Wednesday, 2 May 2012


Well, it's less than a week before my first exam, and today the inevitable stress reared its ugly head and lead to me having a temporary loss of motivation. I know that this is a motorsport blog, and I keep rambling on about exams but hear me out, there's a link to F1. Over the past month, I've done little else but revision. I've watched the odd spot of motorsport on TV, but apart from that I've mostly been reading about Freud, the brain and personality. As much as I love studying and working towards my ultimate goal of a PhD, a whole month is somewhat taxing as I'm sure you'd all agree. So, today's mini-breakdown probably wasn't that much of a surprise. Of course, what's anyone meant to do when suffering from a loss of motivation other than call their Mum?

On phoning my Mum and telling her about how much pressure I was putting myself under, and how it was stressing me out, she said something which gave me kind of an epiphany, and now I'm back to my old self and looking forward to the exams. Most students I know would be begging for this sort of inspiration, but I have a hunch that it would only work for me. Now, for those of you into motorsport who have been patiently reading and wondering what the hell I'm on about, here's where F1 comes into it.

As you've probably guessed from my picture and pretty much all the posts on here, I'm a fan of a certain German Red Bull Racing driver - Sebastian Vettel. One of the (many) things that I admire about him is his ability to always have a smile on his face, despite criticisms from the media and despite having bad days at the office so to speak. In fact, this is probably the main reasons why I'm such a fan of Vettel's, ever since his Toro Rosso days he's had this perspective on his career, and it shows in his performance. The focus that he has when he gets into the car is also another huge point of admiration right there, and I have often tried to replicate this in my studies and in my approach to exams.

Sure, my exams aren't as exciting as driving an F1 car through Eau Rouge at high speed, however like Vettel I do have a career riding on my performance. So, the level of focus that Sebastian has means he's somewhat a role model for my own performance. Well, today it seems that I've had a bit of a lack of the other quality of Vettel's - the ability to carry on and be cheerful, even if things aren't quite going 100%.

My Mum reminded me of this today, and it definitely made me realise that taking the perspective of Vettel and being 100% focused to the task at hand, no matter how well it's going or not, keeping an eye on the end game (for Vettel, another world championship, for me, a PhD) and managing to shrug off when things aren't going so well is probably the best way in which to approach my exam.

My Mum also pointed out another driver who perhaps doesn't take this perspective despite having comparable talent: Lewis Hamilton. When Lewis first came into F1 in 2007, he had the same view as Vettel, and was always cheerful and could shrug off bad days. This quality paid off, and got him the championship in 2008 (of course, this quality and his supreme driving ability). However, after getting the championship and having a somewhat rougher year in 2009, Lewis kind of lost the 'keep calm and carry on' approach that he had before, and things just didn't seem to go his way. Last year in particular, Lewis would often get out of the car in a huff when things didn't go so well - the Massa incident being one of those times. Luckily, Lewis seems to slowly be returning to his old self, although the sulking because of a third place spot on the grid was kind of annoying.

So, the upshot of the conversation with my Mum? Be more like Vettel, and don't turn into Hamilton. I know, it's not exactly something you'd hear at an academic support workshop, but it works for me. I have a Vettel calendar this year, and the month of May shows Vettel holding his trophy in Australia last year. I'm hoping that this will remind me to adopt Vettel's cheerful and focused approach in my exams, and will win me the good results of the exams. If this carries on throughout the rest of this degree, then I'll have the equivalent of my driver's championship, my PhD, within the next 6 years. If I can pick up trophies along the way, then great, but whatever happens I'll be happy with good results; Just like Vettel. That's what I'm talking about!