08.12.22 NL Blog
Abu Dhabi GP: The story behind my weekend
“A fortnight after Monaco, this weekend I’ll tackle the second street race in a row at Azerbaijan’s Baku City Circuit.
And with Monaco’s water bottle mishap still fresh in my mind, I figured it was a good time to review my pre-race checklist…
This is what I do:
Getting properly prepared for a race starts the day before with a good night’s sleep. For me, that means a solid eight hours. Less than that and my energy levels might dip throughout the day. This being F1, there is always a tech angle to explore and I wear a sleep tracking ring to provide analysis of sleep stages and sleep quality. Great to have the science of course, but I don’t find it too hard to get a good night’s sleep.
Nutrition and hydration
In terms of nutrition you’re looking for healthy and energising food. Ensuring you avoid energy dips, or sugar spikes, is important – and junk food is obviously a no-no. Instead I’ll have a light meal which usually majors on vegetables and fish or chicken. Even a small percentage of dehydration can impair performance in a race, so I’ll top up my hydration levels throughout the day with lots of small drinks. That’s better for your body that downing a load of liquid in one go.
Heading into the race it’s important to know the game plan inside out. Typically, there will be three plans: A, B and C, which relate to potential race strategies. Within each plan are a number of coded messages that my race engineer can communicate and that I have to understand. I also study videos from previous years. The starts are hard to predict of course, a bit like a moving chessboard, but it helps to run through different scenarios in your mind.
Right before the race I have a routine to get my body and mind ready. It’s a set of exercises that cover three broad areas. First, there’s something for the physical and muscular side, which is usually working with resistance bands to prepare key muscle groups. Then there’s something to get the heart rate up, jumping jacks or the skipping rope, or perhaps running on the spot. Then stuff that encompasses the cognitive side, which means reactions, co-ordination and selectiveness. The simple option is tennis balls and a balance board. Alternatively, I use a light system that adds an accuracy element to the reaction test.
And… go to the facilities
Going to the washroom just before the race is really important! It’s what all the drivers do. You’ll see us running away either just before or after the national anthem. It looks like we’re fleeing the cameras or interviewers but really we just want to go to the washroom! Mainly this is a comfort thing, but there is a safety angle too. The fuller your bladder is, the higher the risk of injury in a crash. After a last moment visit to the facilities, you can keep hydrated when you drive. Unless, like me in Monaco, you forget to route the drinks tube to your mouth. I won’t be making the same mistake again, trust me…”
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