"Your racing career will fail if no one likes or respects you."
If your career resembled a wall then admiration and respect would be the cement between your bricks. You may have all the building blocks in place like speed, race craft, car control, championship wins, sponsorship and mental skills but at the end of the day if people think you're an idiot then you will fail at the final hurdle every time.
You know this already, you know of drivers who have all the results in place but have a certain attitude or behaviour that prevents them from holding onto that dream drive.
This is because they lack the all important asset called People Power.
On the flip side I bet you can name other drivers who are missing the speed and funding yet still manage to get themselves a drive each year.
Drivers are like McDonald's.
The sorry truth of our sport is that racing drivers are similar to McDonald's.
McDonald's does not make the best hamburgers but that doesn't matter because they out-market their competitors. They know how to generate people power and how to manipulate the masses.
This is the same for you, you are your product, if you can get people behind you then you too will have a strong presence in the industry.
The Power of the People.
Motorsport is a huge business but at the end of the day it's all run by the simple creatures that are made from blood, tissue and bone - Human Beings.
They completely run the show so if you want to make it in racing then you'd better learn how to influence them and how to get them on your side. They hold the key to your future, it's not all about the stopwatch.
It is no coincidence that drivers like Coulthard and Button have had such secure F1 careers, yes they can turn in good lap times, develop the car and fight with the best drivers around but more importantly they know how to get people behind them. They have an abundance of people power which makes influential people want to help them.
Sponsoring companies see Coulthard and say something like "He is so clean cut and friggin hilarious. The way he communicates to people will be perfect for my company."
If you know Coulthard and have heard him public speaking then you will know what I mean here, he can fascinate and entertain a crowd.
From a race team manager's perspective Jenson Button is near perfect, he again communicates well, drives well, gets the team motivated, doesn't upset anyone, says the right things at the right time and behaves. Hence why he is also chosen to do so many TV adverts.
People skills is an area that is very often overlooked, especially by the new breed of young drivers, and as a result we are seeing them come and go quickly from the sport because no one is willing to go that extra mile to assist them.
This doesn't mean that you have to go around brown nosing everybody and being false, its just having the skill of getting people to voluntarily be on your side and want to be a part of your journey.
You need to be able to read people, know what they are looking for and above all use your common sense to gauge if your way of speaking and acting is helping or hindering you.
I don't know many drivers who have this area nailed down, more often than not they wind people up instead of inspiring them.
Listen to your Engineer.
Do something for me, when you are next with a seasoned engineer ask them about their past drivers. Ask them something like "Tell me about Joe Smith. What do you remember about him?"
Usually the engineer will briefly tell you about Joe's (or whoever you asked about) driving technique/ability but they will spend more time talking about the way Joe was as a person. How he performed mentally, his personality and his 'downfalls' as a person.
I did this experiment over the past 4 race weekends asking different engineers about different drivers and the answers I got were:
"He was quick but not very good under pressure"
"He was a really nice kid and very focused. Good car control and confident in the wet"
"He was a nightmare, always blaming the car"
"He had the potential but didn't use it because he was a spoilt kid so didn't put the work in"
"She could be fast but was too timid as a person so got bullied in the races"
"He was useless, way too worried about what other people were doing"
"He was more of a comedian than a race driver."
What does this tell you?
Well for starters it shows that engineers don't hold back when it comes to their opinions but more importantly they talked about the personality of the driver more than the lap times.
This may sound like we have our priorities back to front because their lap time should come before their personality but in reality it doesn't work that way.
The 5 things to avoid doing.
Instead of going through the rapport skills workshop (because it will make this blog into a long read) I will tell you of the top 5 things to avoid doing.
These 5 things are big No No's. Drivers do them all the time and I have seen team managers and investors cringing as a consequence and therefore not offering those drivers their dream opportunity.
We don't want to spend our lives worrying too much about what others think but when these people are influential for your future then it's a different story. So here we are, avoid doing the following:
1) Don't Bitch, Just Drive!
Drivers waste a lot of time expressing their opinion about other drivers. You can hear drivers slagging other drivers off all the time, taking the mick out of the way they look, the way they behave, the way they used to be in karting, the way they drive, etc.
This is not the school playground now, it's not about who is or isn't cool, this is a cut throat sport that doesn't tolerate childish outlooks.
Here is a challenge for you, at your next race meeting see if you can solely focus on you and your driving, and I mean solely. See if you can resist the temptation to talk about someone else for the entire meeting. If you find it hard then you have some changing to do.
2) Blame The Car Less.
We all have times when the car's set up is the limiting factor but more often than not the driver is the one at fault.
I cannot tell you the amount of times I have seen a struggling team completely revolutionise their results just by sticking a top driver in their car. They go from being at the back of the grid to winning races, over night. This happens too often to ignore, it demonstrates that the driver still remains to be the most important ingredient.
Remember this in your next debrief, use the 80/20 concept:
80% on improving your driving.20% on improving the car set up.
3) Don't Be That iPhone Driver.
There are too many drivers spending too much time looking at their phone, they are doing it mid briefing, when on a track walk, whilst in the truck, in the hospitality.......pretty much everywhere at least once every 20 minutes. The only place you don't see the phone is on the podium, but it won't be long.
You are at a race track to work your ass off, to get the absolute best from yourself and your car, not to constantly tell the world how you feel and to Yes or No the girls on Tinder.
This is often a turn off for boss's in Motorsport, if they see you on the phone all the time they cannot take you seriously, especially the older generation boss's.
4) Do Not Mis-Match Your Engineer.
If your engineer likes you to be on time, then be on time. If they want you to fill out their feedback form right away, then do it.
You have to constantly motivate your engineer not annoy them. The best way to get someone to work for you is to match them, communicate to them the way they communicate to you. If you make them feel as though you are both alike then they will like you and want to do more for you, do this with everyone in the team and you will have them in your hand.
5) Never Ignore Team Members.
I know of drivers that have been 3 race meetings into the season and they still don't know their mechanics names. If this is you then it's time to get your act together. Everyone is their for you, you are the boss of your car so you need to know the ins and outs of your staff.
Once again, the more they gel with you the more they work for you, never forget this.
In EssenceAs you can imagine there are many more techniques for sharpening your rapport skills but these will start you off.
You just need to get people behind you by talking their true language, be the person that they would love to be. Learn how to attract people not repel them because it will become one of your greatest tools for success.