13 Traits / Skills of Great Race Car Drivers (Is it in You?)

What exactly are the skills and traits of a world-renowned race car driver? Whether you are considering a career as a Formula One/NASCAR driver, or simply want to satisfy your curiosity, this is a valid question. 

I am an avid fan of all kinds of motorsports, and I have often wondered what it takes to get behind the wheel and have fun, while successfully navigating dangerous twists and turns at high speed. I look at the most successful race car driver, like Lewis Hamilton, and think to myself,” what do they have that so many other speed-maniacs do not”?

Just to clarify; while the below-mentioned skills and traits are seen in leading race car drivers, there are also years of training and dedication that go into it. No one can simply say that they have these skills and traits and expect to automatically be a great race car driver. That being said, are you ready to learn what skills and traits are commonly seen in top race car drivers and why they possess them in the first place? If you are, let’s jump right in.

13 traits and skills of a great race car driver:

1. Passion for the sport.

If a race driver does not have a passion for racing, it will be hard for them to put in the time required to become great. Passionate drivers are not just passionate about the concept of being a race driver, but are also passionate about the competition, the car, and pushing their own capabilities further. Audiences/fans can pick up on the enthusiasm and passion of a driver, which can ultimately be the deciding factor in whether they will support that particular driver or not.

2. Confidence and decisiveness.

While racing at high speed, there is no room for hesitation. Decisions have to be made firmly and with conviction; otherwise, accidents could happen. Having confidence on the race track ensures that drivers can navigate difficult and potentially dangerous situations swiftly and effectively. For this type of confidence and decisiveness, a race car driver really has to learn to trust his own judgment and to immediately follow through on decisions.

3. Highly observant and equally highly reactive.

If a race car driver is blasé or unobservant on the race track, what is going to happen? Either there is going to be an accident, or she is going to miss out on possible opportunities to take. If a driver is not starting in pole position, he is going to have to keep a watchful eye for opportunities as well as risks. When an opportunity or potential risk presents itself, he/she needs to be able to react immediately, in order to take full advantage of the situation or avoid an accident and injury.

4. Burning desire to take risks.

A real race car driver with a real future is one that is not afraid to take risks. In fact, they feel that they are born to take risks. Renowned race car drivers are known to “tear up the track”, zoom in between other race cars, go faster than anticipated, slide around corners, and yes, have accidents too. If a race car driver has a burning desire to take risks but also has the experience and wisdom to know which risks are worth taking, she will go far in his career. 

5. Attitude.

To go far as a race car driver, you need to have the right attitude. Racecar drivers cannot throw tantrums or make autonomous decisions on the track. It’s all about keeping calm, working as a team, and being open to constructive criticism and advice. 

If you watch a race live on TV, you might notice that the race car drivers regularly consult with their technical team. This is because the technical team can provide sound advice on the handling ability of the vehicle, as well as the current scenario on the track. A great race car driver has an attitude of teamwork and is willing to take advice and instruction as needed. Most of all, race car drivers need to have an enthusiastic attitude. 

6. Patience.

A racecar driver without patience will take unnecessary risks and put the entire team in jeopardy of losing. He might also try to rush the process to win by means of speed when there is a way to win strategically instead. A great race car driver is patient with the process and gradually improves and progresses. He is also patient with his teammates and advisors when he is told to hang back or avoid a particular decision. This can be a tough trait to master. 

7. Drive to constantly improve.

A great race car driver is never stagnant. Not only does he zoom around the race track, but he is also just as dedicated to improving his skills as much as he is to high speeds. One of the traits of a renowned driver is that he/she is always looking for ways to improve his speed and technique. 

Racecar drivers do not just show up at the race track and drive. Instead, they focus on keeping fit and healthy, continually keeping up with the latest racing news and results, and always listening to those who can provide useful advice and tips on how to grow from strength to strength. This is not a chore for great race drivers; instead, it is something they love to do. Improvement means progress, which means a higher chance of winning the race.

8. Independence (relationship security).

The world’s greatest race car drivers have families to consider. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the career of a race car driver keeps him traveling from one country to the next. There are many practice days when at home, and while involved in competitions and championships, they can spend weeks and months “on the road”. 

For race car drivers to truly perform, their head has to be in the race. For this to be possible, they need to have a stable and secure relationship with their partner and family back home. And in order for this type of relationship to flourish, they need to be independent as well as confident in their family relationships, as well as their partnership/marriage. 

9. Respect.

There is no room for disrespect on the race track. Of course, every race car driver wants to dominate the track and win, but it has to be done in a respectful way. Drivers need to respect themselves, other drivers, their managers and technical teams, as well as their vehicle, and the race track. If you want to be the best race car driver you can be, nurture a respectful attitude and approach.

10. Coordination and quick reflexes.

Racecar drivers are probably some of the most highly coordinated people you will ever meet. It takes a great amount of coordination to control the steering, brakes, clutch, and accelerator, and be fully aware of what is happening around you while traveling at high speed. When something happens, reflexes have to be quick and reliable. All of the greatest race car drivers have developed advanced coordination skills and, of course, fast reflexes.

11. Ability to lose graciously and win humbly.

Even the best race car drivers lose races. For instance, if you think about Lewis Hamilton, who missed the top place in several individual races, but still bagged his latest world championship, you will realize that there is a lot to be said for graceful losses and humble wins. 

If you watch the online video clips of his interviews, you will find that Hamilton loses with grace and celebrates his wins humbly, without rubbing it in the face of his competitors. A lot can be learned from this particular behavior.  

I particularly like this interview of him.

Video Source: YouTube / Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

12. Unique personality.

Many race car drivers have earned fans from countries other than their own, simply because they have great personalities. 

One particular Formula One driver that is loved for his personality, as well as for his driving abilities, is Daniel Ricciardo from Australia. Daniel’s fan base is worldwide! Because of his much-loved personality, sports channels feature him in interviews more than many other race car drivers. That is surely saying something. This does not only mean that Daniel is loved by his fans. It also shines him in a positive light, which sponsors of the future might come to admire and seek out. 

13. Option physical condition.

For some, this might come as a surprise, but die-hard fans know that physical conditions are extremely important for race car drivers. They actually spend a lot of time maintaining and improving their fitness levels. For instance, during a race, F1 drivers have to deal with various challenges, such as high speeds, G loads, high temperatures, among others. 

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Race Car Driver?

If you have the above qualities and the desire to be a race car driver, perhaps now is the time to get behind the wheel. Of course, there is a lot more to being a race car driver than the above skills and traits, but they are undeniably a great starting point.