Mark Ar­nall on his role as per­sonal trainer to Fer­rari’s Kimi Räikkö­nen

The mo­ment Ron Den­nis calls to de­mand: “What the hell have you done with my driver?” is the mo­ment you come to re­alise that yours is no or­di­nary job. And such was the case for Mark Ar­nall, long-time physio, trainer, condante and all-round life man­ager for Kimi Räikkö­nen.

This in­ci­dent oc­curred on 30 Novem­ber 2004, when Kimi and friends vis­ited a beach re­sort in Gran Ca­naria… with pre­dictable con­se­quences. Pic­tures of a some­what worse-for­wear Räikkö­nen cud­dling an inat­able dol­phin were soon de­light­ing tabloid read­ers ev­ery­where, and un­der­scored what Kimi’s fans have al­ways known: be­hind the Ice­man fa­cade he’s just like you and me. But none of this was do­ing Ar­nall any favours with their mu­tual boss, Mr Den­nis. “The worst bit,” Mark re­calls, “was that I wasn’t even there!”

Such are the tri­als of work­ing with a high-prole F1 driver and, in Ar­nall’s case, keep­ing him in race-ready con­di­tion since 2002 – their rst year to­gether at McLaren. Ar­nall had pre­vi­ously worked as Mika Häkki­nen’s trainer and when Mika quit at the end of 2001, he was pre­sented with an­other Fly­ing Finn to main­tain. Since then he has ac­com­pa­nied Kimi through McLaren, his rst spell at Maranello, his ad­ven­tures in ral­ly­ing and US rac­ing and then his F1 sec­ond com­ing with Lo­tus and Fer­rari. And since the rst sea­sons at Fer­rari, Ar­nall has worked di­rectly for Räikkö­nen, rather than for a team, and his ser­vices to the Ice­man ex­tend be­yond phys­i­cal prepa­ra­tion.

“There are no set day-to-day hours,” says Mark. “We do all the GPs to­gether, but we also do all the tests and we train to­gether. There has to be ex­i­bil­ity: some­times Kimi’s got to be at the fac­tory, some­times he’s got other stuff to do.”

Ar­nall also at­tends to any num­ber of tasks de­signed to keep Räikkö­nen’s mind fo­cused on rac­ing and his body in tune. “I make sure he’s where he needs to be when he needs to be there, with the right gear,” he says. “It means look­ing af­ter his race kit. Then I work with the hel­met guys, to make sure the vi­sors are cor­rect. I book all Kimi’s ights, and ho­tels, too.”

De­tails such as these, he reck­ons, pro­mote mar­ginal gains in driver per­for­mance: newer planes with higher cabin pres­sures re­duce jet lag, for ex­am­ple. And their dou­ble-act ob­vi­ously works: Kimi is on sched­ule to nish 2017 with 271 grand prix starts from a ca­reer stretch­ing back to 2001.

In 1997 a McLaren staffer took a climb­ing les­son with Mark at the Univer­sity of Sur­rey’s sports depart­ment. “Af­ter­wards he came to my sports in­juries clinic,” Ar­nall re­calls. “He asked me about what I did and ex­plained that McLaren wanted some­one to look af­ter the phys­i­cal ther­apy for their driv­ers [David Coulthard and Mika Häkki­nen]. F1 didn’t in­ter­est me in the slight­est. It was a sport where I re­mem­ber see­ing Mika’s name on the screen and won­der­ing ‘How do you pro­nounce Häkki­nen?’ A year later I’m work­ing with him. Bizarre. It was al­most by ac­ci­dent, but it was lucky be­cause one part of the job that I ac­tu­ally re­ally en­joy is the trav­el­ling. And that’s some­thing a lot of peo­ple get fed up with.”

And it’s here that Ar­nall sounds a note of cau­tion for any sports sci­ence un­der­grads wish­ing to pur­sue a sim­i­lar path. “There are sev­eral things to con­sider,” he notes. “It’s su­per-in­ten­sive in terms of time away from home, so if you’re mar­ried with kids it’s some­thing you should think twice about. Then you must con­sider what you want to spe­cialise in. Is it train­ing? Or os­teopa­thy? Or a com­bi­na­tion of the two?”

Af­ter that comes the chal­lenge of break­ing into F1 – more of­ten by dogged per­sis­tence than happy ac­ci­dent – and even then, should you be skilled and for­tu­nate enough to end up work­ing with an F1 su­per­star, what hap­pens when they quit?

The sug­ges­tion prompts a wry smile: “What hap­pens if he retires? Well, if he says ‘I’m go­ing to spend the next ve years on my sofa,’ there is no point me stay­ing in his em­ploy­ment. But if he starts talk­ing about a ten-race NAS­CAR pro­gramme and Le Mans, then I’d be likely to take up a new chal­lenge.”

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