This is a crucial time in terms of physical preparation for the mechanics whose job it will be to change the wheels during pit stops. All the training has been taking place in our Faenza factory and is divided into two areas: fitness training in the gym and actual pit stop practice in the workshop. For the latter, an older race car has been kitted out with the 2017 tyres and is pushed by hand towards the waiting crew. Every wheel change is monitored and timed, with the aim of improving the flow and synchronisation of the procedure. As for the work in the gym, the intensity level has been stepped up to ensure our mechanics are as well prepared as possible, mentally and physically. The programme, carried out five times a week, is monitored by experts from Formula Medicine, who assessed each individual to get an idea of their general condition, in order to prepare tailor-made programmes for each one of them.
A perfect pit stop requires speed and agility as well as the ability to manage pressure situations. Therefore the training programme not only looks at how to improve flexibility, adaptability and reaction time, but also how to manage the pressures that can develop over a race weekend. During each gym session, the trainers try to recreate the tensions that can surface in the pit lane (as can be seen in these photos from a training session.) Of course, this is only a simulation, but nevertheless, each mechanic is pushed to get used to working in a precise fashion, giving 100% in every situation. Clearly, the guys' working routine has to be taken into account, factoring in the travel and stresses of very intense weeks of work and so forth. In fact, a race week is already very demanding, before even getting to the two critical days of Saturday and especially Sunday, when the guys have to give it their best shot. The idea behind the training is that they should have enough energy, combined with physical and mental strength, to tackle their tasks to the very best of their ability, without feeling too much pressure.
"We regard the mechanics as athletes, which is why they are trained as such," commented Filippo Della Latta, who along with his Formula Medicine colleague, Simone Romani, has been working with our guys.
"Our programme includes sessions to improve endurance through aerobic resistance exercises, as well as some anaerobic work; personal training on the mats, as well as circuit training including running and cycling to maintain a high heart rate over a long period. We also do strength work, although it's not real weight training, but rather functional strengthen training where the guys have to lift weights from an unstable base, so that they are working in an unbalanced environment, so that they have to bring both strength and coordination into play. We work a lot in fact on coordination, rapid change of position and reaction time. This helps the Scuderia Toro Rosso mechanics learn to be more fluid and rapid in their movements, so as to optimise their mental and physical resources.
"There is always a risk that rapid movement can lead to injury and this training is also aimed at reducing the chances of any mishaps. The biggest change however is that, along with the physical training, we have added the mental aspect, applying the same methodology we have used in motorsport for many years now. In short, this training helps them to improve all aspects of their performance, to manage pressure as well as possible and not to stress over any mistakes that might occur during the season, by clearing the mind to start over stronger than before."