Putting F1 drivers on the 'right track'

You have coaches for pretty much every sport out there. Tennis, cricket, boxing, you name it. But motorsports? Vinayak Pande writes. Rob Wilson, the drivers’ coach

india Updated: Mar 11, 2012 16:37 IST
Vinayak Pande
Vinayak Pande
Hindustan Times

You have coaches for pretty much every sport out there. Tennis, cricket, boxing, you name it. But motorsports? The idea of someone teaching drivers already in top of the line series like Formula One sounds as unlikely as the idea of what would seem to the layman like a glorified driving instructor.

But with Williams F1 appointing Alexander Wurz as a 'driver mentor' for Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado, it seems as if F1 has finally gone public in admitting that even the best drivers in the world have room for improvement. After all, for years teams and drivers alike have been turning to one man in particular to add some polish to the raw skills that every driver comes with.

"There's always something that a driver can learn," Rob Wilson told HT, whose Global Racing Schools have been working with drivers in everything from F1, GP2 and the World Rally Championship.

"It's like any other sport where there's room for an athlete to grow," he added.

In order to coach the drivers who come to him, Wilson relies on a very basic tool; a standard, road-specification car rather than a racing car.

As far as Wilson is concerned the reasoning is very basic too.

"A driver's steering, and pedal inputs on the car are a lot easier to notice," said Wilson.

"Even though they (inputs) are a lot slower than in a race car, they remain the same and you can tell if a driver is being too aggressive or too soft."

Another advantage for Wilson is that he is present in the passenger seat while the driver goes for it on the track. "It's a lot easier to give direct feedback to the drivers while you're in the car with them rather than looking at telemetry."

The results of Wilson's methods are there to be seen as well. After initially struggling against Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver in F1, Pastor Maldonado (a pupil of Wilson) outraced him over the course of four races in a row last year including the Belgian and Singapore Grands Prix.https://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/3/11_03_pg-22c.jpg

"He's a real hard charger," said Wilson of Maldonado. "We had to train him in order to make his inputs a little gentler."

Wilson reserves the most praise, however, for Kimi Raikkonen, one of his most illustrious pupils who is now making his F1 comeback after two years of rallying. "Kimi reminded me a lot of Mika Hakkinen," said Wilson. "What I noticed about him was that he would go on the throttle at just the right time, so he would use a lot less fuel.

"He is a very concise driver, we just had to train some of the wildness out of him."

First Published: Mar 11, 2012 00:08 IST