Daniel Ricciardo’s coach explains ‘venting’ among McLaren staff ahead of 2022 F1 season

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The 2021 F1 season may have only just come to an end, but teams are already thinking about what lies ahead during the next campaign. The mid-December finish was the latest in any season in the sport’s history, meaning there is also an unprecedentedly short gap before the racing action begins again.

Testing for the new-era 2022 cars is scheduled to take place in Spain at the end of February, with another round in Bahrain a few weeks later before the season opener in Sakhir on Sunday, March 20.

That race is the first of 23 planned for what F1 bosses have hailed as the biggest racing calendar ever for the sport.

It means a shorter break than ever for the racers, though, who have just a couple of weeks to themselves before their pre-season work has to begin.

And for many team staff there will be no break at all, as they work hard to get their new cars ready for testing and make sure they are compliant with the swathe of technical rule changes ahead of the new campaign.

While more races than ever before provides even more entertainment and action for fans, some have questioned whether it is fair to ask staff to work even harder when they are already stretched so thin.

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Michael Italiano, who has worked as Daniel Ricciardo’s performance coach since the end of the 2017 season, revealed that there has been some grumbling among McLaren staff since the 2022 calendar was announced.

Italiano, who alongside his work in F1 runs his own online training platform MI Coaching, described what he expects it will be like when the new campaign gets into full swing.

“There’s been a bit of venting in the garage about next year,” he told Express Sport.

“I think there are three triple-header and only three races that are on their own – the rest are double-headers.

“We start in February but finish in mid-November, so that’s earlier but we’re still doing one extra race. They’ve condensed the season.

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“There’s one triple-header where we go from Singapore into Russia and to Japan, which is going to be absolutely crazy from a logistics and recovery point of view.

“It’s exciting because the sport is growing so rapidly, but from a drivers’ perspective it’s becoming a lot more difficult physically and mentally based on the calendar that F1 keep dishing out.”

Italiano and Ricciardo are currently in quarantine in Australia, and will spend Christmas in a hotel room before finally being able to leave and see their families on December 31.

They will have a few weeks with their feet up, before beginning work again to prepare for the year ahead.

Italiano now has several seasons of experience in F1 under his belt, having worked with long-time friend Ricciardo at Red Bull, then Renault before moving with him to McLaren ahead of the 2021 campaign.

In that time, he says he has learned that he will need to focus on looking after himself as well as his driver if he is to be as effective as possible in his role.

“What I struggled with in my first year in F1 was I didn’t really focus on looking after myself,” the Australian added.

“I was so fixated on making sure I was doing a good job with Daniel, I think I got sick about three times that year. But I came to the realisation that, if I wasn’t looking after myself, I’m of zero use to Daniel.

“As a coach or any team member, you have to look after yourself because you’re not useful for anyone if you get to a race and you’re sick.”

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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