In F1 or golf, you’re gonna need balls

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

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 signicant 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”

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