A skill and passion for driving might be the most obvious prerequisite for a successful racing career, but the reality is that it is only a very small part of it.
It was Damon Hill who once said: “Winning is everything. The only ones who remember you when you come second are your wife and your dog.” And it is this attitude and mindset which sets apart the winners from those who make a habit of coming second or lower.
Sports psychology is a fascinating subject, so we thought we’d bring together the professional’s opinions on the traits that make for the best racing drivers. While every single competitor, both pros and amateurs, inject their own personalities into their style of driving, there is a commonality that comes through them all.
The successful racing driver will demonstrate discipline in every area of their life. From a dogged commitment to practice and training, to maintaining rigorous physical exercise and food regimes, discipline seeps into every single area of a driver’s life.
Even at the very start of their career, a young driver will be found with a car vacuum keeping his vehicle clean and prepped for the races. The attention to detail and maintaining high standards is instilled from a very early age, and maintained at every level.
As Damon Hill so eloquently stated, no one is going to be remembered for coming second, and there is a certain pride and arrogance in the most competitive of drivers who will never accept coming second in any race. The one and only aim must be to win.
The instant you let the thought that coming second or third will be sufficient, you are letting doubt and uncertainty creep into your mindset – and that doubt and uncertainty will probably push you down to the bottom of the rankings. The most successful drivers are in it to win it, and they will NEVER accommodate even the faintest whiff of being placed any where other than first!
While that arrogance and killer instinct is what drives them, what will make them better is a certain humility, and the willingness to learn from any defeat that befalls them.
Humility allows a driver to recognize that they are still capable of learning from those that are racing better, understand where they went wrong, learn from that, and come back to race again even stronger and better. Without that humility, a driver may continue to blame others for their own shortcomings, and not learn to improve as a result.
This humility comes from a place of confidence and sportsmanship. They have the confidence in their abilities to learn and move on. Equally, they understand that racing is a sport, and as a sport it is vital to acknowledge those who are ahead of them in the race. Only by having this mindset will they understand how to progress.
Perseverance and resilience
1. Scott Fitzgerald said: “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” Marilyn Monroe echoed these sentiments: “Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.”
No one is going to get into racing and become an overnight success. It takes perseverance, dedication, financial commitment, and a very thick skin. But this is where the passion comes in, because if that commitment is underpinned by a deeply held passion for racing, then no amount of knock backs will put the determined driver off their course. It may take time, it will definitely take money. But with resilience and true grit, there is always room for those that demonstrate the right traits to achieve success.