Performance Coaches. A secret of how F1 drivers finish on the podium.

Every Formula 1 driver who made it to the podium - Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Valtteri Botas, Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and many others has a Performance Coach. One of the latest interviews of Lewis Hamilton about his relationship with his performance coach Angela Cullen ended with the words: "I'm incredibly grateful to have her on the road, I don't think I could do it without her." So let’s shed some light on how performance coaches help F1 drivers win.

But first, it'd be helpful to make it clear who a performance coach is. The term performance coach initially came from sport, and it's a specialist who supports athletes to unlock their potential, aiming to maximize their performance. Recently, the success of athletes supported by performance coaches boosted demand for performance coaches in other fields, such as business, self-development, team management, etc. Nevertheless, the initial idea of sports achievements remains unchanged and appears to become foundational for many performance coaches regardless of their field.

F1 performance coaches have quite a broad role, but mainly they take care of drivers' nutrition, recovery, training schedule, and help them stay focused. In other words, they have to make sure the drivers are physically and mentally fit when it's time to step in the car and perform at their best.

Formula 1 is the quickest form of motorsport on the planet. The machines are masterpieces of automotive design and engineering. F1 drivers need immense amounts of strength and endurance to withstand searing heat in the cockpits and control their cars at speeds of more than 200 mph in various climates. There are many factors, some of which are possible to control and others - not. Therefore, F1 drivers must be ready to perform during the race regardless of what happens around them. And when they succeed it's not done by chance or because the driver is highly talented. Obviously, a driver has to have talent. But having natural talent is just the beginning. There're many examples of talented drivers who never finish on the podium. Performance is enhanced when all variables such as nutrition, sleep, physical training, recovery, general and mental health sync. But to make it all sync it’s a systematic, consistent and scientifically-based work, and that's where their performance coaches step in because it's a process of continuous improvement and alone drivers wouldn't be able to make it. 

Sir Jackie Stewart is one of the most respected drivers in the sport's history. He argues that every driver should receive assistance to enhance performance: "I simply don't understand it to this day. Racing drivers are so clever that they don't need coaches. Absolutely wrong. There's not a single driver at the highest peak of his skills who would not be assisted by wisdom and observations that he probably had never thought of", then he adds: "You go skiing, golf, equestrian, anything you like to think of - and coaching is one of the most important things."

F1 drivers have a hectic schedule. Many activities are bound to preparations for the racing - hours of engineering meetings, press conferences, meeting with sponsors, travelling, etc. Besides that, there's all the stuff that goes on in the background of their career pathway from season to season. Performance coaches' role in this situation is to take care of them and ensure that this hectic schedule affects the drivers' essential needs as little as possible. So they eat at the appropriate time, stay hydrated, go to bed to get a sufficient amount of sleep etc. Another important task is to keep the drivers in the right frame of mind, so they can handle all demands around them and balance between F1 and their private lives. 

However, it's worth mentioning that performance coaches don't just assist the drivers in arranging their schedule. It goes much further. They make them think and prioritize basics about nutrition, sleep, how they organize their travel time during and out of season. They introduce the themes of their long-term goals, their purpose, what they're aiming for, and how they think they can achieve it. When the drivers are clear about their goals, the process that leads to the goals, and they take responsibility to act accordingly, the grace juggling between hectic schedule and ideally organized routine happens and that’s what eventually gets them to the podium.  

Coming back to Lewis Hamilton and Angela Cullen, they began to work together at the start of the 2016 season, and since then, Lewis earned four more world titles alongside Mercedes. Lewis says about Angela: "We're close friends also, so I'm very, very lucky to have found Angela because she's a very special human being." It pays to say there definitely should be a match between a coach and a driver, and the better this match is, the higher performance they can achieve together.

The life of an F1 driver who balances between F1, private life and other demands is not much different from a person who has work, family, hobby, and in the meantime, is keen to develop and perform at their best. Hence, even if you're not a F1 driver, a performance coach can help you get proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, and build and maintain a strong body. It's the foundation for better performance in sports and business and any other sphere of life. And additionally, a performance coach will help you understand your life priorities, define your strengths and build a required process for your unique path to achieve your goals.