AUTOSPORT printed extracts of interviews with Jim Clark and Graham Hill that they carried out in 1962 just before the deciding race in South Africa. They also asked Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton the same questions. It is interesting to see the differences between the different eras. The full interviews with Clark and Hill are available on-line behind the AUTOSPORT Paywall, and it is worth reading if you have access to the site.
One set of questions from these interviews I find particularly interesting, and that is about the ability of the drivers to concentrate 100%.
AS: Do you feel you concentrate 100 per cent?
JC: No. I don’t think anyone can concentrate 100 per cent for two hours; in fact statistics say that very few people can concentrate for more than two minutes without letting their minds wander.
AS: Do you feel that you can concentrate 100 per cent, throughout a race?
GH: No. I would like to be able to, but I don’t think I can.
AS: You give the impression that you are. Your face never appears to move throughout a race.
GH: No, it doesn’t. I try to concentrate because I think this is part of the key to success.
Now we all know that Jamie Alguersuari was able to push 100% from the very beginning of each race. But it seems that he is not alone in this opinion, both Button and Hamilton feel they can concentrate 100% through the entire race:
JB: Yes. That’s my job.
LH: Yes. I never feel like I have a lapse or anything like that. You need to have it [that mental preparation] now.
So are today’s drivers better prepared than those of 50 years ago, or were Clark and Hill just more honest with their analysis of their own abilities. Both were double World Champions (although at the time of the interview neither had won) and certainly Clark appears in most observers lists of the top five greatest ever grand prix drivers.
So either the level of competition has massively improved over the years forcing the top drivers to raise their game, or drivers today are less willing to discuss any possible weakness with the press for fear that it may be used against them.
Hill had this to say about perfection:
Every time you go round a corner you’re trying to do it better than the last time. I’m sure that nobody has ever done a perfect lap anywhere, and if I get one corner off perfectly once in a race, that is an achievement. It depends what sort of standards you set yourself, but I think that anybody who can do two consecutive corners perfectly has really achieved something.
So maybe his standards were just higher than the drivers of today? After all, how many times does the pole sitter claim that he had a perfect lap. Let me know what you think, is it really possible to compare drivers from such different times in the sports history (cars and tracks are much safer now, so errors by the driver do not have the same penalty as they did 50 years ago). If you have read the article, what was the stand out difference for you?