SINGAPORE — Hidden in their helmets and car seats, it can be difficult to tell how much physical and mental stress Formula One drivers are experiencing whenever they race.
But one cannot pilot a race car at speeds of up to 330kmh around winding tracks without being in supreme physical shape, as well as having the ability to stay completely in focus for nearly two hours of racing.
Undoubtedly, the select few who compete in F1 each season have to undergo extensive physical and mental preparations in order to hurtle their race cars around the world - not least of all, two-time reigning champion Max Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez from top constructor side Oracle Red Bull Racing.
Verstappen, 25, has been on a tear this F1 season, winning 12 out of the 15 races so far. Perez has won two before last weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, underscoring the exceptional levels the drivers have reached this year.
While they continued to be excellent on the tracks during the F1 Singapore Grand Prix weekend, they were also active on the sidelines of the race. Both of them gamely took part in a unique challenge at Jewel Changi Airport on Thursday (14 September), racing on motorised cleaning carts around a specially-constructed indoor track.
How have they managed to keep in tip-top physical and mental shape all season? Yahoo Southeast Asia chatted with both Verstappen and Perez following their cleaning-cart challenge:
How do you cope with the stress and demands of being the leader of the standings all season?
Verstappen: I don't really look at it like that. For me, I'm just enjoying what I'm doing. Of course, you want to win, you want to try and be the best. But I think as long as you enjoy what you do, and what you're achieving together with the team, then for me, there's no real stress factor to it.
Sergio, how do you manage your emotions and mental state, especially when you're competing against your teammate?
Perez: Yeah, it's a good point. As an athlete, everyone is different, but what you have to make sure is that you are able to focus on things that really require your time and your energy.
Don't focus too much on what people say about you. Sometimes there are comments that you can really take on board, but sometimes you have to let it go. Make sure that you focus on the things that make you a better athlete.
These days, I think as an athlete connected with the social media world, it has become a lot harder, because there is a lot of (criticisms) out there that we are able to see constantly. That's something that we got to be aware of, to make sure we are able to stay away from that, because that doesn't bring any more performance to you.
What mental qualities do you think is needed for to become a to F1 driver?
Verstappen: Everyone is very different in their approach. For me, the way I approach is to be just very relaxed, and actually not really think about Formula One too much when I'm at home.
Perez: Yeah, (coping with) mental stress is a lot harder these days, not just for athletes but for people in general. The world has changed a lot, and these days, it's very important to be able to recognise the mental issues and make sure that you are able to stay away from that.
Do you have a favourite way of keeping yourself relaxed and free of stress in between the races?
Verstappen: I think what is important is just to spend time with family and friends as much as you can, and enjoy your hobbies a little bit. Again, you can't really do a lot in between races anyway, when you're travelling so much. But yeah, just quality time with with good people.
Perez: Yes, I have my family, I have my life outside of the sport. And that's something that really helped me out a lot.
How does your team help you be in tip-top condition throughout the season?
Verstappen: Over the years, you know a bit more about yourself as well your body what you need to know to be to be fit for Formula One. But of course, I also have my own physio, my own trainer, to be on top of that. So we have very dedicated schedules throughout the year when we are working out. Since I started Formula One, it has been like that.
Are there any public misconceptions about F1 drivers that you find annoying?
Verstappen: To be honest, I know what it takes to be in Formula One. And of course, to an outsider, they don't understand fully. But that's fine, everyone has their own opinion. For me, it's not something that I really worry about.
Perez: I think, with any athlete in the world, it's very easy to judge from the outside, but you don't really know what he's been dealing with on the other side.
Is there a question from the media that you have become tired of answering?
Verstappen: Broadly speaking, just every single race weekend answering questions about the upcoming race. It's always very repetitive, you know.
Perez: For me, it's the amount of media questions we have to go through. It's a sport that is exposed a lot to the media, and so we have to deal with lots of questions after every qualifying, every race.
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