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A leading F1 performance coach has opened up on the “mayhem” caused among team staff in the pit lane by red flags, after last weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was stopped twice due to crashes. Given the nature of the new super-quick street circuit, there was always the possibility of crashes that could lead to stoppages in the race – and that’s exactly what we saw in Jeddah on Sunday.
The first victim of the maiden F1 race in Saudi Arabia was Mick Schumacher, who lost control and buried his Haas into a padded wall after 10 laps.
The safety car was brought out while the wreckage was removed, but after a few laps under yellow flags race director Michael Masi decided the race had to be stopped altogether so the barrier could be repaired.
The race was restarted a short while later, but after just three corners there was another incident which forced officials into calling a halt to proceedings again.
While the first grid start at the very beginning of the race had been incident-free, this time there was contact between Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez which forced the Red Bull to retire.
And as the rest of the field took evasive action to avoid becoming involved in that tangle, Nikita Mazepin slammed into the back of George Russell and both drivers trudged back to the paddock to watch the rest of the race as spectators.
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But while a race is red-flagged, TV viewers are able to see a hive of activity as the racers park in the pit lane and get out of their cars.
Mechanics are able to perform repairs, tyres can be changed and drivers can get a breather from the action.
Michael Italiano, who has worked as Daniel Ricciardo’s performance coach since the end of the 2017 season, has described the “mayhem” that unfolds in the garages while a race is temporarily paused.
“It’s quite hard to keep your cool in situations like that,” he told Express Sport. “And when there are red flags it’s mayhem in the paddock with everybody rushing around.
“From my point of view, Daniel gets out of the car and he’s drenched so I try to get him fresh gloves, a new balaclava, rehydrate him and cool him down, all the while trying to keep him in the zone. I don’t want him to get that adrenaline dump too much.
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“Getting out of the car for a red flag is quite challenging for the drivers, because you have to reset and go all over again when your adrenaline is so high. And there were two red flags!”
Italiano, who runs his own online coaching platform MI Coaching, added he and his driver Ricciardo were pleased with how their race went despite all the drama that unfolded in the Grand Prix.
The McLaren man responded to three races without scoring a point by crossing the line fifth in Jeddah – a strong result overlooked amid the controversy which unfolded between title race protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
The pair collided with a dozen laps to go and, though they were both able to finish the Grand Prix, there was little love lost both over team radio and in post-race interviews.
Ricciardo, Italiano says, was simply happy to be able to avoid being swept up in any distractions and to focus on his own race.
“It was a lot of mayhem – you can get that with a new circuit, and definitely a high-speed street circuit like Saudi,” he added.
“But we were glad to be out of the drama and have a smooth race, because we had a few unlucky times during the triple-header.
“Fortunately we turned the tide last week in Saudi Arabia and had a good result. Daniel was very quick from the get-go there, so we’re hoping for a good season ending.”
Michael Italiano is Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 performance coach and the owner of MI Coaching. To find your individual training plan and begin your fitness journey, visit www.michaelitaliano.com.
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