HHonors Race Reporter: Mikey Collier – The Science of Preparing the Driver

At each Grand Prix we see dozens of Mechanics and Technicians looking after the car, but there’s one aspect of the car that need particular looking after, the driver.  At team Vodafone McLaren each driver has their own personal trainer, for Jenson Button this is Mikey Collier.  He looks after Jenson’s care, not just through the race weekend, but throughout the year.  We had a chance to catch up with Mikey to find out about what special preparation the heat and humidity of Singapore demands.

You’re equally called Jenson’s Trainer and his Physio, what is your role?

I’m a qualified Sports Scientist, that’s where the trainer element comes in, but I’m also a qualified physio.  Over a race weekend I look after all the nutrition and training side of things, and then obviously I look after the preparation of him physically.  So things like stretching and massage, as well as any problems that may arise over the weekend from an injuries perspective.  So I cover both sides.

You not only work with Jenson at race weekend, do you work with Jenson throughout the year?

We spend a lot of time together over the winter.  He will go away to Hawaii over the winter for some R&R, then after that we then come back together and prepare ourselves for the testing period.  That’s when we spend a lot of time together and then I attend every race.  I also spend a lot of time with him down in the south of France, in between racing; working on aspects of fitness that we feel will aid his performance in the car.

When Jenson returns after the winter is he in top condition?

There may be a few tweaks, but the programme he has when he goes away to Hawaii is geared to winter testing.  Arguably he comes back the fittest he will ever be over a race year, simply because he can spend two months working on fitness solid.  When the season kicks off, he’s got Media, PR, Racing and travel; all these things interrupt your training preparation.  It’s all about getting him fit, healthy, well and as light as possible for March, then it’s about maintaining that.

Does Jenson’s weight vary much through the year?

Over the course of a year it might up and down by about half a kilo.  It comes down over a race weekend, it’s a combination of things; heat, humidity and exercising in the car.  Actually you want to be as light as possible for Saturday Qualifying and there’s a minimum weight for the car in the race.  So actually, you can eat a reasonably large meal Saturday night to ensure you make the minimum weight.

Does Singapore demand any special preparation?

Not necessarily before we fly out.  We’ve been here since Sunday, so we’ve been here five or six days, which is enough acclimatise.

Over the august break Jenson did the half iron man in the Philippines.  So that’s five hours swimming, cycling and running in even hotter conditions to this, so he’s actually very used to exercising in this kind of environment.

What training have you done since you’ve been in Singapore?

I organised a run out with the Singapore national cycling squad, we travelled half an hour out of the city, as it’s too built up here.  They took us out on two cycles one is 96k and other is a 75k.  They know all the local routes, there was one ride where there were fifty\sixty monkeys looking at you, wondering just looking at you what’s going on?  Then on another there was an Apache helicopter going over.  It was a complete extreme between nature and man’s involvement.  We’ve done two bike rides and two runs.  So we’ve done four sessions in the heat and humidity that he’ll be racing in.  We tend to do these at the same times as we’ll be having practice1\practice3 or Qualifying\Race.

We ran the circuit Thursday night and we’ll probably go for another run Saturday night or Sunday morning.  He’s going to be in the car for three hours Friday and two hours Saturday, so that will be enough and we’ll do just a little bit Sunday.  That’s why involvement from a training perspective dies down from Friday to Sunday and then the physio takes over Saturday to Sunday.

Before the race its more the sports science side of things, you want someone to keep the driver fit, healthy and well up to the race, then if there any injuries you can address those over the weekend.

We are going to bed at 6.00am and having breakfast as 2.00 pm. So we’re still getting eight hours sleep which is what we always recommend. It’s just odd that you getting at two and having breakfast when everyone else is having lunch!

What sort of preparation do you do with Jenson before the race?

That’s more hands on.  Generally soft tissue work, which is me effectively doing different massage techniques and then we go through stretching.  We do nervous system type is stimulation; stretching\contracting and quick reaction stuff.  It depends where we are or what facilities we have.

As this is a flyaway race, you’ve only a tiny room at the circuit, how do you cope?

If you go in there, by the time there’s two chairs, his clothing rack, all of his bags and a physio couch in there, you realise there isn’t space to use a skipping rope.  But that would be a good nervous system reaction-type awakening process, skipping or some sort of boxing.  Instead we use a special tennis type ball, but there are three of them stuck together, so it’s not uniform.  You throw them against the wall and they come off the wall in different directions.  Those are quite good central nervous things that we use depending where we are.

What sort of food and drink will Jenson have over the weekend?

Breakfast today was scrambled egg, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, some fruit, cup of tea or coffee and some water.  Thursday night we had an Asian salad, with some Grouper fish and Friday night was something along the lines of salad or veg, that is the core, then some type grilled chicken of fish.  Saturday when we want to increase weight for Sunday, we might have some sort of carbohydrates.

Hydration is massive in preparation for the race, Jenson will consume about five and half litres of a special solution, we work with Lucozade Sport to formulate a specific drink for the environment and temperatures the drivers are working in.

What’s in the drink?

Salt, not a huge amount of carbohydrate as we consume that Saturday night.  There might be a certain amount of protein in there, whey like you find in a protein drink.  You also put a bit of caffeine in there for the race drink to help the nervous system.

In the race he will drink a maximum of one litre.  It’s very slightly different, less caffeine; you don’t want them needing the loo when they’re racing.  Its similar in terms of its content, just that the concentration is slightly less, as you may get things clogging up in the drinks system.

How do you help Jenson focus in the run up to the race?

Every driver will be different.  For Jenson the time we spend together is his focus time, his quiet time.  From there, we literally go straight to the car.  Once he gets into the garage, that is when he really focusses and that’s when the adrenalin kicks in.  You don’t want too much adrenalin, that’s when you become over aroused and that’s when you make mistakes, you want just enough.  I think Jenson is very relaxed in his nature, when he does his installation lap and does all the checks, that’s when he gets switched on.

Does Jenson get physical problems in the race?

Generally no, probably the biggest area that gets the battering is the neck area as you’re braced in to the car.  He may get problems at the Start of the year, as he’s not been the car for a while.  The cockpit might be slightly different, the seat might be slightly different and they he does a lot of laps.  He’s the one that gives the feedback on the seat fitting, in terms of where it’s hurting.

What do you have to do to help Jenson’s recovery after the race?

I won’t see him for forty five minutes to an hour, it depends on where he finishes.  We ensure we have cool vests, we then have a special recovery drink, so we are starting to get the recovery process working straight way.  There isn’t a lot you can do with him until he comes back, then its quick check, a recovery type meal and address any problems he has. You really want to get on with that quickly as with the back to back races we have coming up, you’ll be racing then travelling, any problems will escalate.

Lastly what do you do with Jenson the day after the race?

We do an active recovery, we do a very light hour run, bike ride or swim.


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