With the passing years, there have been the technological progresses, a bigger media exposure and more financial stakes too in Formula One so the exigencies are increased. Today, the drivers are the high level athletes. The mental preparation is as important as a good physical shape because there are so many factors to manage. In this brand new category, we will put the importance of the trainer in Motorsport forward. Simon Fitchett, who worked with many racing drivers, makes us the immense pleasure to reply to this Q&A. Performance Director at the GT Academy now, let us note that he also has got his own clinic (you can find his website just here: http://www.simonfitchett.com/index.html).
1- A Formula One driver’s training lasts six hours a day in average at the rate of six days on seven, right? Which sports do you work during these sessions? Do you often change them?
I am not sure where you heard that information from but 6hrs per day 6 days per week is a bit excessive. How long you train for is not the most important what is the most important is the quality of training that you do in the time that you are training. Every driver is different so will have their time of day to train when they feel they train best and then depending what their commitments they have that day then they will fit in their training around their other commitments. They will also need time to rest for their bodies to recover from their training so it is important that they have a good balanced training program so that their rest periods are effective too.
2- Do you count to add the triathlon in the program? It is a good physical and psychological preparation, isn’t it?
Doing triathlons will of course give you an exceptional cardiovascular fitness and endurance levels but there is so much more that an F1 driver needs to do to be at the level required to drive an F1 car. For example they have to have excellent core strength as well as exceptionally strong necks, and with this there is neurological training to improve their reaction speed, eye movement & brain function. There are many different ways to train and improve neurologically. Being exceptionally fit will also help them psychologically but there are so many factors that can affect individuals psychologically. No one is infallible so with this you have to react as work on these things as and when needed.
3- What does psychology of the sport mean exactly? Would you say that it is the most interesting part of your job?
For me it is one of the most important parts of the sport. You can spend millions on developing the car and setting it up perfectly to win races but if the driver is not psychologically at their optimum or close to it then they will not get the most out of the car, and the difference between getting the most out of the car and not can be winning a race or finishing outside the top 10. As I said previously there can be different issues a driver is privately dealing with or reacting too so these have to be dealt with as and when they come up.
4- According to you, can yoga bring a real advantage to the driver in his psychological preparation?
Yoga yes is an excellent form of exercise to do to help with mental strength as well as composure, calmness and dealing with stress. An individual’s ability to deal with stress, expectation or other pressures is essential to them having a clear mind before qualifying or a race. If it is not 100% clear then they cannot be 100% focused.
5- What are the best sports/exercises to work on the concentration during the training?
There are a variety of these types of exercises that you can do. For me I refer to this type of training as “speed agility training” This type of training works on explosive power, fast twitch muscle fibres which will improve reaction speeds, speed of thought etc etc. Some of these exercises can be used as activation which I go through with drivers prior to them getting into the car so that everything is switched on and ready.
6- Do you do some exercises with the driver before every session during the race weekend?
Yes absolutely, I go through an activation routine as I mentioned above so that they are mentally and neurologically switched on.
7- What is your schedule during the weekend race?
My schedule is long and always depends on what happens inside and outside the car. We have a schedule for practice session, qualifying and the race and then we have our preparation time which is very important and this can vary as I said depending on what has been happening during the course of the weekend. During the course of the weekend I am never far from the driver.
8- Forgive me for this strange image but for me, a good physio is a kind of sporty Dalai Lama. He must be impassive, have an immense wisdom and an impressive strength of character too because being an athlete’s trainer means being a human punching-bag who absorbs the bad waves. What is your secret to master this stress and your own emotions?
I totally understand what you mean and this is not a strange question it is a very good question. I can only answer for myself as every physio is different we are all different and react differently to different situations or circumstances. Yes of course I share the emotions of everything that they go through and this I hope you understand will remain private and I deal with these situations in my own way which again are private.
9- Are you also the driver’s nutritionist? If yes, how do you establish his diet? Do you follow the same diet as him?
I am not a nutritionist but I do know a lot about nutrition and yes I do advise on what food to be eating and not to be eating. Depending on the drivers blood type there are foods that are good for them to consume and what is not good for them to consume and it’s important to ascertain these as it can have a huge impact on the individuals energy levels.
10- What is your motto?
Change your life by changing the way you think.
Never give up.
(credit pic: monsterfeetmedia.net)