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Episode 3: Enabling Exceptional F1 Drivers through Human-Centred Coaching with John Noonan

In Formula One racing having the fastest car or the most skilled driver is crucial to winning, but equally important is the team of dedicated professionals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that every aspect of performance is optimised. At the heart of this team is the performance coach. In the third Hytro Performance Podcast, we spoke to John Noonan to understand more about his role, and how he curates peak performance, guiding drivers through the mental, physical, and emotional challenges of one of the most demanding sports on the planet.

Hytro Performance Podcast logo with John Noonan

In the latest Hytro Performance Podcast, Richard Frost, Chief Marketing Officer at Hytro, caught up with John Noonan of Noonan Performance to delve into the world of Formula One performance coaching. As a seasoned expert, John shared invaluable insights into his craft, revealing his passion for his work as they discussed the multifaceted nature of the role, emphasising the importance of a holistic approach to athlete development. “I cover everything from the physical, the recovery, the nutritional, to the mental support that we can provide. A wraparound service that enables these high performers, particularly Formula One drivers, to perform at their best in their space,” John explained. For Formula One drivers, who are subjected to extreme physical forces and mental pressure, this comprehensive approach is essential for maintaining peak performance throughout the gruelling race season.  


From designing personalised training programs to providing nutritional guidance and mental resilience training, the performance coach’s role is complex, ensuring a balance between every element of the athlete’s preparation, training, and recovery. “You get very good at having knowledge and a skill set within a range of areas from physical athletic preparation to recognising how you maximise and optimise someone’s athletic recovery, their wellbeing, their wellness.” 


Perhaps the most crucial aspect of being a performance coach is the ability to connect with athletes on a human level. Being able to relate to people, understand the problems they are dealing with, and provide the right solutions were essential criteria for the role, according to John. ” I think the adage is very true ‘People don’t care what you know until they know that you care’. Invariably it becomes a people thing. It’s a people business, ultimately.  I had so much more impact on my athletes when I took a moment out to just talk on a human level. It’s about being human first,” he emphasised. In a demanding sport, that allows little room for errors, building trust and rapport with athletes is integral to the role. Taking the time to listen, empathise, and address athletes’ concerns not only builds a stronger coach-athlete relationship but also enhances performance on the track, with John adding “I think it goes a long way to people seeing that you treat them as a person and not just a data point.” 


John Noonan with Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB walks in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA – MARCH 07: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB walks in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 07, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)


From the outside, the world of Formula One may appear glamorous and exhilarating, but behind the scenes, it’s a world of relentless dedication, meticulous preparation, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Performance coaches are the often-unseen critical part, working tirelessly to unlock the full potential of every athlete under their care. With a human-centered approach to athlete development, innovative training methods, and unwavering support, John exemplifies the culture of Formula One’s continuous race for greatness. 


Drivers must perform within an extremely high-pressure environment and are supported by their performance coach who plays a pivotal role in helping them manage the mental and emotional challenges they face. “You play a role of being a bit of an enabler when it comes to a mental point of view,” he explained. Whether it’s providing emotional support during difficult times or challenging drivers with thought-provoking questions to stimulate growth, performance coaches must be versatile in their approach, wearing different hats as the situation demands. 


Recovery is another area where performance coaches focus their attention, recognising its critical importance in maintaining peak performance. “In an F1 season, there are 24 races and there are 24 opportunities for them to score points, to demonstrate that they are someone of value to a team because it’s incredibly competitive,” he pointed out. With the relentless pace of the Formula One calendar, drivers must be physically and mentally prepared for each race weekend. Failure to recover adequately can drastically affect performance, and ultimately put their seat on the team under scrutiny. John explained “If you’re looking at under-recovery as one of those potential factors that impacts how fresh or rested somebody is to deal with the rigors of a really tough race week in a tough environment, then why wouldn’t we be looking at that? So, it’s really high on our agenda.” 


John Noonan in the pitlane

ZANDVOORT (NL), 02-04 September 2022: Grand Prix of the Netherlands 2022 at Circuit Zandvoort. Frederick Vesti #09 ART Grand Prix. © 2022 Sebastiaan Rozendaal / Dutch Photo Agency


Innovative solutions like Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) have been on John’s radar for some time, and he has been using it with his athletes for training and recovery. “If you have a need or a problem that you’re trying to solve, be that physical preparation or physical recovery, BFR is a worthwhile solution,” he stated. With Performance BFR’s ability to accelerate muscle growth, improve recovery times, and enhance overall performance, BFR has become an integral part of the performance coach’s toolkit, trusted due to an extensive pool of research validating its efficacy. 


Drivers are under strict weight restrictions so performance coaches must navigate a delicate balance between building strength and avoiding excessive muscle mass. John astutely points out, that the primary focus isn’t on bulking up drivers but rather on optimising their athletic capabilities within the confines of these constraints. While muscle hypertrophy may not be the main goal, optimising the strength training that is done, in a more time-efficient way, is hugely beneficial within a congested schedule. He added, “BFR certainly is a really reasonable solution to use where you want a huge return for a little bit of stress and time.”  


In a sport where every minute counts, being able to achieve maximum results in minimal time is invaluable. “It’s far more time efficient. I can get far more done in ten or fifteen minutes,” he added when discussing his own training. For Formula One drivers, whose schedules are packed with training sessions, media commitments, and travel, this time-saving aspect of BFR training is particularly appealing and something John uses when selling it as a new modality to the driver. “We’re very much in a day and age now where most people want a high return for little investment. They want quick results without really suffering the effort to get there.” Using Hytro BFR wearables to access the numerous benefits of BFR means you don’t need the perfect training environment; you can apply it on the go and still maximise training or recovery.  



John Noonan in the pits

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA – MARCH 08: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive in the garage during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)


Whether it’s post-race fatigue or the strains of travel, BFR can be seamlessly integrated into drivers’ routines, providing a quick and effective means of rejuvenation. “Why wouldn’t we throw it on after these guys have been in the car or strap in for a few minutes in the hotel room when they get back late in the evening? Meaning there’s no need to go through extensive recovery protocols. It’s quick, it’s easy.” 


While the scientific evidence supporting BFR is robust, the subjective experiences of drivers further validate its efficacy, with many reporting feelings of freshness and vitality after incorporating it into their regimes, John shared, “Anecdotally, they report subjectively feeling fresher, lighter, more rested. And even if we’re playing with a placebo angle, that’s good enough for me.” 


The role of the performance coach is vital to the success of the F1 teams, and John’s ethos and approach to enabling these exceptional athletes to reach their potential is inspiring, particularly within the challenging world of motor racing. With his current athlete Yuki Tsunoda claiming his first point on home soil at the recent Japanese Grand Prix, John’s coaching, and use of innovative tools such as Hytro, are driving the sport forwards.  


Listen to the full podcast on Spotify and YouTube.


If you want to find out more about how Hytro BFR is used within Formula One, read ‘Unravelling the Science of BFR and Team Dynamics that gives Red Bull Racing an edge, with Bradley Scanes’. 

To learn about Performance BFR, click below.

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