(Photo illustration by Jake Weir/B&W Staff)

Edit desk: Lessons from Formula 1 we can apply to our own lives


Mannan Mehta

Since the age of 10, I have been obsessed with Formula 1. 

The technology, speed, unpredictability, glamour, glory of winning and heartbreak of losing all contribute to my infatuation with F1. The sport is as much about the driver as it is about the car, and what may look like a one-man job to the undiscerning eye is actually a team effort occurring over countless hours by hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals to ensure that everything is in place come race day.

Whether or not you care for motorsports, there are three aspects of F1 that I believe translate into universally applicable lessons. 

Learn to appreciate the present

All tracks on the F1 calendar contain at least one long straight. Drivers barrel down these straights at speeds in excess of 200mph, their surroundings flashing by in a blur. They are locked in, not lifting off of the throttle for even a split second, braking as late as possible as they approach an impending corner. Too often, we can all find ourselves living at 200mph, waiting to see what is around the bend, rather than appreciating the straight for what it is. The inability to recognize the present only comes back to haunt us later, as we regret not making more of the opportunities that surrounded us at that given moment. 

We could all benefit from slowing down and living in the present. I have historically struggled to live life day for day and view the little things for what they are, rather than as obstacles in the way of something greater. As I make a conscious effort to slow down, however, I become more patient and less anxious about the future. In turn, this gives me greater peace of mind. 

Forgive yourself for making mistakes and move on  

Unforced errors occur from time to time in F1. Get on the throttle too early coming out of a corner, and a driver runs the risk of losing control of the car. Sometimes they catch the rear-end, regain their composure and continue. Other times, they become a passenger as the car slides off the track and into a gravel trap or a wall, resulting in a DNF (did not finish). All of the effort that has gone into the race weekend has vanished in an instant, but the driver must move on. The longer they dwell on it, the more energy wasted trying to undo what cannot be undone.

Mistakes hurt, especially when others are also counting on us to deliver. The only thing that can be done is to take note of your shortcomings and use them to your advantage the next time around. From experience, I have learned that being overly harsh on myself only kills my confidence, subsequently leading me to overthink everything, which is detrimental in the long run. 

Come to terms with events out of your control 

At the start of the race, 20 drivers line up on the grid within close proximity of each other. Everyone is hoping to get off the line well and will fight to gain positions as they head toward the first corner. Because the cars are so tightly packed together, incidents are common during this time. A driver might be minding his own business, only to get rear-ended by another driver who failed to brake in time. 

An overwhelming sense of helplessness takes over when you have done everything right, but events out of your control keep you from being where you want to be. When we make mistakes, we can blame ourselves and grow from them. When external factors get in the way, it is easy to shut down and feel a sense of resentment toward the world for our bad fortune. 

There will come a day when you will be able to look back on the event in question that did not go as planned. While you may still harbor disappointment that things failed to work out, you can move on with the knowledge that your life continued and the Earth kept turning. Do your best to prevent external factors from affecting you and try to look out for them, then leave the rest to chance.   

Mannan Mehta is an associate news editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]


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1 Comment

  1. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    “Whether or not you care for motorsports, there are three aspects of F1 that I believe translate into universally applicable lessons. ” Challenge accepted; You were right Mannan.

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