Paris, France
Tuesday 20th May 2014

After arriving in Paris on Saturday, I have been having a series of meetings with the CEO of an embryonic motor-racing team called QI-Racing.  Based in France, QI-Racing aims to enter some Formula Renaultís Europe Cup & GP 2 races next year, with the long-term plan to enter a team in F1.

I will be joining the team as the Director of Human Performance on a consultancy basis.  My remit is to plan the strategy of the team in relation to the sports medical services, performance science & conditioning provision.  Additionally, I will be co-ordinating the delivery of the services, which will include recruiting full-time & consultancy staff in these areas.

The project is an ambitious & exciting one, with a sound long-term vision built on challenging but achievable goals.  Furthermore, the intention is to staff the every department in the organisation with the best people possible from a wide range of backgrounds, empowering them to lead the team forward in their own specialist fields.  

It sounds like common sense but Formula 1 doesnít always adopt common sense in itís working practices.  At times itís easy to see the genetics of the sport, which started with a few chaps putting some high-powered death traps on a track for a few brave/slightly unhinged mavericks to drive round in a 4 wheeled version of Russian roulette, before/after having enjoyed a number of drinks &/or women.

Personally, I see it as a potentially exciting opportunity to bring many different aspects of performance science & conditioning to the sport, which many teams have historically considered as somewhat of an afterthought.  In fact it is often the drivers who are charged with the task of recruiting their own personal conditioning coach & support team.

Two stables of trainers currently operate to prepare the vast majority of the drivers in the Paddock but with only two main management strategies being used, this has resulted in a limited approach to the task.  

Furthermore, if you do an internet search for examples of drivers working through their conditioning programmes, anyone with a reasonable amount of experience training athletes at a high-level would question the quality control afforded to some of the practices.

Whilst I only worked in F1 for a year, I saw a only a small minority of trainers working in the sport that had much (if any) previous experience working with high performance athletes & their reputations outside of the sport were affected by association with the majority that hadnít.

Let me make it clear that I believe there are some very capable conditioning coaches & clinicians working with F1 drivers & a couple of teams have employed some sound sports science provision but I do believe that, when compared to other sports, F1 probably doesnít boast the same expertise or invest a proportionate amount of resources.  

Considering the physical demands they are exposed to, a driversí conditioning really does need to be on pointÖthereís nowhere to hide at the wheel of an F1 car.  Thatís before you even consider the mental stresses of lining up on the grid & going wheel to wheel, with your butt a few millimetres raised from the asphalt.

Aside from the condition of the drivers, I was amazed by the number of engineers that had missed a considerable number of days through various episodes of back pain, including a not insignificant group that had actually had back surgery.

In addition, the physical workload that the team of mechanics undertake, would put many athletes to shame.  These guys work flat out at the track, often late into the night, often with heavy loads or in awkward positions around the car.

Mentally, both engineers & mechanics are operating in high stress environments akin to Premier League managers, coaches or support staff.  Compounded by the effects of trans-continental travel, sleep deprivation & often erratic eating times, the opportunity to optimise team work in these areas is an interesting one.  Thereís not much research out there that looks at the performance of individuals in motor-sports environments.

Without going into too much detail, I am compiling some comprehensive strategies in many of these areas, calling on the advice from many former colleagues, mentors & experts both in academia & sporting practice.  I also have some intriguing collaborations I would love to explore when the time & circumstances are right.

My own personal work circumstances will dictate how far I get to see this through, given that it is a consultancy role.  However, should the team get the backing it is seeking before a full-time role in the NBA, NFL or back in soccer becomes available, maybe this will just be the start of an intriguing return to the world of motor-sport.

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