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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The legendary Senna confidant who known as time on a 35-year F1 profession

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No, we’re not speaking about former Toro Rosso and AlphaTauri group boss Franz Tost, who rightly obtained a heat send-off within the Abu Dhabi paddock, however about Josef Leberer, a pioneer physiotherapist and each bit the paddock legend that his compatriot is.

Because the 64-year-old has all the time shunned publicity, he is not as well-known as among the different Austrian paddock pillars. However, contained in the paddock, he’s revered as a trailblazer, having labored as a coach and confidant for Ayrton Senna at McLaren and Williams, earlier than discovering a house at Sauber for the previous 27 years.

A protege of famed physician Willi Dungl, Leberer was really helpful to Ron Dennis by Niki Lauda, one other Austrian icon, and joined McLaren from the opening race of the 1988 season in Rio de Janeiro. He steadily constructed up a superb rapport with each Senna and Alain Prost, but it surely was finally the canny Brazilian that noticed the potential of getting Leberer on board as his private coach.

In 2017, Autosport sat down with Leberer to look back in depth on the special bond he developed with the mercurial Brazilian, all the best way till his deadly accident in San Marino 1994.

On the time, that position was comparatively new, with Leberer being a one-man band in control of coaching, physiotherapy, vitamin, and psychological teaching.

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“It was a unbelievable alternative,” he mentioned. “I imply, beginning at McLaren in Method 1 with Senna and Prost… what extra would you like?! Since then, I labored with a variety of different world champions, like Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel. Working with the brand new technology was additionally very thrilling. That is what stored driving me.

“On the time Dennis understood that F1 groups pour a lot cash into the vehicles and expertise, however that the driving force is an important asset. The motive force is your strongest hyperlink, however he will also be your weakest hyperlink within the chain.

Picture by: Sutton Photos

Gerhard Berger, McLaren relaxes with health guru Josef Leberer

“What we did in vitamin already was much more than they do now, as a result of I used to be cooking myself. I tailor-made the whole lot to the driving force.  All of them come from completely different cultures, so it’s important to take that into consideration. 

“I did the coaching, the remedy, the psychological aspect and vitamin, so I gained an excellent understanding of the person I used to be working with.”

When requested to check how a lot F1 has modified over time from a driver preparation standpoint, the rising complexity of contemporary equipment has additionally had its affect on driver preparation and given the quickest brains behind the wheel a leg up on the competitors.

“In Method 1 the expertise has been altering a lot, it is unbelievable, Leberer explains. “However then again, the calls for on the drivers are roughly the identical, even when they’re utilized another way.

“I’d say as of late it is very onerous for younger drivers on an mental degree. You will have all these techniques, methods, all this expertise to get on high of with so little time or testing. To mix all that with your individual driving fashion to convey the efficiency on the monitor, this isn’t straightforward. They’re underneath a variety of strain.

“Within the early days, driving was bodily more durable. And once you knew what may occur should you had an accident… there was a variety of strain on that. However now it is a utterly completely different strain.

“Again within the day, drivers needed to make a variety of choices themselves however now they’ve a variety of knowledge to try to perceive.

“There’s a lot data coming in whereas they should drive and discuss on the radio. Simply the lap to the grid is so much. The cognitive taxation as of late is extraordinarily excessive. Initially, some younger drivers can utterly freeze.

“A great instance is Fernando [Alonso]. This man is unbelievable. He is from the old fashioned, however he has an unbelievable capability. He is aware of the place the opposite vehicles are, he is aware of how lengthy the tyres will final, he is aware of what all people’s technique will probably be.

“You must have a three-dimensional understanding of what you might be doing. If it’s important to begin pondering, it is already too late. And this makes the large distinction between the most effective drivers and the others. They make the appropriate determination on the proper time, underneath strain.

“This is the reason they receives a commission 30 million or extra, and others should pay.”

Josef Leberer, Alfa Romeo Racing Trainer

Picture by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Josef Leberer, Alfa Romeo Racing Coach

In such a mentally demanding setting, the place drivers nonetheless put their lives on the road each time they strap in, it’s clear psychological preparation is the whole lot. That additionally means caring for psychological well being, which was as soon as a taboo subject however has fortunately grow to be an increasing number of approachable lately.

Many present drivers have been refreshingly open about their work with sports activities psychologists to search out peak efficiency or overcome troublesome patches, together with the likes of Sergio Perez, Lando Norris, Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly.

Leberer applauds that the stigma round psychological well being points is beginning to disintegrate. However even 35 years in the past he was already very centered on the subject, turning into some kind of psychological coach by default just by spending a lot time with Senna.

“For us it was nothing new,” he says. “That is why I used to be excited and fascinated with this sort of sport, as a result of the psychological aspect is big. When it’s important to give attention to so many issues, it’s important to preserve your feelings underneath management and perceive how your autonomic nervous system is working.

“Within the early days, no one was eager to indicate any weak point. They weren’t keen to speak about it with managers or anyone. However now they perceive how essential it’s to diagnose what the issue is.

“I didn’t examine psychology academically, however I wish to imagine that I realized and studied psychology in an actual, sensible and demonstrable approach in coaching, making ready and taking care of a number of F1 drivers of which lots of them turned world champions. By 40 years of working with F1 drivers you achieve a variety of information and that makes it simpler when you have a superb relationship with these guys. 

“Once you’re working collectively day and night time, you all the time do some little bit of psychology or psychological coaching even when it is not an official session.

“Even Senna actually understood how essential it’s to relax within the night, to vary your ideas, to attempt to not let individuals provoke you and convey down the stress.

“If you wish to be acting at 100% tomorrow and over the subsequent couple of years, it’s important to take care of your self. Sleep is so essential. You possibly can have this enormous expertise, however it’s important to use it appropriately and never overload it.”

Josef Leberer, Damon Hill, Williams

Picture by: Josef Leberer

Josef Leberer, Damon Hill, Williams

Leberer’s CV, his profession path has been outlined by an enormous sense of loyalty. He stood by Senna’s aspect till Imola 1994 and in 1997 he discovered a brand new house at Sauber, which he has stayed with for the previous 27 years.

“Sure, this is part of my character, it is how I used to be introduced up,” he replies. “To begin with, the whole lot with McLaren was a bit of simpler once you’re profitable so much. After which coming into a brand new, younger firm at Sauber was very thrilling.

“The individuals there have been sensational, to begin with Mister [Peter] Sauber, and I all the time had and nonetheless have an excellent relationship with the individuals there.”

However even when his ardour and drive are nonetheless untouched after 35 years within the Method 1 circus, on the age of 64 Leberer determined it was time to take a step again.

The 2023 Abu Dhabi GP was his final grand prix as a travelling physiotherapist with Sauber, transferring into an ambassadorial position with the Hinwil squad. That can even give him extra time to give attention to private tasks, akin to his involvement within the growth of augmented actuality instruments that target combining bodily exercise with cognitive activation, one in all his largest passions.

Leberer’s departure falling on the identical weekend as Tost is a contented coincidence and with the latter joking he’ll now have extra time to go snowboarding, Leberer is keen to hitch his good friend on the slopes. 

“We all know one another fairly properly,” says Leberer. “I am from Salzburg and he is from Tyrol however I am residing not too removed from him. He is an ideal man, a really centered man. We’ll undoubtedly go snowboarding collectively!”

When requested why the time was proper to step again, Leberer grinned: “Why now? That’s all the time the query. I am 64 already, however I am feeling nonetheless very younger.

“I’m completely happy to have been in F1 for thus a few years. And I noticed a variety of drivers come and go, whereas I am nonetheless right here. However now it is time to go whereas I am nonetheless younger sufficient to make the subsequent step.

“Lately, I co-founded a venture known as ARCKfit, which stands for Augmented Actuality Cognitive Kinetic Health.

“That is the fruits of the whole lot I’ve labored on since I began working with Ayrton. I’ve used all of the years coaching the world’s finest athletes bodily, mentally, and cognitively after which put all of it collectively in a approach that younger drivers, different athletes, and even children can profit from, utilizing cutting-edge expertise. 

“That is one thing that I wish to do utilizing the contacts I’ve, as I am nonetheless not out of the enterprise but.

“As for my ambassadorial position with Sauber, I’m completely happy to share my expertise. It may very well be with seminars, serving to new individuals come into the group, or with VIPs and companions. No matter they want.

“However I am getting a bit of bit older and wiser. I’ve all the time taken care of drivers, now it is time to focus extra on my ardour and enterprise pursuits.

“I hope I’ll be capable to assist many extra athletes slightly than simply particular person drivers.”

Ayrton Senna, McLaren confers with Josef Leberer, McLaren Physio

Picture by: Sutton Photos

Ayrton Senna, McLaren confers with Josef Leberer, McLaren Physio



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