The main purpose of this blog is to highlight what is expected of you if you want to be the best out there, plus to give you ways of getting ahead of the other drivers by training more effectively.
A few years ago Valtteri Bottas was telling me how much his girlfriend Emilia Pikkarainen trained, she competed in the 2008 Olympics as a swimmer. He told me that she would go to the pool early in the morning before school and return straight back as soon as school was finished, some would say that she lived in the pool.
I asked Valtteri "How good would you be if you spent as much time in the race car as Emilia does in the water?
His answer - "I would be perfect, I would never make mistakes, always hit the apexes, be fast in every weather condition, I would know every circuit and race weekends would be easy."
This simple conversation hit home the fact that race drivers are nowhere near as good as they could be due to the lack of time they can practice their craft.
Even in F1 you will see drivers who still haven’t mastered their qualifying performance, race craft or mental skills. This shouldn’t happen at the pinnacle of our sport but again with the lack of practice they get it’s of no surprise.
Nowadays a driver is lucky if he or she spends more than 100 quality hours in their race car per year.
Can you imagine competing in any other sport where you only practice for 100 hours out of the 8,760 hours available in a year?
You would be seen as a hobbyist not a professional sportsmen.
The 10,000 Hour Rule
Shortly after the conversation with Valterri I was introduced to the 10,000 hour rule, if you are not familiar with this rule then in simple terms its principle is this:
A Human Being requires 10,000 hours of Deliberate Practice at something in order to become outstanding at it.
The first person to publically discover this rule was Anders Ericsson who led a study on violinists and showed the relationship between skill and time spent practicing. Since then the numerous studies we have had into the learning process of the brain have shown that this 10,000 hour rule is quite accurate.
You only need to look at Tiger Woods, Serena Williams and David Beckham to understand that Deliberately Practicing something over and over for a long period of time creates excellence.
When I say practice I don’t mean just going round and round on a test day with only the lap time and braking shapes on your mind, I mean specific and ‘Deliberate Practice’ where you are immersed within a process that forces you to improve as a driver and as a person.
Deliberate Practice requires specific drills, external pressure, competing against yourself, bench marks, recreation of future scenarios, etc.
If you were a golfer then this kind of practice would be a full day of just putting, for a tennis player it might be a full day of serving only.
Deliberate Practice is training yourself for complete mastery, whilst training you need to create an environment where your brain is making new distinctions and making new neural associations so it can perform better when needed.
Plus it must make the process of driving feel completely natural, driving should be as automatic to you as breathing is.
This kind of training is not seen much in racing, most teams avoid practicing race starts too much to save the clutch or do not practice race craft on a test day because they fear causing damage. These are two vital areas if you want to race well yet we spend little time on these areas, this is just an example of how back to front things can be in our sport.
Yes we are held back by money but we still need hours and hours of Deliberate Practice if we really want to be the best.
From all of this I had two questions pop up that needed to be answered:
1) How much would it cost for a driver to Deliberately Practice for 10,000 hours solely in-car?
This is obviously hard to pin point but I gave it a crack anyway and that is the scribbling you can see in the photo at the top of this Blog.
This was my working out:
The amount of quality hours spent in-car per Test Day = 2.5 hours
Testing 5 days per week would get us = 12.5 hours
10,000 hours divided by 12.5 hours = 800 weeks
800 weeks divided by 52 (weeks in a year) = 15.3 years
Cost of a Test Day = £5,000
Cost per week = £25,000
800 weeks @ £25,000 = £20Million
To get your 10,000 hours in Motorsport could cost you £20,000,000 and could take over 15 years of testing.
Hmm so it really is hard to get 10,000 hours of training as a race driver if you just depend on your time in your race car to practice, no wonder we cannot do this.
This then leads onto the next question:
2) If spending over £20Million and 15 years Deliberately Practicing in-car is out of the question, how the hell can you reach your 10,000 hours and become the best driver out there?
Well it’s time to get creative and proactive because we need to put a plan together, the self development plan which will enable you to get your 10,000 hours in any way possible, in and out of the car.
Every driver is different due to their current level so you need to tailor and create your own plan.
We will do this fully in our next Blog, but for now let me give you the outline so you know the plan of attack.
Step 1 – Expose Yourself!
Expose your strengths and weaknesses.
When you are designing your own plan then you’d better know exactly where you are now, your driving skills, mental skills, work ethic, people skills, etc. This can be done by a self assessment which again we will do in the next blog.
Step 2 - Prioritize
Prioritize the most important and urgent areas you must work on.
What are the areas which are holding you back the most?
Put them in order of importance so we know what to tackle first.
Step 3 – Get Creative
It’s time to put your thinking cap on and answer this question – “How can I improve myself and these main weaknesses both at and away from the track?”
Make a list of things and activities you could do to improve your weaknesses.
List the things you can do on a test day and the things you can do at home.
You are literally writing out your Deliberate Practice Plan here, you know what you need to work on and now you are writing out ways of doing it.
If you need to learn self discipline then maybe you could join a Martial Arts class or if you need to toughen up then take up Motocross. We need to think outside the box here because there are so many things you can do in life that will help you in racing.
For example if you were struggling with your car control you could write:
1) Phone up the local race circuit to rent their skid car or single seaters
2) See who has a Caterham and do trackdays in that
3) Do an intensive rally course
4) Set up the car with a stiff rear in a test to train my oversteer corrections
5) Set up the car with a stiff front to train my understeer control
6) Hit the local kart track every time it rains
7) Become a car control instructor at a race school
8) And so on
Do this for each of your weaknesses and before you know it you will have created a whole host of ways to improve yourself and your driving.
Step 4 – Do Until
Fill your days with training in some area, every day you must feel and know that you have improved.
Then you stick to this until you see results, if something doesn't work then change it, if you find a better way of training a part of your skill-set then you do it. Keep the momentum going and feel rest assured that you are getting better every single day.
As a driver you have a lot of things to master so you should never be bored at home, you have many skills to learn so you’d better get on with it ASAP.
If you are useless at getting sponsors then that is another area which you can Deliberately Practice at, spending a day in a business seminar is practice, you are learning how the industry around you works. Remember that in order to succeed you will need more than just your driving. You need to come across well, understand business, be marketable, have the right image, etc. That is a lot to learn but you are totally capable of pulling this off if you constantly train yourself in this area.
Now the seed has been planted and your mind has started to think of areas to improve we will hit this for real in the next Blog.