Unlocking Performance with Mark Arnall

January 18, 2023

Ignition Human Performance is pleased to announce that World Champion Driver Performance Coach Mark Arnall has joined it’s Motorsport Speakers roster.

Mark Arnall is a world-renowned fitness expert with a career in F1 that has spanned 26 years. In that time, he has worked as performance coach for Mika Häkkinen (5 years), David Coulthard, Kimi Räikkönen (20 years) and most recently in 2022 Sebastian Vettel. During his career Mark has Aldo worked with legendary F1 teams McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus, Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin.

Creating tailor-made training, recovery, nutrition, and travel management programs, Mark ensures drivers are in optimum condition at every race. This is no easy task when the F1 calendar requires 240 travel days per year across all time zones! Yet the results speak for themselves; to date Mark has won three World Championships and 215 podiums with his drivers.

Mark has also worked with athletes in the British Athletics team, British Fencing team, members of the England Rugby team as well as renowned artists and top executives seeking health and fitness advice. He is also the co-founder of Travel FIT.

 

As part of our 2023 New Year’s Resolution here at IHP, we are going to sit down with a selection of our speakers and discuss the topic of “Unlocking Performance” with the aim of getting a bitesize look at the lessons learnt from a career within elite motorsport - to give our followers/readers an insight into how to unlock their own personal or business goals.

With this in mind, there is no better place to start than with a man who has spent 26 years within the sport and worked with 3 World Champion drivers, including Formula One’s very own “Iceman”!

Our Managing Director Nick Butcher went and sat down with Mark to discuss his career and the lessons he has learnt during his time in Elite Motorsport.

During his 26 year career in Formula One, Mark has worked with teams such as Ferrari, McLaren, Alfa Romeo, Lotus and Aston Martin

NB: Hi Mark, having seen you around the paddock for a number of years now - working most famously with Kimi Räikkönen - it’s great to have you join our IHP Motorsport Speakers roster. Tell me how did you end up working in Motorsport?

MA: Hi Nick, it’s great to be on-board! I got into Motorsport when was working at the University of Surrey where I ran my own sports injuries clinic and was training athletes & private clients. I also used to teach climbing and skiing, as from a young age I was passionate about both sports. I was teaching climbing to a guy from McLaren one day. It came up in conversation that I ran the sports injuries clinic at the end of the lesson. He was setting up a human performance lab for the team and needed a sports therapist to work with their drivers Mika Hakkinen and David Couthard. I worked with Mika in London and DC at the factory in Woking. They were happy with the work so I went to the first race of 1997 season in Melbourne and after four races, Mika asked me to also work with him as his trainer. This really got me into F1 on a full-time basis. We worked together for five years during which Mika won two World Championships. When he retired at the end of 2001 I started my 20 year journey with another Flying Finn - Kimi.

NB: You are in the very unique position of having worked with three Formula One World Champions, Mika Häkkinen, Kimi Räikkönen and most recently Sebastian Vettel. Are there common traits that you have seen when it comes to them unlocking performance on and off-track, or did they very much have their own styles and routines?

MA: They were all very different characters with the one similarity of being incredibly talented drivers. It’s been a privilege working with all of them! There are so many ways to unlock performance and in F1 we are looking at the last 1-2%. With Mika I would say the unlocking of performance came more from the mental side. This came in various ways, one of which was visualisation work especially before qualifying for example. It was incredible to go through that process and get Mika’s “estimated” qualifying lap time - when it seemed impossible based on the lap times done in practice -and 90% of the time hitting the lap time pretty much perfectly. Mika was incredible at qualifying and smart with it. Often in practice sessions he’d back off in one sector slightly, knowing he could go quicker, but not giving away to competitors how quick he could go until qualifying.

NB: What about Kimi?

Kimi was a different character, mostly physically driven, super determined, very in control of his emotions and probably the most naturally gifted driver. What was special about him was the way in which he dealt with the low points. Car blowing up, strategic problems, his own mistakes (which are always harder for a driver to deal with) he was able to leave a track and move on without dwelling on what had happened, just learn from it. He was also fearless and was able to pull off some pretty ballsey moves on track. Kimi used to look at the car if you like from a macro perspective. He would say to the engineer, this is the biggest issue with the car, fix this and I can go quicker. And he would. Monza was a good example. If the engineer could give him a set up that allowed him to ride and attack the curbs well he’d be able to unlock a lot of performance from the car. He had great special awareness and exceptional race craft.

He was also a very fair driver and didn’t play politics at all within the team which made him an easy and respected team mate. Kimi was a “less is more” type of racer who just wanted to driver the car as fast as possible. He, I’ll use the word "disliked" (Mark laughs), most other aspects of F1 especially the media side. With Kimi there was no pretence - what you saw was what you got!

NB: And finally Sebastian?

I only worked with Sebastian for a year and I only did half the races with him. He was again different, super talented and very methodical in his approach always putting as much effort in as possible with the engineers, building on the team around him, staying late at the track. I think Sebastian wanted to always make sure he had done as much as possible to extract every last bit of performance from the car. He also has an incredible ability to focus. Like Kimi he was also super determined and playing badminton with him and Kimi together showed the competitive side to both in amazing ways. How they would both practice and practice and practice to improve so they wouldn’t be beaten.

Mark back in his McLaren days working with 2x World Champion Mika Hakkinen

NB: When working with a driver you obviously have to support them with how they unlock their own performance, but how do you unlock performance within yourself?

MA: It’s a good question. I think it starts by developing healthy habits. I find staying active, eating well and making sure I get enough sleep all lay a great foundation for me to perform at my best. It’s great when these elements become habitual and you don’t have to think about them. It takes time and dedication but this allows me to perform at my best no matter what I’m doing.

Staying positive and being organised have played a big roll in what I have done. With Kimi I planned and booked all the flights, hotels, pick-ups, kit, as well as manage the jet lag program, training and recovery programs, nutritional programs.

I think the network around me has played a huge role in unlocking my own performance – personal network, so Tea my life partner who has always been a massive support as well as close friends. I try and surround myself by people that give me energy, not drain it. And I try and give that energy back to them.

But there is also the professional network of specialists who are there to provide the best possible service to the driver I’m working with whether that is related to nutrition, the best wrist surgeon, spinal specialist etc. I know my own specialities and for everything else I make sure I work with the best in the required field.

Setting mini goals that are achievable I have also found important.

NB: How do you unlock performance in others and what are the 3 behaviours that you insist on from that individual when doing so?

MA: Everyone is different so everyone requires a different approach. Accountability, discipline and deep desire to be the best you can be for me are all important. But I also value humility in someone.

NB: What is the best high-performance behaviour you have ever observed in someone else that you have either taken on yourself or wished you could do?

MA: I think there are lots of examples of this throughout sport and industry. If I look at sport I think Roger Federer has been quite inspirational. The ability to always stay on top for so many years. What I found fascinating was his ability to constantly change and adapt his game. I remember reading an article from his trainer explaining how, as Roger got older and was up against younger more powerful players he realised he had to play smarter instead of harder to beat his opponents. Changing his training and focusing more on his technical game. It’s not easy for athletes to stay on top, they will always be challenged by the next upcoming superstar. The mental drive and determination to always be the best you can be I think are behaviors we can all learn from. I have always tried to adapt in F1, always tried to look at ways to improve on each aspect of what we do to find the last 1-2% of performance. If you stand still you tend to go backwards!

For 20 years Mark would work with 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, pictured here after the Finnish driver won his final race victory at the United States Grand Prix in 2018

NB: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

MA: Get out of your comfort zone! Whilst it’s nerve wracking for most it’s the only way to develop and move forwards. It gives you so much more confidence in the long run. Also “see the world” was something I was told at an early age. I have found travel priceless in my own personal development!

NB: Alongside your Driver Performance Coaching, you have also co-founded Travel FIT. Why don’t you tell me more?

MA: Yeah, this was something really born out of frustration. I co-founded Travel FIT with Tea in 2021. Fundamentally the aim is to help frequent travelers stay fit and healthy on the road.

Tea is a hotel consultant and has previously worked operationally for Four Seasons, Rosewood and Starwood. She now advises hotel owners and developers on everything hotel related and has a deep understanding how the hotel world works. Combined with my background we wanted to provide a holistic approach to health and fitness.

I’ve had to keep myself - and the drivers I worked with - in shape for 26 years whilst spending between 200 – 240 days a year travelling! Not all hotels have gym facilities and some of those that claim too, often have poor options. I have always travelled with a selection of exercise bands, mini bands and used these in combination with body weight exercises, which has enabled me to workout anywhere.

I’ve had so many travelers from all industries tell me they struggle to maintain their training while on the road. They are frequently tired, find themselves eating and drinking too much, putting on weight and generally feeling unhealthy. So the idea was to try and provide some advice and help based on what I’ve been doing in F1 all these years. It is possible to stay healthy and fit on the road, you just need to know how and come up with a plan!

NB: How have you taken the lessons you have learnt in elite motorsport and transferred them into Travel FIT?

MB: The aim was to help offer frequent travelers the following:

In-room training options - Equipment provided in all hotel rooms (mat, selection of exercise band/mini bands) with videos instructed by me available on the in-room tv.

In-room recovery options – Based on many years of travel, video instruction showing travelers how to “unwind” their body after long haul travel. Mobility and flexibility work in combination with the use of massage balls and foam rollers.

Healthy menu options – Menu items for breakfast, lunch and dinner designed by myself and my nutritionist. These are based on what I used with Kimi during an F1 weekend, so they are performance enhancing food options packed with high quality nutrition. As part of the menu all hotels will also provide ginger shots at breakfast.

Elite level Rehydration and Immune system support - a drink designed for Kimi available to all guests as an amenity on arrival and available during their stay. Travelling open us up to a host of bugs and bacteria. This formula ensures the immune system is firing on all cylinders.

Travel planning advice – I created an e-book that details each step of how I plan our travel to arrive in the best shape possible and reduce the effects of jetlag. This is available to guests as soon as they make their booking.

NB: In your opinion, what one area from motorsport can business learn the most from?

MA: Teamwork is to me the obvious one. No one wins if the team doesn’t win. The pit stop is a great example of this. The driver is the top of the pyramid but if anyone in the pit stop makes a mistake everyone loses, they all have to work together as one highly synchronised, ultra-precise harmonious unit. I think attention to detail and logistics are other areas F1 excels in.

Last season Mark would work with 4x World Champion Sebastian Vettel, in what would be the German driver's last season in the sport (Photo credit: Zak Mauger/LAT)

NB: You join our Motorsport Speakers roster for 2023, how can our clients and partners benefit from your experience and knowledge if they are looking for you to join them at their next business conference or training event?

MA: I think any organisation that has staff who travel could potentially gain a lot of value by understanding how we have managed to perform at our best, travelling the globe 200 plus days, having to peak 22-24 per year for each GP whilst under a relentless travel, race, testing and media schedule.

NB: Final question! What is your favourite motorsport memory?

MA: Wow… good question.. so many! It’s hard to beat being on the grid at the last race of the season with the championship being decided by the outcome of that race! knowing you’ve done everything to can, with all the emotions involved, and to come out at the end and win! I’ve been fortunate enough to have had that experience three times, twice with Mika in 98 and 99 and once with Kimi in 2007. I was also on the losing end of that in 2000 when Michael beat us which wasn’t as nice!! My favourite win I’d say was the USGP in Austin in 2018 with Kimi.

NB: Thank you so much for your time today Mark, and I’m sure everyone reading this will agree your experience and knowledge from Formula One is extremely valuable for anyone looking to unlock their own performance.

MA: Thanks Nick, its been great to chat today and reflect...I look forward to working with the Ignition Human Performance clients!

If you would like to book or enquire about Mark speaking at your next business conference or event, then please visit MotorsportSpeakers.com or email nickbutcher@ignitionperform.com

Nick Butcher

Nick has been an HR & Leadership Professional for nearly 15 years and has held senior HR positions within both Corporate Multinational and SME Companies.
Get in touch >>

Nick Butcher

Nick has been an HR & Leadership Professional for nearly 15 years and has held senior HR positions within both Corporate Multinational and SME Companies.
Get in touch >>
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