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Between head and heart of Formula 1 drivers

Often considered unreasonable as a B series sportsman, Formula 1 drivers are subjected to extreme physical and mental stress. That's why their way of training has changed over the years, becoming an integral part of their work.
Hand sores, nervous disorders. Exhaustion.
Ayrton Senna combined the efficiency of his own magnificent talent with a precarious physical condition. Especially marked by the enormous expenditure of nerve energy during the race. It was Nuno Cobra, Ayrton’s personal trainer, who introduced new ways and training methods to reduce mental stress and increase performance. This meant combining more modern athletic training, autogenic training, meditation and yoga.
In other words, reduction of mental stress to increase the performance.
Fundamentally, this is the way that drivers from the Grand Prix are moving.
In the meantime, they have had to deal with a number of major technical developments. Moreover, the driver’s physical performance is often masked by a machine’s performance. And champions are often subjected to particular stresses, different from each other, for long periods of time.
allenamento mirato technogym

The culture of athletic training in Formula 1

From an absolute self-sufficiency regime that lasted until the 1980s – F1 drivers used amateur methods to look after themselves – now, we have moved on to a more professional attitude, coinciding with the increase in powers from era-Turbo, races without changing tires and, subsequently, fuel supplies in the race. All made more complicated by cars that are increasingly subject to aerodynamics, with cramped cockpits, reduced steering wheels (25-26 cm in diameter) without hydroguides. Enough to require considerable physical effort. This evidence has led to an increasingly frequent and evolved use of the gym.

Mika Hakkinen e Michael Schumacher
We all remember Michael Schumacher's treatment of his body (with a mobile gymnasium at his side): an attitude similar to that of many colleagues. The focus was on arms and neck, as fundamental instruments of action, to be cared for by means of specific seats and tools.
The purpose: to maintain a performance appropriate to the required stresses.
A qualifying lap, for example, requires a kind of competitive peak for both the driver and the car for a reduced scan, while a race of about two hours requires an approach and therefore a different attitude. Supported, it must be added, today, by more suitable headrests, which reduce, for example, muscle fatigue through extra protection from G-Force stress.

The problem of Senna was focused on the dispersed energies. The force imprinted on the hands that hold the steering wheel, for example. Not to mention the energies subtracted, so to speak, from a particular cerebral forcing. In this sense, the steps taken are remarkable.

Brooklands circuit 1939
Riccardo Ceccarelli is the doctor, who, more than any other, dedicated his life to the study of the racing driver. His "Formula Medicine" in Viareggio has treated in recent years about 75 speed professionals.
Elaboration of a now articulated and in-depth series of studies:

We recorded average heart rates up to 184 beats for two hours of stress. A frightening fact. This has pushed us towards distance-focused training, on the one hand, by persuading riders to use bicycles, racing, canoeing for extended periods, in order to increase the displacement of the heart. Intending a heart that pumps petrol reducing fuel consumption, a bit like it happens for engines.

It is no coincidence that Jarno Trulli and therefore Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso, were early adopters of bicycle and triathlon training in order to achieve greater resistance to better support the sustained effort of a Grand Prix. While it is a useful asset, it does remain sufficient.
This is because it is one thing to travel to an itinerary for a certain period with a certain ease; another is to face an identical route suspended in the void at two hundred meters from the ground.
Where extreme sports tensions can lead to physical fitness-independent errors. Ceccarelli, has no more doubts on the subject:

"We have been taking care of pilots' brains for a long time. Of its economy and economy that depends on the brain. Working in collaboration with psychologists on the personality traits of each particular subject. He suffers a series of disturbances. Anxiety, emotion, worries related to the relationship with the team, to one's family. Everything that obstructs a psychologically appropriate attitude to get into the car with a clear, clean mind and therefore away from the range of muscular tensions that affect muscle performance."

Kimi Raikkonen mente

Therefore, we take care of the personality traits. Combining individual work with group work. Comparing riders for coordination, responsiveness and focus tests, in order to obtain useful data under stress.

How to handle drivers athletic training

Each champion is now assisted by his own personal trainer and physiotherapist: they are professionals dedicated to the constant maintenance of a perfect shape, combined with an advanced diet. With a series of activities carried out periodically in order to contain mental disorders, examined with the aid of sensors, magnetic resonances and behavioural data so evident that they induce real transformations in the approach to the profession.
While, on the one hand, the "personality traits" mentioned by Dr. Ceccarelli are now used to evaluate the very young talents, each speed star has learned to take care of his shadow area on a permanent basis, as well as the light emanating from their talent.

The ideal mix: what adds up the formidable vocation to the competition of champions such as Schumacher or Fernando Alonso (both in perennial challenge, with anyone), to the detachment that shows Kimi Raikkonen, whose body rarely signals a particular tension. In this sense, the champion par excellence is Robert Kubica, a Polish driver who suffered a very serious accident when driving a rally car in 2011: “Kubica has offered the most stunning range of data ever seen. Working on him made no sense: he was already ready, because of his own characteristics”.

Louis Hamilton
On the contrary, the motoring history is marked by many cases of gifted youngsters but slowed down, if you can say so, by their sensitivity, by the inability, precisely, to eliminate intimate and deep stress in the performance.
After all, and for example, the life of a driver driving a Ferrari is very different from that of a colleague busy in another team.

When you are at the centre of the scene, the pressures, the responsibilities and the perception of working with those who, in turn, suffer particular stress, become enormous and sometimes unbeatable.

Then there is another hidden but important theme.
A World Championship lasts from March to November. It is practically impossible for the rider to maintain the same level of form for ten months filled with commitments and competitive complications. And it becomes difficult to perceive a decrease, given the number of factors at stake, including the technical ones that mark the performance of a single-seater.

Behind each error, each critical result, there is always a scenario so complex that it is impossible to analyse the behaviour of the driver.

Errori in formula uno
Thus, we have pilots in full and complete efficiency hidden by a mediocre performance of their own car, but also pilots in trouble, rewarded by a first-class car.
Only they know the truth, and only each of them can take a path of performance analysis, to run for shelter. This means intensifying or reducing an athletic practice as well as increasing the work on self-analysis. Nuno Cobra's work with Ayrton Senna at the end of the 1980s is still worth mentioning, even today, considering the enormous evolutions brought about by experience and instruments that did not exist at the time.

Mental training generates a substantial acceleration followed by subtraction of psychic stress to improve physical effort.

Robert Kubica

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