In F1 or golf, you’re gonna need balls
at 150mph and having an attack of the yips? You’d never get in the car. The only example I can think of is Niki Lauda parking his car in Fuji in 1976, although I do remember getting twitchy when in F3000 there was a spate of tyre blow-outs during a race. I stupidly carried on. It’s the braver man who stops.
Golfers don’t typically get injured to such a degree as Niki in the course of a round of golf, and yet they talk of ‘nerves’, terror and the psychological pressure of the game. I mean, what could possibly happen? You lose your ball? Miss a two-foot putt? Do me a favour. And you can’t blame your equipment (that’s what a caddie is for). The old bludgeon (golf club) is built to take abuse and is rarely defective. There are only three parts; the head, the shaft and the grip. Nope. You’ll have to nd another scapegoat. The ball? Hmmm. Perhaps not the ball.
In F1 there are thousands of moving parts, any one of which might destroy your day. In golf there is nowhere to hide when it all turns to doggy-do. Which it will. And when it does, people turn away, people laugh, but worse, much worse, people try to help. Aghhh! No sympathy, puh-lease!
In F1, if you get it wrong, you thank your lucky stars if you live to ght again. Tragically, some don’t, as we have so painfully been reminded only recently.
Today, the talk is of Tiger Woods being ‘destroyed’ as a golfer. Can you imagine being the greatest living golfer, almost invincible, and suddenly, not, any more? It’s like Martha Argerich (no, I hadn’t heard of her either) coming onto the stage, only managing to play chopsticks and making a mess of it. How? Why? What is going on? How can someone forget how to do it just like that?
The answer is clear: it’s all in the mind. But what is in the mind? Voices? A virus? A delusion? What should be in the mind, if it’s all in the mind? Nothing? Now there’s a thought. Or rather, there’s not a thought.
So the question is: why don’t racing drivers have off days (or years) like golfers? They must do. I did. But I didn’t let on. I could just continue to change the setup and look at the data for clues. Thankfully, they didn’t have data that could look inside my head.
A good deal of work has been done, though, on sports psychology. There are things we know will help, even if you still have to deal with what golfers term ‘LOfT’ (Lack Of Talent). In motorsport we have what is referred to as ‘The Nut Behind the Wheel’ – a derogatory term that is yet to offend a driver. They tend to feel rather proud of being called ‘nuts’ or ‘crazy’. Imagine a sports psychologist advising a driver that the aim here is to become totally berserk. That would be crazy, right?
But the truth is that in both golf and F1, the competitor has placed themselves in a highpressure environment that could have a very signicant effect on their social and nancial standing. Give that sport massive global audiences and there aren’t many who could be placed under the spotlight without feeling a little bit ‘Is it warm in here, or is it just me?’
Of course, the real greats love this kind of pressure. They live for the moment of truth. No more hanging around talking. This is it. Judgement day. Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my chariot of re!
That sort of thing.
“The real greats love this kind of pressure. They live for the moment of truth. No more hanging around talking. This is it”