When discussing what separates the good from the not-so-good, people talk about fitness; people talk about having a better car; people talk about 'natural talent' (although nobody is ever able to qualify what natural talent is). I suppose people have said intelligent drivers are usually better.
Saw this on the Live Autosport feed from the F1 testing today:
"I am a recently (since the strategic defence review) retired Naval Fighter Pilot (Sea Harrier FA2 & Harrier GR9), which in terms of having to control extremely fast moving machinery while multi-tasking displays and controls while under G pressure must be broadly similar to the workload faced by an F1 driver.
"Academically, I would say I am solidly average and although I have never taken an IQ test, I would expect my score to be fairly unspectacular. What sets fast jet pilots apart, and indeed is the selection criterion that they must satisfy above all others, is capacity - namely the ability to perform many tasks at once.
"As an instructor, I flew with Cambridge mathematics graduates who could not add 10 & 10 in the air because they lacked capacity, and their other tasks took up too much of their cognitive function.
"My guess therefore is that some drivers, regardless of IQ, will have this capacity while others will not. The former will prosper while the latter may lack that crucial edge they mean a World Championship. On such narrow margins....."
How much truth is in this? In my experience, the people that underperform (relative to the ability of their machinery) are those that are only just in control of their vehicle. When lapped, they are always caught by surprise. They have no idea if they've been quick or slow in a session, and they offer little in the way of feedback about the car (even if the feedback is relatively simple in language). Driving the car takes more than 90% (sometimes more than 99%) of their mental capacity.
The quicker people that I've had the pleasure of watching seem to be totally aware of what's around them. They are totally aware of which lap was their best, which lap and which corner they made mistakes on, they can discuss what the car is doing, and quite possibly have already diagnosed a car problem before it gets back to the paddock. These people are able to take advantage of adjustable brake bias, adjustable roll bars and are probably kinder to tyres and engines. Actually driving the car on the limit is taking a fraction of their mental capacity (even if they are at 100% of their ability).