Pole position: Team spirit drives winners

It's a mistake to suppose that size protects the biggest and best-funded teams from the sorts of mistake that bedevil club racing.

We sometimes assume that the world's best-funded teams and drivers are immune from the sort of mistakes that we see in club racing. But this is not the case. Despite their multi million- dollar budgets, these teams employ people and, as we all know, people make mistakes.

Jenson Button is a world champion and rarely makes mistakes with his driving. When battling with Mark Webber at the British Grand Prix for third place last month, he was hoping to come out of the pits ahead of the Australian driver, who had just stopped. Jenson was waved out of the pits without the front right wheel nut fitted, leading to instant retirement and, to make matters even worse, a fine.

His front wheel came off because they didn't put a nut on it. During the lightning quick pit-stop, the nut flew off into the garage. When the mechanic reached round to find another one, the guy holding the jack at the front of the car thought that was a sign to go so he dropped the car and the lollipop man sent him out.

At the Chinese Grand Prix in April, Button inexplicably drove into Red Bull's pit box. They politely let him drive straight through to his own.

We've also seen the wrong wheels and tyres being fitted, drivers being released complete with fuel rigs still firmly attached, and huge strategy errors of the sort that cost Alonso the world championship in Abu Dhabi last year. We often see drivers complaining that their car "was OK in practice this morning".

This stuff happens at all levels, but there tends to be a difference in the way drivers react to these situations. Professional drivers are nearly always calm (the most important attribute after driving skill, in my opinion) and rarely lose their temper. They are being paid to do their job, but more importantly, have spent years learning that they are just a member of a team. So if you want to see a bad-tempered driver berating his mechanics, you'll have to watch club racing.

Any sport demands a great deal of your time to gain proficiency. Mainstream sports such as football, golf and tennis are popular for the very reason that they depend on self-reliance and practice. However, motorsport requires deep knowledge of the equipment and driving techniques, and much is dependent on many: marshals, officials, mechanics, mentors, etc.

So a driver needs to develop great interpersonal communication skills as, without them, he or she is most unlikely to get very far.

For young people, this starts with their families, without whose support the whole idea of motorsport does not even get off the ground. For the "gentleman driver" who has the funding but not the time, he will rely on a team to prepare and run his car at the circuit. And the ambitious young driver in a junior race series with so much to learn will only progress if he can communicate well with the team and his driver coach.

The serious driver, therefore, learns three things very quickly: that they are only as good as their team, that knowledge transfer is both a necessity and an art form, and keeping one's emotions under control is essential.

Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to find an Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.gulf-sport.com or on Facebook at GulfSportRacing. Pole Position appears every week in Motoring.

Published: August 6, 2011 04:00 AM


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