In Formula 1 or other series like GP2 and WEC, generally, many turn their attention to technical aspects. In fact, innovations – mechanical or aerodynamic – designed by engineers and installed on the cars, are the subject most addressed by the sports media and discussed by fans. We get to take a closer look at a particular “human aspect” here with the help of Dr Fred Fernando, Co-founder of Med-Ex, exclusive Medical Partner Company of Scuderia Ferrari.
Driving a modern Formula 1 car requires much more than just driving skills. These are very special and sophisticated vehicles. How to prepare a driver, from the physical and athletic point of view, to achieve such high performance?
Like many sport activities, the ideal training would consist of performing the variety of specific gestures, and in motorsport that would simply mean driving a racing car. This, unfortunately, is not always possible due to excessive costs and regulations. For these reasons, the training programmes of professional pilots mostly consist of cycling, running, weight training, stretching and many hours on the simulator. These activities are aimed to improve aerobic capacity, muscular strength with particular focus on the neck, arms and lower back muscles, coordination and reaction time. In our training camps we also introduce sessions with top level athletes from different sports such as martial arts, boxing, swimming and more, so to be able to vary the usual activities and teach the drivers different training techniques and exchange experiences.
Mental preparation is also crucially important, not just for drivers but for all members of a racing team. It kind of “closes” the connection between the athletic and mental preparation.
Yes, mental training is a very important part of the training programme. The drivers have to cope with dangerous and extreme environments, intensive traveling with continuous jet lag adaptations. All these factors must be handled at their best and therefore biofeedback training, stress management, sleeping techniques are an essential part of the process here.
We’re working hard to introduce new innovative and creative methods to improve drivers’ results every year.
Med-Ex is at the forefront in this area. How did the relationship with Formula 1 start?
Med-Ex is a healthcare company specialised in promotion of primary prevention programmes through sports medicine check-ups and exercise prescription. The concept dates back to 1994 when me and Dr Alessandro Biffi have founded of the company.
Practically, we have blended together our expertise gathered from the medical screening of top-level athletes at the Sports Science Institute of the Italian National Olympic Committee and from the medical support to the Ferrari Formula 1 team. Thanks to this successful experience, our company has developed unique expertise in planning and implementing corporate wellness/healthcare services in companies with the aim to help the aging workforce improve their physical and mental status. We’re thrilled to be the exclusive Medical Partner of the Scuderia.
That must certainly be a challenging relationship but it’s also an optimal arena for Med-Ex, taking into account the valuation methods adopted and the large amount of data detected and analysed.
This is absolutely true. The experience that we have gathered from working with high-end athletes has been analysed, studied and used to implement specific protocols of the automotive industry workforce to improve the professionals’ performance and well-being. This is similar to what happens in motorsport where research and development are frequently transferred to our road cars.
Talking about Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) drivers, what can you tell me of the work that Med-Ex does in terms of preparing them?
Under the supervision of FDA Sporting Director Massimo Rivola, we have a staff of professionals who follow every aspect from physical to mental training. Once the pilots have undergone all medical assessments they are given a training programme and are constantly monitored at home and on track by a highly qualified trainer Andrea Ferrari, whilst all mental preparations are performed by our psychologist Marco Casarotti.
So what’s the near future of Med-Ex?
Med-Ex has the opportunity to work in Formula 1 – a highly technological and dynamic field. This has led our staff to continuously seek for new ways to evaluate and monitor human performance; so we’re working to introduce new innovative and creative methods to improve drivers’ results every year.