Daniel Ricciardo Opens Up About Mental Health

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS19.
Canadian Grand Prix, Friday 7th June 2019. Montreal, Canada.

In a frank and wide-ranging virtual call with Renault UK’s Mental Health Champions, Renault DP World F1 Team driver Daniel Ricciardo addressed the critical importance of good mental health. The seven-time Grand Prix winner spoke about stress and how he deals with the pressures of life in one of the most focused and intense sports in the world.

With a goal of exploring how the experiences from the world of F1 could be applied to any workplace, and vice versa, Daniel spoke about challenges he faces, which can be common in the sport, as well as how he manages those pressures.

Daniel went into detail about the huge amounts of variables which can cause stress in his role as a driver, and how he addresses these. He noted that stresses can last a whole race weekend no matter how good a good qualifying time, but explained this is no different to the stress felt by anyone else in their individual lives.

Renault DP World F1 Team driver Daniel Ricciardo

“I face a number of pressures in my job, and I’ve learnt how to deal with many of these over the years. The opportunity to speak with Renault UK’s Mental Health Champions was interesting as I felt there were experiences which weren’t just about F1 and us drivers, but things that everybody, no matter what they do for their job, deal with. We all had different and varied ways to cope with elements such as pressure and we explored how everyone should make time for their own self-care.”

Daniel went on to explain that having conversations with the team around him is the best way of alleviating pressure and feels that an open dialogue is key, no matter their occupation. He explained that preparation is a vital way of dealing with the stress of a race weekend, while music is also a welcome distraction.

Ensuring you take the time to listen is also something else Daniel spoke about with the Renault UK Mental Health Champions. He suggested that despite his love of talking, giving someone the space to speak to get to an answer for themselves with guidance and patience is hugely important.

Steve Martin, Renault DP World F1 Team’s Health and Safety Manager, shed further light on how mental health is now an important focus for the physical wellbeing and safety of employees across the team. This topic has really accelerated in the last four years and it is critical to ensure staff are completely supported in all areas. Like Renault UK, the Renault DP World F1 Team have Mental Health Champions, including within the travelling team throughout the F1 season.

Lucy Jones, HR Director Groupe Renault UK

“Groupe Renault UK actively focuses on mental health through maintaining high levels of engagement with all our people and providing them access to the help they may need through our Employee Assistance Programme and other resources. Our Mental Health Champions are a key part of this, highlighting concerns and promoting positive mental health. The opportunity for our Champions to share their thoughts and listen to our colleagues in Renault DP Word F1 Team has been valuable, especially considering the highly competitive environment the team works in. Discussing the topic with Daniel Ricciardo has opened our eyes to the pressures he faces, and how he focuses on his own mental wellbeing. Our Champions can bring these lessons back to the business.”

Renault UK’s Mental Health Champions have been trained by Mental Health England in the knowledge and confidence to advocate mental health awareness, support fellow colleagues within the workplace and spot the signs of mental health issues or concerns. At the same time several new line managers have taken part in Mindfulness courses as part of their Development Programme.

Renault UK recently took part in Time to Talk Day and has also carried out promotional work on Stress Awareness Day, with content overlapping on the topic of Mental Health. The company hosted two sessions last year on relaxation and mindful eating during Mental Health Awareness Week for all employees.

Recently, Renault UK has also opened a ‘Retreat Room’ which allows staff across the business to escape from work and reflect quietly. The room is packed full of mindful activities and encourages staff to take a break and support their self-care.

Watch the full discussion between Daniel Ricciardo, Renault UK Mental Health Champions and Steve Martin, Renault DP World F1 Team’s Health and Safety Manager here:

Why did you speak with Renault UK’s Mental Health Champions?
I feel it’s an important subject and everyone needs to speak up about mental health and feel happy to do so. It’s prevalent in all walks of life and it’s all about sharing experiences and knowledge. The discussion with Renault UK’s Mental Health Champions is a perfect example of this and that you don’t necessarily need to know each other to talk openly and confidently about the topic.

When on the track, do you use any tips or tricks from everyday life that help your mindset or focus?
I like to listen to music to help alleviate stress both at and away from the track. I find I can relate to the lyrics of certain songs and they sort of speak to you, which I enjoy. I also think it’s very important to be able to switch off and things like music help me to do that. In my job as a racing driver it can be easy to not switch off. The night before a race can be tricky for this, as you’ve had all that adrenaline going around for qualifying. To combat this, what I find helps is knowing within myself that if I’ve prepared the best I can, then it shouldn’t be occupying my mind during my rest time. Something else I find very useful at the track is getting away from your work and taking a break, whether it’s something simple like a five-minute time-out or spending some time in your own head space listening to music. For me this helps reset the mind and means I can have a clearer thought process.

How has F1 and sports in general helped you and your experiences of your own mental health?
In my job there are so many variables and that alone will create stress. For example, even after a good qualifying session it quickly shifts, and you can easily start experiencing doubts about how the race will go. In order to remove these doubts and added stress factors, you have to acknowledge these thoughts and then take action, which for me might be sharing thoughts or having a conversation with the team or engineers. Maintaining good levels of fitness is also important for me and helps me deal with stress. I think lockdown could have so easily gone the other way with me stopping exercise and training, but I didn’t and by maintaining a good fitness programme I felt mentally good during the break and still do now. It’s at a point now that I think even when I finish racing, I’ll still keep this level of fitness up as it really helps me.

What did you find valuable about talking to Renault UK’s Mental Health Champions? What did you learn?
We were all strangers to one another before this chat and the fact is, we were still able to discuss the topic of mental health so openly. It’s widened my eyes to think if we can do this with people who are strangers to us initially, then imagine what we can do for our nearest and dearest. I work in a fast paced, high pressured environment and so do many others, but I think no matter the job, the industry or your experience level, managing stress and mental health is important across the board. I hope by us talking about this it can lead to others doing the same and not feeling any guilt or shame about talking it out.

Everyone is different, but is there anything you would suggest someone can do to promote or achieve more positive state of mental health?
Nobody really knows what the other person is going through and it’s important to not judge a book by its cover. What you can do is make sure that you are always there for someone and most importantly listen. Being a good listener is key. And, being patient, as you might have the answers that they might not have found yet.

Another important thing is to have perspective too. I make sure to bring perspective into my thought process regularly and can do this by remembering all the positives. For example, focusing on the positives of why I love my job, it’s my dream job after all. It’s important to be able to remind yourself of things like this and not lose sight of why you are doing it just because something stressful has happened.

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