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The line between Success and failure - dealing with disappointment in Formula 1

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The line between Success and failure - dealing with disappointment in Formula 1
Jun 3, 2016, 8:16 AM

Racing drivers are emotional creatures, for all that they like to portray themselves as steely and mentally resilient.

Racing drivers are emotional creatures, for all that they like to portray themselves as steely and mentally resilient.

And at the pinnacle of F1 the stakes are so high, with victories and championships to be won, no wonder that some times they find it hard to contain their emotions.

Dealing with disappointment is a fundamental part of being a sportsman. Parking a set back and moving on is an important skill. While the many bad days make the good days feel that much more special.

Hamilton Monaco 2016

Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton were an interesting case study in dealing with disappointment, with equal and opposite Saturdays and Sundays in Monaco. But Hamilton came away with the trophy.

And instead of coming out with the usual platitudes about a team 'winning and losing together' they said 90% of what they felt. Luckily for them and for their ongoing relationship with their respective teams, they held back the 10%. But it was still refreshing to hear the candour and it tells us something very clearly about both men.

Daniel Ricciardo

On Saturday, the Australian Red Bull driver pulled out one of the best laps seen in recent years at Monaco to qualifying in Q2 on the Supersoft and then another gem for pole in Q3. His bright smile illuminated the Monaco harbour.

Hamilton in contrast was at a loss to understand another technical problem in qualifying which had compromised his performance and put him third on the grid.

On Sunday the roles were reversed and it was Hamilton the victor, who was thanking God and leaping off his car, while Ricciardo was telling his team that "nothing you can say now will make it any better," after they cost him the win with a botched pit stop.

He could not hide his disappointment, nor could he stop himself from criticising the team for 'screwing' him for a second race in a row.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton faced the same demons after qualifying; trying to restrain himself from saying something that Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe would take serious exception to, while at the same time getting across his deep sense of disappointment.

On Saturday I was in the TV interview pen when Hamilton was reflecting on his disappointment at yet another technical problem on his car, which had prevented him from capturing the all important pole position. Asked whether this strong of problems was "acceptable" Hamilton replied,

"If I kept messing up my laps all the time then that would not be acceptable.

"It's not a great feeling for me. The other car (Rosberg's) keeps going and going. I was quickest today, the weekend has gone great, but just when it counts something seems to happen. This is becoming the norm for me. "

A scant 24 hours later, compare that with Ricciardo's language, "Two races in a row, two races in a row. That’s all I can say. We were quick in the wet, we had a comfortable lead, pitted for inters, got stuck behind Lewis and we just effectively put ourselves in a race we didn’t need to be into.

"Then I got called into the pits for the slicks and the tyres weren’t ready. I didn’t make the call. I didn't make the late call.

"I got to the pits and everyone’s running around like headless ‘chooks’. Massively, massively disappointed.

"I’m not sure where to go from here, what to do. Obviously they’ve got to understand what’s going on and learn from it but this win I’ll never get back, that’s a fact."

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 07.39.19

Ricciardo wanted to get out of the Monaco paddock as quickly as possible. A couple of days later he was out at Paul Ricard where Zak Brown and the United Autosports team had invited him to come down and drive Alan Jones' 1980 championship winning Williams FW07 as well as a classic Mustang and a Porsche 935 sportscar, which put the smile back on his face.

Daniel Ricciardo

The margins are very small at the top level of F1; as we posted earlier in the week, the race in Monaco actually hinged on two highly improbable situations happening a few minutes apart. Dealing with those ups and downs is part and parcel of being in a team and challenging for wins and championships. It is the emotion of F1. Sometimes that is masked by the coverage or by teams controlling a situation, but at times like last weekend all the raw emotion of the situation is there for all to see and that's what makes this year's race a classic Monaco for me, right up there with some of the fabled weekends.

What the episode showed above all is the insatiable desire for both Hamilton and Ricciardo to win. Hamilton has fed that desire over the past two and a half seasons since his inspired decision to quite McLaren for Mercedes at the dawn of the hybrid era. He has won 22 Grands Prix, half the races in that period. But he wants more and he doesn't want the run to end.

Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo is entering his prime as a driver now at 26 and, having had a taste of victory in 2014, he needs a winning car on a regular basis to fulfil what he sees as his destiny in F1. This year will offer more opportunities for him and next year surely looks good as the new 2017 aero regulations are bound to work out well for the Red Bull team, which feels like it is coming good again with an improved Renault engine.

When you throw your team under a bus for letting you down as Ricciardo and Hamilton came close to doing in Monaco, you run the risk of damaging the relationship.

F1 teams are made up of competitive individuals and they are as passionate about what they do as the drivers. So they feel the same pain when they mess up.

The old cliché is that you come away stronger from episodes like last weekend. It's true, which is why it keeps getting said. And there should be no restriction on drivers expressing their disappointment when things go wrong.

It's a natural emotion and it's what millions of people tune in to engage and empathise with. Take that away or seek to control it - and you have nothing more than a sport on remote control.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Lewis Hamilton Shop Now