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How naturally talented are F1 drivers?


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#1 PlatenGlass

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 16:50

We hear a lot about natural talent, but it's difficult to gauge talent levels, for various reasons. E.g. how many people get the opportunity to even aim for F1? How meritocratic is the process? Etc.

 

Firstly we need a scale, and I think it makes sense to use percentiles. So someone born with a talent of 50 would be the median in the population. Half of people are born with more talent, and half with less. 99 means someone is more talented than 99% of the population. And so on. So do you think that F1 drivers are all 99.99+, or maybe in general much lower?

 

I think a few things are worth noting. Relatively very few people get the chance at motorsports, and even amongst those that do, it's not all or nothing. Many people will have the opportunity of some karting experience but not have the funds to do very much and it will be much harder for them to get to the next level up etc.

 

Lots of sons of F1 drivers have made it to F1. Obviously with natural talent it makes senses for this to be genetic, but sons of previous competitors are much more prevalent in F1 than in other sports proportionally. This suggests a relatively closed shop, meaning that talent levels might overall be lower than in other sports.

 

Among those that make it to the top, it's still not necessarily all about natural talent from then on. The training and preparation a driver receives in their formative years is likely to inform their later driving levels. I don't think it's probably a complete coincidence that the two most successful current drivers (Hamilton, Verstappen) are also the two with the fathers best known for helping their careers. Verstappen in particular is likely the best-prepared person ever to have attempted single-seater motor racing. It would also be quite a coincidence if he also happened to be the most talented, or in the top handful even.

 

Ayrton Senna had this anecdote where he was in a kart race in the wet and he was awful. But then next time it rained he went out on the track and practised until he could drive in the wet Great story, but most karters would not have that level of access to just go out and do that.

 

Having said all that, I don't think it's the case that Jos Verstappen could have picked out just any young child and trained them to be a top F1 driver. But I do think a decent proportion probably could have at least made it to F1 even if they could not have become the best.

 

It's difficult to pick out numbers, but I don't think someone has to be a 90 just to make F1 if they have the right opportunities. But if they are a 90, and they get everything, then I think they could be pretty good. If they are a 99, they could be world class. So that's why I don't think the likes of Verstappen, Hamilton and Alonso necessarily need to be higher than 99 to be at the levels they have reached, though of course they might be higher, or even a bit lower. The most talented F1 driver might in any case be a less successful one, but one whose preparation in their formative years wasn't as good.

 

At the other end, someone who had great preparation, but only made it to be a low-level F1 driver might even be a 50 to 60. Perhaps a Mick Schumacher but maybe his preparation was curtailed too much with his father's accident?

 

What do you think?


Edited by PlatenGlass, 22 February 2024 - 16:56.


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#2 Nathan

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 17:06

What are the natural talents?  I suspect many possess many of the combinations, but few ever have the interest to use them for motorsports.  For example, I think drivers and ice hockey players require similar above average skillsets.  You could have all the natural talent specific to motorsports in the world, but if you are a $#it head you likely got nothing.


Edited by Nathan, 22 February 2024 - 17:18.


#3 Leatherface

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 17:43

Good question, I'm guessing motorsports has one of the lowest turnouts of any sports, so, it's difficult to gauge how talented they are. I suppose they have made it through the selection even if the selection isn't as great as something like footballs.

#4 Autodromo

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 17:48

If the drivers I encounter every day on the road are a regular cross-section of driving skill, F1 drivers are certainly in the 99.99 percentile.



#5 Myrvold

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 17:49

We hear a lot about natural talent, but it's difficult to gauge talent levels, for various reasons. E.g. how many people get the opportunity to even aim for F1? How meritocratic is the process? Etc.

 

Firstly we need a scale, and I think it makes sense to use percentiles. So someone born with a talent of 50 would be the median in the population. Half of people are born with more talent, and half with less. 99 means someone is more talented than 99% of the population. And so on. So do you think that F1 drivers are all 99.99+, or maybe in general much lower?

 

It is basically impossible to gauge talent levels in this way. While not F1, when I think of the ones I know that are making a living in racing, there is extremely few that I would've guessed had the skills to do so when we were in karting. Many were never troubling the top half, but as we got older, things got more expensive, they started to make their way up. Yes it might be that they are better the faster you go, but they also had the financial means to keep up with the amount of testing and equipment that were needed, while many who looked way better in younger years fell off.
Now, I know that most F1 drivers have been winning championships at some level in their career, but it's also clear to see that quite a few have a substantial financial backing, or connections that will make that bit easier, like your Verstappens, Sainzs, Strolls, Ericssons etc.
Then there is this perception. Mick Schumacher being son of "The Michael" (thanks Häkkinen!), he would always be compared to his dad, and it would be near impossible to live up to that, and how has his dad's injury affected his preparations. Some are born and bred for this, like Max Verstappen, he has never done anything else. How much of his skills are down to natural talent, and how much is down to an insane amount of preparation and knowledge due to this? Compare to Bruno Senna - who for many only got in to F1 due to his name. However, his career basically stopped in his pre-teens and didn't get going again until he had gotten 21. 2005 was his first serious year in motorsport, and in 2008 he finished second in GP2. Ahead of drivers like Romain Grosjean and Sebastien Buemi. He never got amazing results in F1. But then again, when he ended his F1 career. His racing career up to that point had been shorter than Verstappens pre-F1.
Takuma Sato didn't do any kind of racing until he was 19. When he was 20 he was a national champion in Japan, at 22 he got his first full season in cars, at 24 he won British F3, F3 masters and Macau GP, at 25 he was an F1 driver for Jordan. Yes. He got the drive due to Honda, but he must have a good amount of natural talent to be able to make that move at that time.

 

Elsewhere, Kalle Rovanperä is an amazing driver at his age. But he has been driving cars for much longer than he really is allowed to. He has been better prepared than any other rally driver in history. So it is impossible to say if he is the most talented, or just have so much more experience.

 

Then there is this thing about F1 being very specialized. Well, all branches of motorsport tend to be specialized. NASCAR is something unique. IndyCars at superspeedways demands a particular skillset. F1 does as well. Rally is something completely different again. How can one weigh such things up against each other?

What if Jeff Gordon didn't get lured over to stock car racing, and continued his path towards CART. He was even offered a test by Jackie Stewart to start a career in Europe, but didn't do the test due to being in touch with teams in NASCAR. What's to say that he couldn't become a great F1 driver. He did set some new records in the US, and it was seemingly just financials that meant he wouldn't get to CART.
Or Stephane Sarrazin. Maybe a bit to trusting, he was so sure he would get a Prost seat, and ended up not doing anything for a year. However, he showed talent in F3000. He outqualified both Arrows' and his Minardi teammate in the sudden one-off he got in F1. He switched to rally in 2004, and in his very first year in rally(having done 4 one offs in 9 years), he became French champion and scored a 4th overall in a WRC event. Becoming a Subaru Manufacturer driver for 2005 and 2006. He combined that with a factory Aston Martin ride in ALMS&Le Mans before moving to Peugeot in LMS, scoring multiple Le Mans podiums, over LMS title and finishing on the overall podium of Rally Monte Carlo in the off-season. That must be a lot of natural talent?

Mattias Ekström and Johan Kristofferson as well. Champions on asphalt circuits and on mixed surfaces. Class winners in rally, podiums in lower classes in WRC rallies etc. What if those drivers had all the backing of Stroll to focus on one specific series, or the push of Verstappen Sr?

Not to forget Sebastien Loeb. Now, he never won anything outside of pure rally (I am adding Extreme E to "rally"). However, with the exception of two efforts at Le Mans (where one was 2nd overall) he didn't move away from rally until he was 39. That might be a bit too late for a "rebrand". Though, he did win races in FIA GT and WTCC (and World RX). And obviously came back to WRC in 2022, winning at Monte Carlo at the age of 46. There must be quite a lot of talent in the old gymnast!

 

In the end I guess it is all going to be very subjective.

 

I think we have som great talents in F1, but I also think there are just as many outside F1 that is as good, or maybe even better, but they had different interests, goals, or opportunities. 



#6 Countersteer

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 18:43

Max Verstappen is the best sim racer in the world when he wants to be.

#7 Sterzo

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 20:20

Lots of interesting thoughts in the opening post, and I think it's that kind of a subject - we can sort of wander through it, without really having any basis for coming up with an answer.

 

Racing drivers tend to come from a limited number of countries. That tends to confirm the idea that many people with talent don't ever take part. I've met a number of UK club-level race winners just by turning up at work; I doubt that would happen in Burundi or Tibet.



#8 eab

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 20:54

Max could achieve world peace, and stop hunger. If he wants to.



#9 William Hunt

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 21:07

Much more important is: start as young as possible on karts, and train A LOT. Training, hard working and the ability to constantly learn and also the ability to reflect and try things differently: those are key factors. What people call talent is often the equivalent of starting very young and learning at a very young age. Because you can be born with the right body and you may have important skills like concentration, reaction time... but it means nothing if you start much too late since you will be way too far behind and these days you can't make up for that anymore, times have changed a lot. You have to be proffessional at a very young age if you want to make it but more importantly is that you need the right structure behind you, a driver coach as well. Max became so good exactly because he started so young and because his dad forced him to train much harder and longer as many of the other kids he raced against. That makes the difference in the end.


Edited by William Hunt, 22 February 2024 - 21:08.


#10 aportinga

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 21:11

This is funny because I just watched an interview with a McLaren Engineer who said that Senna would provide a ton of stats/data and so on from his drives that would help the team develop the car around him. However he also said that of the two (Mika and Senna), that Mika was the more naturally gifted driver.



#11 vlado

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 21:16

Extremely.

#12 AustinF1

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 21:57

What are the natural talents?  I suspect many possess many of the combinations, but few ever have the interest to use them for motorsports.  For example, I think drivers and ice hockey players require similar above average skillsets.  You could have all the natural talent specific to motorsports in the world, but if you are a $#it head you likely got nothing.

This is what I've always thought. The most gifted driver in the world could be a truck driver or whatever, who never turns a lap on a racetrack in their life. Also, many who have supreme talents and would actually like to race never get anywhere because they lack the funds, connections, or knowledge of how to acquire the funds and/or connections that are required to advance up the motorsport food chain.


Edited by AustinF1, 22 February 2024 - 21:58.


#13 TomNokoe

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 22:06

The sample size of professional race drivers is too small for me to believe they are "born" to do it. I think it's a combination of learned muscle memory / training from a very young age and hard work.

Edited by TomNokoe, 22 February 2024 - 23:07.


#14 Autodromo

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 23:04

This is what I've always thought. The most gifted driver in the world could be a truck driver or whatever, who never turns a lap on a racetrack in their life. Also, many who have supreme talents and would actually like to race never get anywhere because they lack the funds, connections, or knowledge of how to acquire the funds and/or connections that are required to advance up the motorsport food chain.

What is funny to me is to see some professional athletes (drivers) who are sooooo uncoordinated in just about any other sport.  I remember watching one of those "greatest races" types of shows and some person who is a professional climber or swimmer or whatever sometimes could barely ride a bicycle or other activities outside of their profession.  

 

Others, of course, are amazing all-around athletes.  I tend to believe if someone had the right physical and mental aptitude to be a top-level F1 driver, they'd be excelling in something even if it wasn't driving. 



#15 Leatherface

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 00:09

The sample size of professional race drivers is too small for me to believe they are "born" to do it. I think it's a combination of learned muscle memory / training from a very young age and hard work.


That's what I basically said, motorsports likely gets one of the lowest turnouts of any sport, so, the best are the best from a relatively small sample size.

Fair enough, the cream rises to the top, but the selection is nothing like football for example. Like me, I've never really driven karts competitively but given the chance I reckon I would beat Verstappen and Lewis by at least a second a lap.

#16 Leatherface

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 00:11

What is funny to me is to see some professional athletes (drivers) who are sooooo uncoordinated in just about any other sport. I remember watching one of those "greatest races" types of shows and some person who is a professional climber or swimmer or whatever sometimes could barely ride a bicycle or other activities outside of their profession.

Others, of course, are amazing all-around athletes. I tend to believe if someone had the right physical and mental aptitude to be a top-level F1 driver, they'd be excelling in something even if it wasn't driving.


The worst who usually takes part in these shows are boxers, makes sense when you think about it because they are normally retired when they take part, taking blows to the head isn't good for you at all, plus they tend to let themselves go when they retire.

#17 balmybaldwin

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 00:23

There are basic physiological "Talents" that are purely natural (intelligence, depth perception, hand eye coordination, reaction speeds, physical size etc), other than that it's all about training and famailiarity (the earlier the better), but I think there are other important factors too that probably have more impact on getting to the top rung.

 

“Excellence is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice. We do not act ‘rightly because we are “excellent’, in fact we achieve ‘excellence’ by acting ‘rightly.”- Plato

 

 

The Mental aspect of performance is in my opinion the big one. The ability to endure pain in training for a future prize you may never get and the ability to maintain the faith.

 

I'm a decent sportsman, and have been good at sports I've turned my hand to, but I don't have the drive or obsessiveness to push myself to perform to the max.and it's probably that which makes someone top rung.

 

Of course the mindset bit can also be trained, although not always effectively.

 

It makes you wonder what talents of yesteryear could have achieved with today's level of preparation and training


Edited by balmybaldwin, 23 February 2024 - 00:25.


#18 FirstnameLastname

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 00:23

When you consider the margins in F1… it can boggle the mind. Most of the lap time gaps between team mates, you’d struggle to clap your hands together twice in the space of. Yet one can be considered a total failure over that loss of lap time over a minute and a half.

Even a slow car with a slow driver is bloody fast - 2 seconds over a 90second lap is an age in F1 - but that’s the recommended gap between two cars on a motorway, it’s an absolutely tiny gap in reality - but F1 makes it seem massive

Edited by FirstnameLastname, 23 February 2024 - 00:24.


#19 MKSixer

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 03:09

What is funny to me is to see some professional athletes (drivers) who are sooooo uncoordinated in just about any other sport.  I remember watching one of those "greatest races" types of shows and some person who is a professional climber or swimmer or whatever sometimes could barely ride a bicycle or other activities outside of their profession.  

 

Others, of course, are amazing all-around athletes.  I tend to believe if someone had the right physical and mental aptitude to be a top-level F1 driver, they'd be excelling in something even if it wasn't driving. 

It wasn't long ago that racing drivers were in this category.  Until MSC, fitness wasn't a top priority, I'm talking to you Alan Jones and a few others.  I remember a certain driver attempting to throw a punch at another driver which would have embarrassed the most uncoordinated 7th grader on the playground.  And don't even talk about the relatively short time ago when quite a few US drivers were part of the 50-50-50 club. (50 years old, 50 lbs overweight and a 50 inch waist.)  Racing has come a long way as far as fitness and health are concerned.  



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#20 KWSN - DSM

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 03:58

All of them 99% or higher.

 

They are in F1 because they are the best drivers in the world, there are examples of sons who could not emulate the success of their fathers, being in the 99% will still only leave you at level with 70 million other people.



#21 chdphd

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 08:09

People of a certain age may remember Jody Scheckter kicking ass in the TV show Superstars where people from all sorts of sports competed in a variety of events. He won the world title in 1981.

 

https://en.wikipedia...ne,_Florida,_US


Edited by chdphd, 23 February 2024 - 08:09.


#22 Ruusperi

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 08:35

I agree with others. Talent is a combination of practice, innate ability to process sensory information and psychological resilience. And they all affect each other, so better reflexes boost motivation, which makes training easier, which in turn improves eye-hand coordination and muscle memory and so forth. But it means it can go the opposite way: mere reflexes won't matter without motivation, and without motivation the person doesn't want to practice, which dulls the reflexes etc.

 

Obviously beyond talent there is environmental conditions and luck. If you happen to born deafblind or in North Korea, tough luck. But fortunately there are other career paths than becoming an F1 driver.  ;)



#23 7MGTEsup

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 08:36

If the drivers I encounter every day on the road are a regular cross-section of driving skill, F1 drivers are certainly in the 99.99 percentile.

 

It's a completely different skill set to be an observant proficient driver on the road and drive fast around a track. Some racing drivers are terrible road drivers.



#24 Sterzo

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 09:53


“Excellence is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice. We do not act ‘rightly because we are “excellent’, in fact we achieve ‘excellence’ by acting ‘rightly.”- Plato

 

I had no idea Jason was a talented philosopher.



#25 Collombin

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 10:02

People of a certain age may remember Jody Scheckter kicking ass in the TV show Superstars where people from all sorts of sports competed in a variety of events. He won the world title in 1981


Vaguely, I think he was the exception though. I remember Bernie having to be corrected in an early 1982 interview when he specifically claimed that no racing driver had ever won it.

#26 F1Frog

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 11:03

I had no idea Jason was a talented philosopher.


‘He drove like a t**t, I’m afraid’ - Plato

#27 AlexPrime

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 12:02

The Plato jokes are killing me  :rotfl: 
 



#28 Gravelngrass

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 14:12

If we understand “naturally talented” as talent at birth, one could argue that sons of ex-drivers could potentially be more naturally talented than the rest because they’d have a higher probability of inheriting racing-related skills (great eye-hand coordination, reflexes, etc.). But then, of course, nurture also plays its part; as many have said here, the probabilities of being good or great at something are correlated with how young you start with something and how hard you train. So the aliens must have a mixture of optimal nature and nurture. Having said that, I think F1 doesn’t require too specific a type of athlete, as, for example, the high jump, and the skills are not so rare (a non-driver son could also naturally have them). So IMO, in F1 nurture counts more than nature compared to other sports, but is more important in most sports anyway.

Edited by Gravelngrass, 23 February 2024 - 14:13.


#29 man

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 20:26

It speaks volumes that Damon Hill, who had his first 4 wheel race at the age of 24-ish? was able to fairly beat drivers who had been karting since they were toddlers.

#30 noikeee

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Posted 23 February 2024 - 20:47

F1 drivers are very talented but they come from a ridiculously small pool (fewer and fewer and fewer people have the insane money needed to try karting competitively, nevermind progressing from there), and are freakishly over trained compared to some of their peers who didn't have the money to keep up over the years - specially those in the bottom half of the grid.

I'd say the top 12-15 F1 drivers are insanely talented, but the rest ehhhh are mildly talented and really no different or sometimes worse than the frontrunners of WEC/FE/Indy/even things like GT series.

Edited by noikeee, 23 February 2024 - 20:48.


#31 KWSN - DSM

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 06:18

F1 drivers are very talented but they come from a ridiculously small pool (fewer and fewer and fewer people have the insane money needed to try karting competitively, nevermind progressing from there), and are freakishly over trained compared to some of their peers who didn't have the money to keep up over the years - specially those in the bottom half of the grid.

I'd say the top 12-15 F1 drivers are insanely talented, but the rest ehhhh are mildly talented and really no different or sometimes worse than the frontrunners of WEC/FE/Indy/even things like GT series.

 

Yup.



#32 ArnageWRC

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 10:45

They're no more talented than drivers in other disciplines........but the constant narrative is they're the Elite. It's similar in cycling where the roadies are viewed as the best......but they're not.......send them down Hardline and see how good they are.....



#33 Alfisti

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 14:47

Other than the freaks of nature (alonso/max/lewis/Michael etc) I absolutely believe the better gt or touring car drivers would be just as good as a gasly or ocon. Shane vangisbergen, gounon etc...these guys can hustle.

#34 KWSN - DSM

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 15:25

Other than the freaks of nature (alonso/max/lewis/Michael etc) I absolutely believe the better gt or touring car drivers would be just as good as a gasly or ocon. Shane vangisbergen, gounon etc...these guys can hustle.

 

Yes and no.

 

Brendon Hartley - Very much expected by many to move into F1 as part of the Red Bull tree, was dropped, floundered a little, became a star WEC driver, made it to F1 and was nothing special - Now have  Le Mans wins on the CV, and must be considered one of the premier WEC drivers in the world - I would at any time expect Ocon and Gasly to beat him in a head to head racing in F1.

 

There are many, many drivers like Hartley, meaning very, very, very good - But just not quite good enough when racing in F1, Bourdais and Zanardi would fall there as well, considering their exploits outside F1, they showed how in F1 they were not quite there

 

On the other side are those we would expect to have been very good F1 drivers, had they ever made it there - Walter Rohrl, Tom Kristensen, Sebastian Loeb.



#35 George Costanza

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 17:30

Natural talent is getting in the car and you are immediately quick. Ayrton Senna's test for Williams in 1983 is a good example of that. You can't teach talent. Either you have it or don't. Same with Michael Schumacher in 1991 for Jordan. He was immediately quick. Same goes for Fernando in 2001 and Kim in 2001, both were immediately quick. Max is in the same category... He was immediately quick. Lewis in 2007 same thing. He was immediately fast. Same for Alain Prost in 1980.

Now who is the most naturally talented driver ever in F1? I think that is difficult to answer but I would say Ayrton Senna is at the top of the list for Formula 1.

But I personally think the most talented driver ever is Mario Andretti. He was fast in everything. Everything and he won too. His record speaks for itself. We won't see that happen again... Can you imagine Max doing what Mario did? Probably not.

Edited by George Costanza, 24 February 2024 - 17:47.


#36 George Costanza

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 17:31

It speaks volumes that Damon Hill, who had his first 4 wheel race at the age of 24-ish? was able to fairly beat drivers who had been karting since they were toddlers.


Damon was very talented indeed. He really was. Damon should have won another world championship. Had he stayed in 1997 at Williams, he perhaps would have won.

Edited by George Costanza, 24 February 2024 - 17:45.


#37 Myrvold

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 20:10

Yes and no.

 

Brendon Hartley - Very much expected by many to move into F1 as part of the Red Bull tree, was dropped, floundered a little, became a star WEC driver, made it to F1 and was nothing special - Now have  Le Mans wins on the CV, and must be considered one of the premier WEC drivers in the world - I would at any time expect Ocon and Gasly to beat him in a head to head racing in F1.

 

There are many, many drivers like Hartley, meaning very, very, very good - But just not quite good enough when racing in F1, Bourdais and Zanardi would fall there as well, considering their exploits outside F1, they showed how in F1 they were not quite there

 

On the other side are those we would expect to have been very good F1 drivers, had they ever made it there - Walter Rohrl, Tom Kristensen, Sebastian Loeb.

 

I would also expect Ocon and Gasly to beat Hartley head to head in F1.

 

Put Hartley, Ocon, Gasly and Tom Blomqvist in a Porsche Supercup car, or maybe a TCR car, and I am not convinced it will be the same.

 

I mean, it's not like the F1 guys that went to DTM dominated. And while I know they might've been a bit over the top by the time they went there, it's not like they were 60. You could sorta see it the year Albon and Lawson did DTM as well.

 

Maybe some of the drivers wouldn't be as good as others in F1, but the same (but opposite in terms of driver strength) might happen in GT racing. Making it quite hard to have an idea of natural and big talent.



#38 Leatherface

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 20:24

Natural talent is getting in the car and you are immediately quick. Ayrton Senna's test for Williams in 1983 is a good example of that. You can't teach talent. Either you have it or don't. Same with Michael Schumacher in 1991 for Jordan. He was immediately quick. Same goes for Fernando in 2001 and Kim in 2001, both were immediately quick. Max is in the same category... He was immediately quick. Lewis in 2007 same thing. He was immediately fast. Same for Alain Prost in 1980.

Now who is the most naturally talented driver ever in F1? I think that is difficult to answer but I would say Ayrton Senna is at the top of the list for Formula 1.

But I personally think the most talented driver ever is Mario Andretti. He was fast in everything. Everything and he won too. His record speaks for itself. We won't see that happen again... Can you imagine Max doing what Mario did? Probably not.


I could actually see Max dominating other categories if he entered them.

#39 PlatenGlass

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 20:55

A related question is - if Jos couldn't have children, how many would he have had to adopt (essentially at random) to find someone he could train to Max level? How many just to be an F1 driver?

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#40 PlatenGlass

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 20:57

Natural talent is getting in the car and you are immediately quick. Ayrton Senna's test for Williams in 1983 is a good example of that. You can't teach talent. Either you have it or don't. Same with Michael Schumacher in 1991 for Jordan. He was immediately quick. Same goes for Fernando in 2001 and Kim in 2001, both were immediately quick. Max is in the same category... He was immediately quick. Lewis in 2007 same thing. He was immediately fast. Same for Alain Prost in 1980.

Now who is the most naturally talented driver ever in F1? I think that is difficult to answer but I would say Ayrton Senna is at the top of the list for Formula 1.

But I personally think the most talented driver ever is Mario Andretti. He was fast in everything. Everything and he won too. His record speaks for itself. We won't see that happen again... Can you imagine Max doing what Mario did? Probably not.

These were people who already had years of training in other cars though. Maybe they just had the right preparation that allowed them to be immediately quick in F1.

#41 balmybaldwin

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 20:58

They're no more talented than drivers in other disciplines........but the constant narrative is they're the Elite. It's similar in cycling where the roadies are viewed as the best......but they're not.......send them down Hardline and see how good they are.....

Yes, many more MTBrs hve had success in road and track disciplines than the other way round.  There are many road cyclists who ae essentially just engines and their bike handling skills don't compare well to a 9yr old BMXer



#42 Autodromo

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Posted 24 February 2024 - 22:57

Not to get too sidetracked, but of the thousands of years of human history, we've only had race drivers for the last 140 years or so.  I wonder who we missed in those other millennia!?

 

I was thinking the other day about how lucky we are that Jimmy Page was not born 100 years earlier.  World history is full of people who possessed right skills at the right place and the right time to make a huge impact, but it is also certain that history is littered with people born before or after the time for their amazing skill, or in the wrong place/situation.



#43 renzmann

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Posted 25 February 2024 - 11:53

Hard to say. Verstappen, for example, started at a very early age and put a lot of hours into his career, so who knows? To be sure if a driver is naturally talented, you'd have to see a very skilled driver who is known to be absolutely lazy.

 

What might be telling though is stories of drivers' debuts. Many times, we hear stories like "In his very first kart race, he finished first. That's where dad thought...". I guess that's natural talent. Similarly, if a driver enters a new championship and impresses right away, if he's fast in the new car immediately, if he clocks great laps at the very start of FP1, that's hints towards talent IMO. I don't think you can train that skill.



#44 absinthedude

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Posted 25 February 2024 - 12:06

The ability has to be there for it to ever come out....clearly (despite some current theories), not everyone is born with the abilities to be an F1 driver. Additionally, some have to work at it more to bring out those abilities. Graham and Damon Hill come to mind. Whereas some jump into a kart and are naturals.

 

As a brief example of abilities involved.....a few years ago I had the chance to work with people who helped both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton hone their reaction times at McLaren. It was part of a "staff bonding exercise" at my place of employment, which has nothing to do with motorsport. But as a benchmark, they measured us all for reaction times in hitting various buttons which lit up at random. Only one person got close to the WDC's....and it was me. In fact I scored very close to Lewis and Jenson. Next up was a music teacher. And it turns out that being trained musicians helps with reaction times. Though I actually cannot drive, so I'd never be a racing driver. There are other talents/abilities that I do not have. Like a sense of direction. I have none. I know Left from Right in terms of putting on shoes, but I cannot navigate. Though that ability comes to me when I am drunk...obviously no help for driving!

 

Most of us do, however, have some skill that seems to come easily when others find it difficult. I bet most of you can tie knots, at least easy things like shoelaces. I can't. And it's not for want of trying to learn. On the other hand, I cannot conceive of how the average human cannot use a fully manual camera. I mastered it aged four. Drivers like Moss, Clark, Stewart, Senna, Prost, Schumacher, Hamilton, Max Verstappen probably don't know how they do it. Stewart and Moss talked at length about this. Stewart was also of the opinion that Clark was totally unaware of how superior he was to pretty much everyone else because he didn't feel he was doing anything special....a bit like my flying manual with cameras. I cannot begin to conceive the rest of humanity needs teaching, and many can't even master it when taught. Ergo I could never teach photography myself. 



#45 Collombin

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Posted 25 February 2024 - 12:14

Stewart was also of the opinion that Clark was totally unaware of how superior he was to pretty much everyone else because he didn't feel he was doing anything special


Clark was certainly aware of his superiority, and could quickly take offence at slights about his driving (whether real or imagined), but probably didn't know WHY it seemed to come so easily to him.

The genuinely bemused "why is everyone else driving so slowly?" quote dates from the 1950s. By 1963 he knew exactly how good he was.

#46 Dutchrudder

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Posted 25 February 2024 - 12:20

Yes and no.

Brendon Hartley - Very much expected by many to move into F1 as part of the Red Bull tree, was dropped, floundered a little, became a star WEC driver, made it to F1 and was nothing special - Now have Le Mans wins on the CV, and must be considered one of the premier WEC drivers in the world - I would at any time expect Ocon and Gasly to beat him in a head to head racing in F1.

There are many, many drivers like Hartley, meaning very, very, very good - But just not quite good enough when racing in F1, Bourdais and Zanardi would fall there as well, considering their exploits outside F1, they showed how in F1 they were not quite there

On the other side are those we would expect to have been very good F1 drivers, had they ever made it there - Walter Rohrl, Tom Kristensen, Sebastian Loeb.

I would think that some of these guys coming from a different class are at a significant disadvantage in terms of the amount and consistency of sim time they are given before jumping into the car for real, obviously nobody is getting much real testing opportunity these days, but coming from the F2 structure you are used to the tyre manufacturer and most come through very much tied to a driver programme with tons of sim work. Jumping in from sports cars/rallying etc must be a completely different kettle of fish, and whilst being a rookie in F1 is always sink or swim, the older guys coming from sports cars seem to get even less slack than the hotshoes from the lower formulas.

#47 Sterzo

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Posted 27 March 2024 - 17:39

There's a good article on the BBC website which includes interviews with a few F1 race engineers. The connection with this thread is a little tenuous, but a good working relationship with a race engineer is a factor, along with talent, in a driver's success. And I didn't think it quite warranted a new thread.

 

The journalist's introductory paragraphs aren't great, but the quotations are defintely worth reading.

 

https://www.bbc.co.u...rmula1/68597260



#48 PayasYouRace

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Posted 31 March 2024 - 12:20

It speaks volumes that Damon Hill, who had his first 4 wheel race at the age of 24-ish? was able to fairly beat drivers who had been karting since they were toddlers.


Damon often gets characterised as the less talented driver who made up for it with hard work. But when you put it like that, it indeed speak volumes.

Speak to any amateur driver and they’ll talk about just how good the professionals really are, but as fans, we pick apart that top 1%.

#49 AlexPrime

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Posted 31 March 2024 - 12:42

There's a good article on the BBC website which includes interviews with a few F1 race engineers. The connection with this thread is a little tenuous, but a good working relationship with a race engineer is a factor, along with talent, in a driver's success. And I didn't think it quite warranted a new thread.

 

The journalist's introductory paragraphs aren't great, but the quotations are defintely worth reading.

 

https://www.bbc.co.u...rmula1/68597260

Wonderful article. Had no idea that race engineers and drivers are so close. :up:



#50 RacingFan10

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Posted 31 March 2024 - 14:00

Obviously it is a sport for privileged, if you have a rich father, or a famous racing father, you have a lot more chances to get into F1. If you don't, you must be supremely talented.

 

However the sons of racing drivers need to be talented aswell... You can be a Max Verstappen, a Nico Rosberg, a Carlos Sainz Jr, but also you can be a Mick Schumacher, a Nelson Piquet Jr, or a Nico Prost.