With just over eight weeks until Formula 1’s annual curtain-raiser at the Australian Grand Prix, McLaren Racing’s team is flat-out.
In the gleaming corridors and workshops of the McLaren Technology Centre, the MCL33 race car is the subject of around-the-clock attention as engineers and mechanics race to complete the first new chassis of 2018.
But the team themselves – the men and women who build, maintain, repair, engineer and develop the car – are also preparing for the gruelling year ahead, undertaking cognitive and physical tests to ready them for life on the road.
Last week McLaren Applied put our F1 race team through its paces at Sandhurst Royal Military Academy. It was part of a three-day programme designed to improve on teamwork, develop leaders, and build on the core McLaren values already instilled within the team.
And the training extends to McLaren's star drivers too. Human Performance Coach Eliot Challifour is working with Stoffel Vandoorne in a pre-season training camp in Marbella. You can follow their progress on Twitter as they cycle through the Spanish terrain.
This week, the race team are at McLaren Applied's’ Human Performance Centre working on three aspects to improve their physical development.
Head of Human Performance Michael Collier said:
“In the first year of this programme, we’re looking to optimise the health, strength and wellbeing of the race team – not merely from a team-building and leadership perspective, but for overall wellbeing.
“For the second year, we’ll centre on performance optimisation. The final year will be centred around marginal gains, and that will be on a very individual, bespoke and personalised basis.”
The three aspects of physical development we’re looking at this week include:
Mobility and free movement is fundamental to a race team. Engineers in the garage will need to move quickly between their work station and the pit-wall in order to meet their commitments during a grand prix weekend. The pit crew in particular needs to be incredibly mobile and rehearsed in order to complete a pit-stop in under three seconds.
Tailored training programmes are designed to develop shoulders, hips, knees and thoracic movement. Compared to previous seasons, the emphasis on training this time is to reduce the risk of injury across the duration of the season while still maintaining optimum fitness levels.
Everybody’s anatomy is different. We start by analysing everyone’s individual body mass index (BMI) and then we create tailor-made nutrition, hydration and exercise plans based on the results. Like mobility, the point of this exercise is to help the team maintain an optimal operating level during the season, rather than training them like we would a professional driver.
Isometric exercises, including push ups, planks and standing long jumps, are crucial for building strength in core muscle groups. The stress and strains of changing an 11kg tyre in under three seconds mean the mechanics need a strength and conditioning programme which helps them to deal with the heavy loads during pit-stops.
We like to keep it simple and encourage exercises which requires minimum equipment. This is because the team travel regularly and can therefore complete their programme without difficulty.
Up until the start of the F1 season, McLaren Applied's Human Performance team will continue to work with the race team improve overall mobility, body composition and strength. The aim is to then remotely work with the team to maintain high levels of fitness throughout the duration of the F1 season.