THE FUNDAMENTAL FACTORS NECESSARY TO BE A FORMULA 1 DRIVER
Racing in Formula 1 is the dream of all the kids who approach karting. Of these, only a few (but just a few) manage to achieve this dream. The reasons for not making it are many and different. Conversely, the reasons for those who make it have solid common foundations. Of course, nothing guarantees the result, but already knowing what is necessary to try to achieve it, is already a good start.
An essential ingredient to point to the peaks of motorsport is to be part of a “school” like, for example, the Ferrari Driver Academy. A program started in 2009, which has already accompanied Sergio Perez, the late and much mourned Jules Bianchi, Lance Stroll and Charles Leclerc to Formula 1.
“Take them while they are still children”. The principle, always valid when it comes to the education of young people is, in short, also the reason behind the creation of the FDA and similar programs. Because, on a complex path like the one towards F1, it is not sufficient to provide drivers with practical help for training and expenses. What is needed are people who follow them step by step from the physical, technical, nutritional and, more generally, a 360° professional point of view.
The basis, of course, is the kart. That is where an organization like the FDA looks with more interest and, not surprisingly, that is where it has partnered with the Tony Kart Racing Team. The collaboration has the objective of “identifying new motorsport talent, educating and training them so as to favor their professional growth towards the highest automotive categories.
Tony Kart and the FDA organize several days in which drivers of the two organizations meet on the karts to compare, train and reinforce a collaboration that has already seen drivers like Armstrong, Petecof and Mick Schumacher go from Prevalle to Maranello
In 10 years, there have been several drivers who passed through the FDA. Someone, as mentioned, reached F1: Perez, Bianchi, Stroll and Leclerc who, with his landing in Ferrari is the emblem of the ideal path that everyone dreams of traveling. For the 2019 season the following are part of the Maranello program: Giuliano Alesi, Marcus Armstrong, Enzo Fittipaldi, Callum Ilott, Gianluca Petecof, Mick Schumacher and Robert Shwartzman. In addition to Antonio Fuoco, for years in the FDA and still in the orbit of the team with a consulting role.
Ferrari takes care of its young guys from an organizational, physical and mental point of view with the Mental Training FDA program, based on the application of innovative neuroscientific methods.
In the belief that today’s drivers cannot limit themselves to the driving factor, the preparation includes technical aspects generally with the competence of the engineers, both through classroom meetings and at a practical level during the tests.
Even for the young guys who dream of F1, commitment is the key to building the future. Especially if they are part of a program like the FDA or, for another example, the McLaren Young Driver Program which raised Lewis Hamilton and, more recently, Nyck De Vries. And it is by tracing the footsteps of the Dutchman, leader in karting and Mercedes Formula E 2020 driver, we are going to discover how the commitment of a young driver is marked.
This percentage changes according to the program (the FDA, for example, organizes more meetings to get the drivers working together). But when De Vries followed the McLaren program, the needs for a physical presence at the Woking site were less. The daily contact was ensured by a web interface in which Nick noted the training activities to analyze them together with the technicians. Additionally, there were simulator sessions at a Paris center.
Racing in the various Formulas is not like racing in karts where there are so many races and chances to get on the track. In the higher categories, race weekends are few and the rest of the time is devoted to training in preparation for the races. Even two sessions a day, when one is at home, diversified amongst gym, free body, running and cycling.
It seems paradoxical yet driving is not the predominant commitment. The calendars of the various Formulas hardly exceed a dozen of stages: in the Italian F4 Championship powered by Abarth, for example, they are 7, in the F. Regional European Championship and FIA Formula 3, 8; Formula Renault Eurocup, 10 and in Formula 2, there are 12. Furthermore, the tests are limited by the regulations and even adding up races, collective tests and winter tests, the days on the track are few, especially for those who should be drivers.
Working is not an obligation, and for the younger ones, it is replaced by study. De Vries, our reference, at the time of the McLaren program was part of the team also as a mechanic and track technician, a smart way to learn more about every aspect of motorsport
As for fun, the time left is little and, given the routine which is far from the lives of “normal” kids, as soon as they can, drivers go back to their families or see their old friends.
The time to take into account for transfers to the race circuits, the team’s headquarters or the locations of the various commitments is a lot. Because (almost) no driver of this level has a private plane available and uses the means of transport of a normal guy who tries to limit expenses: buses, trains, low-cost flights, the team’s van…
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