Ability versus Mindset

This post isn’t about comparing Lewis and Valtteri’s skills, or discussing whether Valtteri can beat Lewis on merit. This post is about resilience. Because if there is one thing you need in order to race at the highest level, it is the unwavering conviction that you can be a champion. Otherwise, you may as well go home. So looking at this from a behavioural perspective, I saw a man who took ownership of the situation, showed flexibility in dealing with unexpected circumstances, and used these skills to secure a win.

In the end, this all comes down to the basics of how our brain functions under pressure. When confronted with unexpected changes, our brains will always be triggered to produce a stress response. The true test lies in how we (sub)consciously frame this stress response. Stress itself is neutral. It doesn’t have an opinion. The only reason we even have a stress response is to alert us to the fact that something relevant is happening that we need to act upon. What our reaction will be, is determined by whether we frame that stress as a threat, or as a challenge.

Valtteri is pushed to perform at the top of his abilities every single race. For him, the ability to frame all of this as a challenge instead of a threat is crucial. People who have a challenge-interpretation of stress show a number of skills that we know contribute to peak performance. Creativity, by quickly coming up with solutions to unexpected situations. Flexibility, by adapting to constantly changing circumstances. Ownership, by focusing on whatever is withing their circle of influence and acting on it. And courage, by taking risks and trying new things.

Valtteri regularly takes pole position, and he has consistently shown the ability to win races. Being up against Lewis Hamilton, who is well on his way to becoming the most successful driver in the history of the sport, obviously isn’t a walk in the park. But to say that he is overconfident in addressing the critics after securing a win simply doesn’t make sense. Valtteri wants to be a world champion. As does Lewis, and every single one of those twenty drivers on the grid. These drivers all know how to drive an F1 car. They all have the ability to go fast. This is why the key to the championship is not in ability. It’s in mindset.