drive it".

When you cross the finish line and you're free from any worries
The real satisfactions for Larini would come later on; they were only a matter of time: first, test driver for Ferrari from 1992 to 1996, then some Formula 1 GPs replacing Ivan Capelli and Jean Alesi, but above all the triumphs in the DTM, humiliating Mercedes "at home".

Concluding our chat with Larini, we ask him if he ever had the regret of not having had more from the racing world. Stoically, Nicola Larini replies: "At a certain point in my career I said to myself: "It's better to be a high level extra than a low level actor". Let’s settle for this and be happy".

If that's what Larini calls "settling for"…

Being a Formula 1 driver in 2019

Larini retired from Formula 1 in 1997. Today, 22 years have passed, and the world surrounding this 4-wheeled sport has come more refined, technologically and digitally advanced: in a word - it has been completely revolutionised.

While Larini's Formula 1 was already the pinnacle of automotive engineering and was experimenting with new techniques to improve the effectiveness of cars and drivers in the race, in 2019, this sport combines technical excellence with the latest innovations in technology, engineering, design, chemistry, medicine and athletic training.

The first gym training sessions aimed at Formula 1, powered by Technogym
Especially in the latter, Formula 1 teams - such as McLaren - have made great improvements over the past 20 years, offering to their drivers and team members customised training solutions, with state-of-the-art equipment to allow maximum effectiveness from their training routines.

Despite what one might think, Formula 1 drivers are among the world's fittest athletes and follow very tight diet and training regimes, with off-season training sessions that engage them as much as mid-season.

McLaren team works out with SKILL Line
The drivers' need to have an excellent athletic preparation that stems from the constant increase in the performance of the cars on which they compete all year round, which subject them to ever higher levels of physical stress.

Nowadays, Formula 1 drivers are subjected to an average pressure of 5G during the race: even a single breath at the wrong time can injure them.

It is therefore imperative to focus on strength training, to be able to withstand the pressure during critical moments of the race, as well as resistance, to maintain high sports performance during long hours of competition, in variable weather conditions and inside a small cockpit subject to very high temperatures.

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