Ron Dennis misses a trick

It’s the British Grand Prix 2008. Third phase of the qualifying. It’s Lewis Hamilton’s last chance to get pole.  He’s just had a terrible lap. He ran off the track by pushing too hard. Instead of abandoning the lap he continues on. He wastes a lap of precious petrol and precious time. The pressure is on.

He’s driving out of the pits on the track and his race engineer comes on the radio. And what does he say? “Don’t overdrive.” Amazing!

Hamilton is under immense pressure. He knows he messed up. What he needs is a positive message; positive reinforcement of what he needs to do and can do. “Drive smooth. Use all the track. Hit those apexes. Get on the gas quickly. You can do it.” Instead he gets a negative message that reminds him of all the mistakes he just made.

McLaren spend millions of pounds making the car as fast as possible. They practice pit stops until they are blue in the face. Yet they haven’t thought to give the race engineer; the person that speaks to Lewis and puts messages in his brain at crucial times, basic training in sports psychology.

No wonder he’s fourth on the grid today and looking less than happy in the photo above.

Declaration of interest: I’m a Kiwi and the McLaren team is named after a famous one. I’d quite like them to win.

Putting positive messages in the people’s brains is one of my hobby horses. See my several posts on Brian Ashton’s half time talks and “beans up your nose”. One of them is here <link>.

Update: From the BBC: Lewis Hamilton could not explain why he was nearly a second slower than McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen in qualifying for the British Grand Prix <link>. I can. It’s all in the top six inches and the thoughts you were given at the start of the lap.

Update: Well done Lewis. Brilliant drive.


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