Mental Capacity

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tristancliffe
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Mental Capacity

Postby tristancliffe » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:16 pm

Although the thing I'm going to quote below is referring to F1 and fighter planes, I see parallels with club motorsport.

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).

Discuss.
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Monoposto Champion 2008, 2010 & 2011 with a Reynard 883 and a Dallara F398, and F3 Cup and Team Champion 2012

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Re: Mental Capacity

Postby samier » Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:44 pm

If you are able to relax and slow everything down, you have more time to think and actually know what is happening inside the car. When this happens you can actually recall the mistakes you are making and try to correct them. Being physically fit helps also, physical fitness is not only about being strong or fit enough to drive the car, being physically fit has an effect on the mental side also as well as breathing. All this helps free up mental capacity, being exhausted physically or having arms that ache will sap energy and you willc oncentrate less on the driving.. you will become tense in the car.

Experience can over come some of the above, because you are natually more relaxed. Driver skill, how comfortable one is with the car also has a lot to do with spare mental capacity because the idea is to be at one with the car and not trying to second guess how the car will be at every corner or at every braking point.

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Re: Mental Capacity

Postby stevengriffin » Fri Mar 11, 2011 12:53 pm

I'm really fit. I was fortunate enough to be born smart(ish). In my job I am used to dealing with lots of complex information arriving all at once. I have good hand/eye coordination. I have quite a nice car. Oh dear, no excuses for me then.... :oops:

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Re: Mental Capacity

Postby Nat Filmore » Sun Mar 13, 2011 10:16 am

stevengriffin wrote:I'm really fit. I was fortunate enough to be born smart(ish). In my job I am used to dealing with lots of complex information arriving all at once. I have good hand/eye coordination. I have quite a nice car. Oh dear, no excuses for me then.... :oops:


Could it be your restrictor is too small?

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Re: Mental Capacity

Postby phuston » Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:26 am

If one is going to drive a fully adjustable modern formula car, I agree with the fighter pilot comparison. One must have the ability to multi-task while under pressure.

I know that it's a question of teaching a very old dog new tricks, but I recently challenged myself by learning to fly a three axis microlight. One first learns to fly the plane, and then grafts on: map reading, navigation, communication etc.. When distracted from the main task one soon finds out how rapidly a plane will accelerate to dangerous speeds or slow down and stall. With experience, flying (reputedly) becomes intuitive, leaving spare capacity for other tacks. But one finds instructors adding tasks until the student is no longer capable of handling the information coming in, it's analagous to a computer overload crash.

I surmise that an able single seat racing driver rapidly learns the basics and adds on the refinements. Never having attended a racing school, what follows is surmise, but I suspect that they work in much the same way as flying instructors, adding the adjustable systems as the student progresses.

Only the most able drivers will be able to use all the adjustables available on limited experience. My recent experiences makes me believe that most of us require more time on track, and that a training course would benefit many.

When flight training one is not allowed GPS, I find it quite difficult to know where I am when cruising at 80 knots. Quite how the WWII fighter pilots managed I cannot imagine, but I like the quote of a test pilot on an American rocket plane; 'you have never been lost until you have been lost at Mach 3'. :shock:
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Re: Mental Capacity

Postby Tailgate » Sun Mar 13, 2011 12:14 pm

Patrick,

Pilots are never lost ! but sometimes we're temporarily unsure of our position... :wink:

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Re: Mental Capacity

Postby AndyY » Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:49 am

I have worked with a fair few Sea Harrier pilots in the past (and GR9, Tornado, various helicopters etc etc) and I recognise the description that Tristan posted. Some pilots were obviously bright but not exactly rocket scientists, but they could all multi-task & they all had the ability to do certain tasks naturally that many others of us found very complicated, and yet could still be loaded up with additional complex information. They defiantely had mental capacity to spare. They also had an absolute confidence in their own ability and could often recognise changes in the norm much quicker, and then react to it, than most people.

That said, many of them struggled (that's a relative term) with some more basic tasks and some were not that good with relatively straighforward staff work, management or organisational tasks. Maybe this just didn't excite them??!!

Steve's comparison is interesting & it makes the point that success in a fighter or in a race car isn't really about intelligence or about hand eye co-ordination; there is something else. Not sure what, but I really wish I had it!
Andy Yeomans - former Mono 1800 and 2000 racer (!?). Now CSCC and aspiring Clubmans racer.

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Re: Mental Capacity

Postby tombrown » Mon Mar 14, 2011 7:34 pm

I recon its got something to do with that Spheric Award.....

Maybe we could get Buster Gonad into a Formula Renault to prove the theory?

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Re: Mental Capacity

Postby andrew dunn » Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:20 am

i remember reading somewhere previously that the RAF used to recruit what they believed to be the elite academics, however they soon found out this wasn't what was required as a lot of them panicked when placed under pressure (i think they just know the consequences of going into the ground like a dart). As everyone knows brains don't always come with common sense!

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Re: Mental Capacity

Postby AndyY » Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:37 am

I must admit that most pilots & good racing drivers (& members of the Special Forces, too) don't seem to have much imagination, because none of them ever seem to think "what if it all goes wrong", unlike me!
Andy Yeomans - former Mono 1800 and 2000 racer (!?). Now CSCC and aspiring Clubmans racer.

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Re: Mental Capacity

Postby lee » Tue Mar 15, 2011 10:27 am

AndyY wrote:I must admit that most pilots & good racing drivers (& members of the Special Forces, too) don't seem to have much imagination, because none of them ever seem to think "what if it all goes wrong", unlike me!


You have read some Chris Ryan books too? :roll:
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