Seldom do we all agree. Some like blondes, others brunettes, and some even like gingers. Some people wear tweed jackets, others would burn a man in tweed. I enjoy questionable music, I hate oysters, and I can't understand a bloody word people from Georgia say.
But just because I like Carly Rae Jepsen and you like Slayer does that mean I am wrong?
As different as we all are, there are a few things in life we should all agree on:
1.) The Acura ZDX is fugly.
2.) Synchronized swimming is odd.
3.) People with long beards are not to be trusted.
4.) Different does NOT mean wrong.
Our differences as human beings translate to our driving. Each driver adopts a unique style; many may seem similar, but each has its own subtle traits.
Drivers like Lewis Hamilton turn in earlier than most, and are notoriously aggressive with the wheel, causing tire degradation. Jenson Button, however, is far smoother and scores when tire wear becomes an issue. Dario Franchitti uses very little brake pressure, allowing him to run a lower ride height, generating more downforce. Tony Kanaan uses more brake pressure than most legs could ever muster.
Each example demonstrates differences in style, and yet all these drivers are at the top of their game, despite employing dissimilar techniques. None of the above methods are wrong, but most styles do not go hand-in-hand.
It is difficult to morph a naturally smooth driver into an aggressive savage, or to transform the master of corner exits into the ruler of corner entry. It's very hard to manipulate a natural, God given style, and divert into something completely different.
If you have experience on track, you probably know what comes naturally and what does not. Just because one person says you should drive a certain way, doesn't mean that you should do so, even if that driver is faster than you. The important aspect for any good amateur racer is to work with the tools you have. Don't reinvent the wheel — unless you are truly useless.
If you are a driver who is smooth on the wheel and loves rear grip on entry, try to find some pros (like Button) who are in the same boat as you are. Study their driving; look for various quotes and interviews to dissect what they do differently. Then channel that information and tweak your style to produce a more well-rounded, faster driver.
There are countless stories of drivers attempting to emulate a rival's style, and, usually, they can't do it. They get frustrated and end up doing worse. Look at what you can incorporate into your driving that still keeps the style the same. How can you tweak the platform you already have to take you to the next level?
Trying to drive like Lewis Hamilton if you are Jenson Button is a waste of time. Both drivers have a different approach to achieving the same goal. Jenson knows his smooth, calm style makes it tougher for him in qualifying, but rather than completely change what has worked for him throughout his entire career, he has incorporated what he can, and used his strengths (his race performance – looking after the tires) to propel him into victory lane on numerous occasions.
Trying different techniques is important. But most important is to understand what works for you, and what does not. Being adaptable is the key to great driving, but realizing what is feasible, given your natural style, and not venturing too far is a necessity.
People will always say you are wrong. You need to be more aggressive. You need to be smoother. You need to brake later and harder. You need to brake earlier and softer (rolling more speed into the bend). Carry speed through apex. Sacrifice speed at apex to rotate the car and go. I'm sure you've heard it all.
But just because others do it a certain way, that doesn't mean it will work for you.
Know yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses. Stick with it, and stay strong, regardless of what others say. I like Carly Rae Jepsen. And I don't give a shit.
About the author: @Alex_Lloyd began racing in the U.S. in 2006. He won the Indy Lights championship in 2007. He's competed in the Daytona 24-hour twice and the Indianapolis 500 four times — placing fourth in 2010. The native of MADchester, UK began racing karts at age 8, open-wheel race cars at 16 and finished second to Formula One World Champion - and close friend - Lewis Hamilton, in the 2003 British Formula Renault Championship, followed by a stint representing Great Britain in A1GP and winning races in Formula 3000. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife Samantha (also from England) and three young "Hoosier" children. He also enjoys racing in triathlons and is rather partial to good old English cup of tea. But not crumpets.