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Racing stars turn online tutors for the next generation
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Apr 2012   |  5:48 pm GMT  |  19 comments

Driver coaching may remain something of an untapped trade in Formula 1, but the next generation of drivers are set to benefit from an interesting new online initiative launched in America this week which will see some of the country’s biggest racing names lend their advice to up-and-coming stars.

The website is run by the US-based Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC), whose members are some of the most successful racing names from America and Europe such as Dario Franchitti and Chip Ganassi. The site is supported by a grant from the FIA Institute and already offers online video tutorials across the spectrum of the skillset needed to be a top racing driver, including mental skills, fitness and race craft.  Now, in a new feature to be rolled out over the forthcoming months, a series of high-profile driver instructors will take it in turns every two weeks to answers the questions of young drivers in online posts.

Current Indy Lights Champion Josef Newgarden is first up on a schedule of drivers that includes four-time IndyCar champion Franchitti and JR Hildebrand. The project is supported by the FIA Foundation and former Jaguar F1 chief Bobby Rahal, the president of the RRDC, believes the drivers of tomorrow will benefit from direct input from the star names.

“SAFE is FAST started as a series of free young driver workshops three years ago,” he said. “The workshops were highly successful and we quickly realised that we had created something of great value to today’s racers. Moving our coursework online through a series of video tutorials was a logical step – and will benefit drivers from around the world. Our latest program takes that one step further by offering one-on-one time with top drivers from a variety of disciplines.”

Further additional features to be rolled out on the website between now and September include lessons on car set-up, working with the media and nutrition.

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Perhaps I will offer a few suggestions to frame this great video project and the subsequent discussion.

The host website for the Road Racing Drivers Club is RRDC,ORG. On that site, you can find a list of its members, the Club’s history, etc.

The SAFE IS FAST project fits nicely with one of the RRDC’s missions from its creation back in 1952–tutoring and mentoring young, new drivers. Seen from that perspective, it seems a good thing to provide foundational information, not hype, freely accessible to the world’s hopeful racers, many of whom are in karts or transitioning from karts to cars.

Hearing the value of fitness, safety, mental preparation, working with the team and media and sponsors, vehicle dynamics, career development, etc. from recent and current professional drivers has a ton of value, and is freely available. Driver safety goes up, as does driver performance.

Others can argue the value of coaches, and the value at different times in one’s career, but it seems almost unarguable that the SAFE IS FAST program provides useful, high quality, relevant information to all.

Congrats to the program motivators, Bobby Rahal and Jim Mullen and John Fergus and Tom Davey and the technical staff who has assembled this very high quality material!



Maybe they car pair young Sebastien Vettel with a coach, I hear he’s still crying over Karthikeyan and desperately needs a nappy change. Apparently giving a back marker the middle finger, calling him an idiot, and the FIA penalizing Karthikeyan wasn’t enough, now Red Bull have sent their manager to speak to HRT and other small teams about this. How come this doesn’t really get proper coverage… In most sports if a champion athlete or team flashes a finger or insults someone publicly it makes the headlines. Are we only going to hear of Vettels unequalled genius at the end of the year (if Newey wins the world title)?


Can you ever imagine Senna, Prost, Schumacher or Alonso ever using anything like this? I can’t! Men like that can work things out for themselves. You can’t teach what they have, you have to discover it for yourself.

It might have some benefit for the 2nd division level boys I suppose.


Strange name. It doesn’t quite seem to gel with the safe driving message the FIA promotes, even of it is targeted at true racing drivers.

Surely there will be many wannabees trying out the skills on the public roads where safe is not fast…


I was thinking the same about the name. Seems rather odd.

Liam in Sydney

Your comments are a tad cynical. People like Chip and Bobby et al wouldn’t be lending their names and time to such an endeavour if it wasn’t worthwhile. We are talking about two extremely busy guys here. Surely you could leave it up to them to judge what was worthwhile?


Have to disagree with goferet here.

I have heard driver coaching discussed in the past, and I find it strange that hardly any top level drivers don’t have driving coaches.

Every athlete at the top of their field has a coach. Roger Federer has a coach, Usain Bolt has a coach etc.

No one is suggesting these drivers aren’t exceptionally talented but it is strange to presume they couldn’t benefit from advice from an objective observer, who has the skills to help them get the most out of their natural talent.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Peter Windsor and Rob Wilson will be licking their lips over this.

I’ve heard a lot of gaff from Windsor talking about measuring the suppleness of drivers hand movements and other babble.

F1 drivers already have:

a) Managers

b) Personal trainers

c) Physiotherapists

d) Telemtry and engineers to tell them why they are losing time in a corner, how to gain time an how to better set up the car

e) Team principals to set the rules for them

f) Team PR personnel

g) Sporting directors and team ambassadors in some cases

Don’t know where a coach would fit in F1 other than leaching from a driver’s salary. Seems to be advocated by those who are not managing drivers – Windsor, Stewart etc.


You’ve listed it already: Managers, Personal Trainers, Physiotherapists, Engineers, Principals, PR, etc.. everyone wants his 100% from the driver, but no driver can give that. So it’s rather important to find a proper balance, which is why the coach is there to be consulted. Often these coaches are former or vastly experienced and trusty drivers who have been through all this before and who could say: “look, that may seem pretty important to you, because it bugs the hell out of you right now, but mind that if you can live with that for now and get that other thing sorted out, you’ll be better off in the end.”

double eyepatch

Tennis players have a pretty significant support group behind them as well, including the physios, trainers, nutritionists, travel assistants, equipment manager (including racquet stringer) to name a few, and they manage to have a coach in all that too.

Its not a direct parallel, but tennis is an even more individual arena than what an F1 driver goes through, and they know that they can’t do it on their own, and are willing to pay out of their own pockets for their staff. How is an F1 driver taking care of some of his own affairs the same way a ridiculous notion?

Only Rodger Federer was able to stay at the top for a prolonged period without a coach in support, but he’s a freak of nature. I can’t say that all 24 drivers in F1 are as special as the Fed.


If am not mistaken, these types of ventures — driver coaching — are aimed at those unlucky enough to get born without natural talent and judging from most cucumbers’ antics, that includes 80% of the drivers on any given grid because the majority of pilots that get into motorsport (in F1 especially) are nothing but rich kids/ playboy wannabes who have short attention spans and thus get easily bored and so venture into F1 just to keep their minds occupied as they try to fight G forces.

Now should the FIA be spending the money they extort from drivers like Lewis Hamilton in form of penalties by supporting such lost cause ventures (remember we talking about the untalented here).

I would think the FIA would have been more well advised to invest in a foundation of drivers that get injured or lose their lives while doing their craft such as Dan Wheldon & Felipe Massa so if they are to suffer as a result of motorsport they they can draw up of this foundation kinda like a pension system for former drivers.


Except the FIA dosnt hand out super license to anyone. There is a strict requirement on being a gp2 champion or runner up to get one. The last exception that was made (from memory) was Kimi rikionen (sry about spelling). The economic reality is unfortunatly that u have to get a super lisense and have money. Money alone won’t get u a drive


Obviously you haven’t watched the videos on the site. If you had, you wouldn’t have embarassed yourself with this statement.

The content on the site is pretty neat, though sometimes still too focussed on the beginner.

There are quite some interesting tips on car setup (where to start), tire warm up and tire management, overtaking and hints on stuff that matters besides raw talent. Some things may actually be quite surprising for those who are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, like it’s more important to make yourself seen when you’re overtaking someone than to make a surprising move from nowhere.

In fact one of the main things you learn when watching the video is that there are loads of talented and fast drivers out there, so it’s almost everything else that matters if you want to become a paid driver. Which starts with simple manners like punctuality (the team can’t rely on you to show up on time at the engineers meeting? You’ll never survive the lower formulas) and looks (so you show up looking like you’ve been pulled from the bin next to the pub? You think a team wants a driver that its sponsors can’t use for marketing? You better tart yourself up, dude!). Even the mental training section is quite interesting, as things get said that look so obvious, once you’ve been pointed to it.

Grayzee (Australia)

Hmmm, I do believe you are winding us up, Goferet! Tut, tut, tut…………


re:”thus get easily bored and so venture into F1 just to keep their minds occupied as they try to fight G forces”

Goreret, you’re kidding, right?

Re: “I would think the FIA would have been more well advised to invest in a foundation of drivers that get injured or lose their lives while doing their craft such as Dan Wheldon & Felipe Massa so if they are to suffer as a result of motorsport they they can draw up of this foundation kinda like a pension system for former drivers.”

They probably carry insurance against that. Don’t worry your head. Go back to sleep now.


Natural talent? Not much good if you don’t know how to apply it.

James has written about this before – top athletes in most professional sports receive intensive specialised coaching their entire careers. They (and their teams, sponsors, etc) don’t do that for the fun of it – they do it because there is a measurable benefit that justifies the cost.

There is nothing to indicate that motor sport is special in this regard – why wouldn’t even the most talented kids benefit from instruction and coaching? Just because you have the talent it doesn’t mean you automatically realise what mistakes you’re making.

My observation from amateur motorsport experience is that targeted instruction benefits all drivers. Across a given grid of novice drivers, there will be drastic variations in speed (not to mention ability to stay on the road, not hit things, etc). However, all of them will get quicker and safer following professional instruction – not just the slow guys/gals at the back of the grid.

Motor racing is an incredibly complex sport. I’d want to see extremely compelling evidence before I’d believe that drivers at all levels of talent wouldn’t benefit from coaching.


Is this pure provocation or just plain ignorance?

Anyone can benefit from coaching. Both Tiger Woods and Roger Federer have coaches. They are not better than the athletes but know the what is best for them, provide guidance as to how to improve their client’s performance.

Natural talent and experience are too different things. Four eyes will often be better than two. It is also not forgetting the psychological aspect of the sport.

Felipe Massa would indeed be well inspired to hire a coach. A guy who came close 2nd in the F1 WDC is no slouch. He was on par with Kimi remember. Alonso has been a psychological blow and he hasn’t performed since.


Have to disagree with you on this one, I believe that Pastor Maldonado is working with a personal driver coach (other than A. Wurz who I think was hired by the Williams), and one must admit that he has evolved a lot since entering into F1 at the beginning of 2011. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Maldonado is WC-material, but since paydrivers have become crucial for some teams to be able to survive, I think that it does make sense to coach these paydrivers (and other drivers) as it is clearly improving their skills and thus making the overall racing better.


Mate name 80% of the drivers on the current F1 grid you think are rich play boys with no talent then?

I think not.

Unless you yourself are a mega talented racing driver I would suggest that you are talking out of the proverbial and need a good dose of reality.

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