You won’t always win. That is the nature of motorsport. Everyone wants to win and everyone strives to win, but only one team can win.
If you turn up to a motorsport event without believing you can win, then you have already lost. Henry Ford once said “Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you are right”, and nowhere is that more true than in the competitive arena of motorsport. Being confident in your ability as a person and as a team is a big part of achieving that podium top step, but the danger is that confidence gives way to cockiness, which in turn breeds complacency. At this point, you have lost.
During the early 2000’s, Formula 1 was dominated by Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. The combination of blistering performance from the car, and the unmatchable talent of the driver meant the races became “who’s coming in second place today?” contests. Following that, Renault dominated with Alonso. Then it was Red Bull with Vettel. And now it is Mercedes. Do you believe that these teams ever become complacent? Do you think they are ever overly confident in their victories? No. These teams, the engineers, the mechanics and the drivers, put the same effort in whether it is they are chasing their first win of the season, or the tenth. The work is relentless and even after a championship is secured, they push until the chequered flag of the final race. Everyone in these teams believe they can win.
All that being said, sometimes things don’t work in your favour. Bad weather, a puncture, an accident; things will work against you and the victory will seep away. Sometimes you will enter a championship with a car that is simply not competitive. When Mercedes turned up at the first race in 2014 with their wildly out-of-the-box-thinking split turbo V6, they dominated. No one else was competitive. But they all still turned up and they all still raced. At Canada, something happened. What Mercedes would call a disaster, and what Red Bull would call a miracle. The two Mercedes cars suffered almost simultaneous failures of the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (MGU-K). The result was the 20 second lead was worthless and Red Bull claimed the first non-Mercedes win of the season. Red Bull had ploughed through and it had paid off!
So no, you will not always win. You will not always make the podium. You will not always be competitive. You will not always even finish the race! But if you give your everything, to every race, eventually you will win.
Stick it out.
Tom is an engineer working his way through the motorsport industry, sharing stories, anecdotes and lessons to help new engineers coming through the ranks.