Motorsport: Mercedes using ABs' shrink

By Daniel Johnson

Sports psychiatrist helping Formula One team to stay ahead of chasing GP pack.

The Mercedes F1 team are getting input from sports psychiatrist Dr Ceri Evans. Photo / Richard Robinson
The Mercedes F1 team are getting input from sports psychiatrist Dr Ceri Evans. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Mercedes team have turned to the sports psychologist credited with helping the All Blacks to overcome their reputation as serial World Cup chokers, in an attempt to maintain their dominant start to the season.

In a move increasingly in vogue, Mercedes have enlisted the services of sports psychiatrist Dr Ceri Evans.

Evans, who not only worked with the All Blacks in the run-up to their World Cup triumph in 2011 but is a former captain of New Zealand's soccer team, travelled to the most recent race in Shanghai to review Mercedes' operations.

It is understood he was in the Mercedes garage during qualifying and the race to observe how the engineers and mechanics coped with key pressure moments, such as pit-stops.

Evans, 50, reported directly to Toto Wolff, the Mercedes motorsport director, after the race weekend with his findings and recommendations.

Evans has not had any direct involvement with either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg, the team's drivers who have been almost untouchable on the track so far this season.

At this stage he is working for the Brackley-based team on a consulting basis. It is thought that he will attend races when required to.

Evans, who is a founder and director of Gazing Performance, a company set up in 1998 which has worked with the Rugby Football Union and London Irish but with whom he no longer has any direct involvement, studied experimental psychology at Oxford University. He also made more than 100 appearances for Oxford United in the early 1990s, as well as gaining 56 caps for the All Whites.

Mercedes have begun the season in almost flawless fashion, with Hamilton's retirement at the opening race in Australia the only blemish so far. But both drivers have expressed concerns that once Red Bull resolve problems with their Renault engine they will be just as competitive, if not more so, therefore the team are eager to extend and maximise their advantage where possible.

Hamilton will be going for his fourth win in a row this weekend in Barcelona as the European season gets under way. It is a time when struggling teams tend to make a big leap forward, making Mercedes well aware of the threat Red Bull and Ferrari pose to their supremacy.

Evans began working with the All Blacks following their premature exit from the 2003 World Cup, when they sealed their reputation for failing to cope with pressure. He used a system of turning the players from having a "Red Head", when you are unresourceful and panicked, to a "Blue Head", when at your optimum.

Evans constructed so-called "triggers" to help the players switch from one mentality to the other. Richie McCaw, the All Black captain, stamped his feet, while fellow loose forward Kieran Reid stares at the farthest point in the stadium.

With Mercedes' all-conquering machinery, the dynamic between Hamilton and Rosberg, and their contrasting styles, it is proving to be one of the most intriguing stages of the season. The Briton has outperformed his German team-mate, but he remains four points behind because of his retirement in Melbourne.

"You can see it everywhere because there are differences in the character and personality," Wolff said.

"How should the perfect race driver be? You can't take the approach of one and combine it with the other, any more than you can say one is better than the other. To put drivers within a certain box is unfair. We learn just as much from both." Telegraph Group Ltd

- Daily Telegraph UK

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