It’s the last week of September, just days before the Singapore Grand Prix, and the track is frightening with its high track temperatures and long lap times and is said to be the most physically demanding on the F1 calendar one of the games. Williams Racing driver Alex Albon is halfway through a treadmill pyramid workout — one minute to start, one minute to stop, then two minutes to start, one minute to stop, and so on –Sweating. He was dripping on the treadmill and on the heart monitor, which recorded numbers he would normally take. Today he just can’t do it. His body was struggling. In more than four years, he has never been unprepared for a game.
Albon’s coach, Patrick Harding, is here.
How are you?
Two people use ten levels – “one” is, It’s very simple, and the “ten” is, This absolutely sucks
. Albon never gave Harding a ten.
Today, he gave him a ten.
Stepping off the treadmill, Albon is frustrated. For the first time, he didn’t know if he could drive. Like many riders, Albon is bigger and more nimble than one might expect. Like the best drivers, he has a steely competitiveness, a track personality, like you fuck with me, I’ll fuck with you. . Unlike most riders, Albon’s overall composure is low energy; even before the race, he looks worn out, as if getting into shape is really just a Zen state.
Albon’s disappointment after today’s run, however, is visible. Harding has been helping manage expectations all week. It probably won’t happen in Singapore and they all know it. But for Harding, that’s okay.
It’s a miracle that Albon can run.
Two weeks ago, the team raced in Monza, Italy. It was Friday, practice day. Albon drove for two practice sessions before feeling sore. He went to the hospital later that night and was quickly scheduled for surgery in the morning. He needs an appendectomy. After surgery, something went wrong. He was in clinical respiratory failure with fluid buildup in his lungs. Doctors reintubated him, put him on a ventilator and put him in a medically induced coma. Harding and Albon’s family camped out in the intensive care unit, with Harding sleeping on a small chair in the room.
The next morning, to everyone’s surprise, Albon’s condition improved rapidly and doctors slowly weaned him off the ventilator . (They’ve determined that the respiratory failure is due to fluid buildup; however, they’re not sure when Albon will wake up. Harding thinks it could take a few days.) It’s Sunday, game day. Albon has been in a coma for more than a day and missed Saturday’s qualifying session in which teams competed for the best time to decide Sunday’s grid. Albon woke up thinking he had just been out for a few hours of surgery. After opening his eyes, the first thing he said to Harding was, “How’s the quality result?” He was surprised that his family and acting coaches looked so distraught; it seemed to them that Albon was actually dead up.
Albon was tougher on Harding’s next question: When can I resume playing?
Albon and Harding first met in 2018 when Albon was working for Scuderia Toro Rosso and Red Bull potency. This is Albon’s first season in F1 — Europe’s top motorsport — and a path to the road has required years of low-level racing and thousands of dollars of sacrifice. Before F1, Albon said he could barely afford to continue racing, let alone hire a coach. That’s not to say there’s no reason to hire a performance coach in motorsport – quite the opposite. Drivers face track temperatures in excess of 100 degrees and must withstand forces in excess of 4 G’s while cornering. (For reference: a street car sees about 1 Gs during rapid acceleration; a fighter pilot pulls about 9 Gs.) It’s not uncommon for drivers to lose more than 5 pounds during a two-hour race.
Before Harding, Albon rode other Several coaches. He wanted someone who shared his life philosophy and athletic goals; Albon, a practicing Buddhist, trained with a similar humility. He doesn’t like being seen as “The Driver,” the star of the show. F1 naturally fits into this hierarchy, with everyone else – mechanics, pit crew and engineers – serving the man in the racing helmet. Albon hated this. He hopes his coaches also understand the need for humility. Sometimes it’s the therapist-patient relationship — not just a training partnership. Riders and performance coaches travel together for several months of the year. Albon thought of Harding more than he thought of his girlfriend. Harding thought of Albon more than he thought of his wife. “I’ve been married for five years and have spent every anniversary with Alex,” Harding said. “I went out to dinner on our anniversary and my wife said, Do you want to have dinner with Alex? I think,
Yes .” During the tense race, Harding could be seen pacing nervously up and down the garage, stroking his beard and carefully refolding it in Albon’s corner A sweat towel. It is such a relationship.
After Albon wakes up in the ICU, Harding wants to make sure Albon understands what’s going on: You’re breathing down, your body just went through a major trauma . Harding also wanted to gain insight into Albon’s motivations for driving in Singapore, which was only three weeks away at the time.
“Like you sit on the bench In a sporting event, you don’t want to be on the bench,” Albon said three weeks after the Singapore match. He said he was lying in hospital hours after waking up to watch the Italian Grand Prix. Doctors eventually told Albon to turn it off because it raised his heart rate. “In a way, I feel like I was made to race. I just want to drive. I don’t want to sit. I don’t want someone else to drive my car. That’s the feeling.”
Harding called the motivation “pure.” The two then hatched a plan.
they know that the difficulty lies in Al Ben’s lungs. They expected the surgery to weaken his muscles in the short term. But for Harding, it wasn’t as worrisome as a surgical complication, which caused fluid to build up in Albon’s lung tissue. On the cardiovascular front, Albon was weeks behind his competitors.
Albon and Harding started with weight-bearing strength training to assess Albon’s muscle recovery and boost his training confidence. Harding put Albon in a hyperbaric chamber with high oxygen saturation for an hour to help stimulate his lungs. Then they’ll use a cryotherapy chamber to help with recovery. exist On the fourth day of training, Harding began to stress Albon’s respiratory system. The pair completed their usual benchmark: the treadmill interval pyramid. It’s not an easy meeting, but an Albon will do the trick. That day’s run became a reality test of Albon’s fitness. While Albon was frustrated with his performance, Harding was encouraged. Albon only needs to work another week, he thinks. He won’t be back to full form on game day, but he will achieve his goal: He can play safely. He won’t be on the bench. two The next test of man comes the following week: race week. They go for a jog on the track. Harding and Albon often jog around the track ahead of practice sessions on Thursday and Friday. It’s a common practice in F1 and one that Albon doesn’t usually think about; at his peak he can run a 5K in under 20 minutes. However, Thursday was also the team’s decision day, so Albon was uncharacteristically nervous. If Albon and Harding aren’t ready after jogging around the track, someone else will drive Albon’s car. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the two set off. They had been doing a sauna that week to simulate temperature and stress. The track was surprisingly hot, but Albon wasn’t dripping as much as he had been early in practice. “As soon as I started running,” Alex recalls, “I knew well, I’d be fine .”
“I feel like I was born with Race, in a sense. I just want to drive. I don’t want to sit. I don’t want someone else to drive my car. That’s what it feels like.”
He took part in all three practice sessions, did well in qualifying, and then ran 27 laps on race day before car problems forced him to finish early Contest. It may not have been the outcome Albon or the team had hoped for, but it underlined the speed of his comeback; he was intubated and put on a respirator three weeks ago. Even on race day, he said, he only felt 75 percent. (Harding puts the figure closer to 65%.)
“I wanted to push myself as hard as I could,” Albon said of his usual mindset heading into race weekend. For Singapore, he had to change his mind. He wasn’t trying to hit a goal or benchmark, but committed to a process. “Instead of saying, Am I healthy enough? , let’s say: Let’s give ourselves time if we’re ready, We are ready. ”