During the middle of the 2022 Monza Grand Prix weekend, Williams Formula 1 driver Alex Albon fell ill with appendicitis and went in for emergency surgery. Afterward, he suffered a “known but uncommon” complication with post-operative anesthetic, leaving him in temporary respiratory failure. Albon recovered — and just two weeks later, he was back behind the wheel. Men’s Health has a great new feature on how he did it.
The story starts off with a wild anecdote between Albon and his trainer, Patrick Harding. Harding asks Albon how difficult he’s finding his training routine as he prepares for the high temperatures and endurance required of a race at Singapore. On a scale of one to 10, Albon — for the first time ever — gives Harding a 10.
Motorsport is one of those disciplines that requires a lot more physicality than people expect, and the preparation for a race at Singapore often exacerbates this in the extreme: Drivers will be soaked to the bone with sweat to help acclimate them to the muggy climate, and fitness programs include lifting weights and running on the treadmill.
But after Albon went into temporary respiratory failure due to fluid buildup, the driver’s athleticism paid off: He woke up on Sunday morning and immediately asked how qualifying had gone.
The Men’s Health article also delves into the more mental side of things, something that often goes unnoticed:
Before Harding, Albon cycled through a few other coaches. He wanted someone who shared his life philosophy as much as his athletic goals; Albon is a practicing Buddhist, and he grounds his training in a similar humility. He doesn’t like being seen as “The Driver,” the star of the show. F1 naturally lends itself to this hierarchy, where everyone else—the mechanics and pit crew and engineers—serves the man in the racing helmet. Albon hates this. He wanted his trainer to also appreciate the need for modesty.
After Albon woke in the ICU, Harding wanted to make sure Albon understood exactly what had happened: You went into respiratory failure, your body just experienced major trauma. Harding also wanted to drill down Albon’s motivation for driving in Singapore, then only three weeks away.
The full article is worth a read, because it shows just what level of intensity was required for Albon to get behind the wheel. I think it’s easy for many of us to pass off such an achievement as a miracle — but this story proves that such a rapid comeback would have been impossible without a massive level of dedication and so much grueling preparation.