Success In F1 Is Mental As Well As Mechanical

Formula 1 is a pretty predictable sport these days, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen taking to the top step of the podium at almost every race. For young drivers looking to make their mark in F1, this poses all kinds of challenges as hopes of scoring points slip away every weekend. Because of this, ex-racer and Williams advisor Jenson Button believes success in F1 requires mental and mechanical strength.

“It’s not just about driving a car,” 2009 world champion Jenson Button told Jalopnik when we chatted over Zoom. “There’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders.”

This pressure piles onto young drivers like Williams racer Logan Sargeant, who is in his second season with the British team. Now, despite achieving “great things” in his junior career, including race wins in Formula 2 and F3, the American is yet to score a point in 2024 and only managed a best finish of 10th in his debut season.

A photo of Formula 1 driver Jenson Button

Jenson Button is now an advisor to the Williams F1 team.
Photo: Charles Coates (Getty Images)

“It’s very difficult as a driver to have that much confidence when you see the lap times of other drivers, that can put you down very quickly,” explains Button. “Then you’re asked 100 questions of why you’re not as quick as your teammate or the rest of the grid.”

Because of this, Button believes that a driver’s mental strength is just as integral to success in the sport as the fast car beneath them. The key to this isn’t just saying, “Well, I’m just going to drive fast because I know I can do it,” Button says. Instead it’s about learning to enjoy the highs such as a clean qualifying lap, nice overtake or points finish, as that will help build confidence in younger drivers.

“We’re in a sport where you’re gonna have more failures than you are victories. That’s just the way it is in Formula 1,” says Button. “So it’s about enjoying those moments, those highs. It adds up, it gives you confidence and that makes you stronger.”

A photo of American F1 driver Logan Sargeant.

Logan Sargeant needs to learn to celebrate little wins.
Photo: Clive Mason (Getty Images)

Another factor that can instill confidence in new drivers in F1 is spending time with experienced racers and learning from them. Because of this, Button believes his time with Sargeant working on Williams’ “Lap Of Legends” TV special could stand the young American in good stead going forward.

In the show, which has been created in partnership with American brewer Michelob Ultra, Sergeant and Button join F1 champions including Alain Prost, Mario Andretti and Nigel Mansell in a virtual race that pits historic champions and their cars against Sargeant in his current F1 racer.

“I think for Logan to spend time with so many world champions in different eras was really important,” says Button. “I think he learned a lot — that doesn’t change your mindset overnight, but I think it was a positive step for Logan.”

:30s – The First Ever Real vs. Virtual Race | Michelob ULTRA

In the race, data from each driver and their car has been used to create a race that will pit virtual F1 machinery against a real-world Williams F1 car.

“Logan was probably more cautious than expected,” says Button. “But he’s racing against legends, and it was cool. I probably was a bit too aggressive as well, but it was good to see, and there was a good fight all the way through the race.”

The “Lap Of Legends” special will air in May.

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