Driver maintenance with Jaguar physio Harris

The man at Jaguar Racing who spends the most time with the drivers is Nick Harris, the team's Welsh-born physio. He is with them not just at races and tests, but also in between, and especially during the winter. Now he has two new charges to take...

The man at Jaguar Racing who spends the most time with the drivers is Nick Harris, the team's Welsh-born physio. He is with them not just at races and tests, but also in between, and especially during the winter. Now he has two new charges to take care of, and so begins the painstaking process of extracting their full potential.

Ironically the driver who first brought science into physical fitness was Niki Lauda, who worked with famous Austrian trainer Willi Dungl. Since then it's become an ever more important role, especially as F1 races are now flat out sprints between pit stops. So what is Nick's day-to-day role?

"I would say I'm in charge of the human performance element of the drivers," says Nick. "I'm actually a physiologist, I'm not a physiotherapist, because I studied how the body functions."

The route to a job in Formula One is rarely straightforward and Harris proved himself in other sports, before getting involved in racing.

"I did a sports science degree at Cardiff University, and after graduating from there I went on to become a programme director with Premium Training, a vocational training organisation. While doing that I began doing an MSc at Bristol University, and I began to work with athletes and professional football players and rugby players."

It was in 1999 that Nick first became interested in getting involved in F1, and he spoke to several teams.

"Racing was something I watched on Sunday afternoon, although I didn't have the passion for it that I had for other sports, maybe because it wasn't accessible. Stewart was the main one that interested me in the summer of 1999, I suppose because Eddie Irvine was going to be joining, and at the time he could have been World Champion.

"I was invited to a test at Monza, and I did some work with Johnny Herbert and Rubens Barrichello - especially Johnny, as he was staying with Jaguar for the following year. It was quite important for me to give feedback on Johnny to the team, and likewise for him to give feedback on me."

As part of the shift to the new Jaguar identity the team wanted a new approach to looking after the drivers.

"The team was quite conscious about taking things to a new level, and that was what I did. I really got to grips with the drivers in November and worked with them through the winter. Johnny was the first to admit that leading up to the 2000 season he was in the best condition he'd ever been in in his career.

"I introduced a more scientific approach to the way things were done, which ultimately increased the performance with the minimum input from them, because time was their most precious commodity."

Close proximity means Harris inevitably develops close relationships with his charges and spends social time with them as well as working together.

"That can be a good thing or a bad thing! You've got to get on. Eddie, for example, was a private person and when he invited you into his home or his aeroplane or his boat, you felt quite privileged and you respected that.

"Now I'm looking forward to working with the new guys, Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia. It's going to be different, of course it is, but we're all professionals and we each know what we've got to do."

Most of Nick's work is done away from the track. He's on hand at races mainly in case a problem crops up -- bodies take a pounding at some tracks -- and to keep an eye on the diet. He also to perform various 'household' tasks that make the drivers' lives easier, anything from holding umbrellas on the grid to making sure they have the right racewear.

"On a race weekend a lot of the preparation work has been completed, and the role switches then to making the driver's life as easy as possible. Obviously you look after the hydration and nutrition element, making sure that they have enough fluids to drink at the right time. Eating the right food at the right time is important.

"I also make sure that overalls, helmets and underwear and whatever else they need to drive the car are at close hand. It's part of the psychology, isn't it? If you can take some of the logistical worries away from the drivers, it's going to be a good thing for them."

-jaguar-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Antonio Pizzonia , Johnny Herbert , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , Niki Lauda
Teams Jaguar Racing