A Formula 1 driver must be 'willing to sacrifice image' to win Le Mans

A Formula 1 driver must be ‘willing to sacrifice image’ to win Le Mans

The largest endurance race in the world. They will be 186 drivers for this year’s 90th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which starts on Saturday at 4pm. Among them are eleven former Formula 1 drivers, considered the first category in motorsport, before Le Mans, the holy grail of endurance. And if these two categories are the dream of any pilot, they are far apart in terms of an experimental approach.

“He really made the difference with the championship title: in Formula 1 it’s a world drivers’ championship, while in Endurance it’s a World Brand Championship. This means that an F1 driver wins for him before he wins the mark, while in Endurance, you win the mark. He explains. Henri Pescarolo, former F1 driver and four-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, “It’s a fundamental difference in approach”.

Henry Pescarolo (right), former F1 driver and four-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Henry Pescarolo (right), former F1 driver and four-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. – Frank Fife/AFP

“I had to change my mind”

This completely changes the driver’s approach to racing, with the need to perform as a team rather than individually. “In Endurance you have to be willing to sacrifice your image to make the brand win. Endurance drivers have to go as fast as the Formula One drivers, but they have to think a bit more to survive and win the brand. To win the 24 Hours of Le Mans you need a very complete crew, Able to go as fast as Formula 1 drivers, with the ability to adapt better to racing developments: weather conditions, race intensity, ability than others to win. And even going from time to time faster than in F1″, recounts the former driver and team manager.

The differences that former F1 and WRC driver Robert Kubica had to adapt to during his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year. That he could even win the LMP2 class, with no mechanical issue in the final laps. “Stamina is very different from what I did before, although the goal is always the same: to be as fast as possible. For example, you have to think about your teammates, you can’t be selfish. So I had to change my way of thinking, Especially to make life easier for my teammates. You have to compromise on the car settings, for example, because the goal is to go as fast as you can, not the individual drivers. And I like the stamina from that point of view. For the 24 Hours of Le Mans, spending The whole team ten days together, and that necessarily creates bonds between us and makes you see things differently.” the team That continues with a second post this year.

Adaptation and self-sacrifice

Endurance racing is also more demanding than the Formula 1 Grand Prix from a physical point of view, even if the preparation doesn’t vary much from class to class. “All racing drivers are top athletes and they always have to drive the car to the limit. In Endurance you drive longer and the cars are closed so that it is too hot in the cabin, due to the lack of ventilation. They also have to drive at night and adapt to the big differences in weather. With It rains more often at night, fogs in the morning, showers, dry weather Henri Pescarolo explains that it is more varied than during the Grand Prix, hence the great need for adaptation.

Le Mans at night.  (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP)
Le Mans at night. (Photo by Jean-Francois Monnier / Agence France-Presse) – Agence France-Presse

Superb conditioning and constant focus are absolutely necessary to beat many competitors on the track, when the F1 driver is “satisfied” with 19 players. “This is also a fundamental difference. There are a lot of people on the track and there is a huge difference in performance between grand tour cars and prototypes. This is the peculiarity of endurance, drivers have to keep fighting at the limit, overtaking slower cars. It requires endurance. Too much self-sacrifice, the driver has to forget performance from time to time to slow down and take care of the car by accepting lower lap times. It’s never good for the driver’s image, but sometimes you have to show less in order to win,” warns the 24 Hour legend Le Mans. Because while racing plans often differ in Formula 1, it simply doesn’t go as planned in endurance races.

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