All we hear is “lack of confidence”, but what does it mean?

If only drivers could talk, it would make things so much easier to understand. Instead of the usual phrases about the lack of confidence, perhaps they could tell us more about what exactly they think is wrong. In motor sports, confidence can be lost over the smallest of things, just like the smallest of mechanical failures can force you to retire. We’ve seen numerous drivers struggle with the lack of confidence, most notably Jari-Matti Latvala earlier this year and now Dani Sordo. Well, not exactly NOW, because Dani had problems on many rallies this year. And why, is what I’d like to know.

When we hear this infamous phrase, blaming lack of confidence for the more damaging lack of speed, it can and usually does mean a lot of things. It can be strictly car related but it can also mean that the crew is not 100% co-ordinated and there is a communication problem. In rallying, it’s ALL about communication and trust between the two people, strapped breathless to their seats. If there are any issues going on between the two, if the synergy is missing, you can forget about the speed and competitive results.

As great as it would be, I don’t expect drivers to actually start talking more openly about the problems they encounter. They will use all sorts of escape routes, saying driving was “difficult” or that the setup was copied from their team mate and it didn’t work because “driver B’s setup does not match my driving style because I like things set up differently”, etc., etc. On very rare occasions we would be treated to the more detailed description such as “I like more oversteer”. And that’s about it.

I am not sure whether the drivers would be exposing some of their weaknesses if they were to start talking about the causes for confidence issues, or perhaps it might be seen as a team criticism (and that will never happen)? Maybe they want us to feel puzzled and amusingly misinformed, so we fantasize about the possible reasons, while at the same time it’s just about them being slow! Joking aside, I would really like to know more about the intricate details involved into building this delicate and fragile thing they call confidence. For me, knowing more would just make me appreciate the job these guys do even more. Maybe it would enable us to see them as human beings rather than corporate officials, trained to drive fast, talk little and question nothing.

Is the suspension too soft or firm, does it cause car to go off balance at the wrong times, or rather, at it’s own will instead of when you want it to? Is the seating position too high or too low (some of my favourite WTF scenes were onboards with Petter Solberg in his works Ford years, as he was struggling to see the front corners of the car as he was driving – or at least it looked like that!)? Perhaps the car’s balance is not where you want it to be – does it tend to oversteer or understeer, how does it feel under braking? Does it follow the steering inputs fast enough, or do you need to apply too much corrections? Are you able to anticipate car’s behaviour on the loose surface as well as on the sealed ones? Do you have issues with finding the comfortable levels of grip on gravel stages? Are you happy with your pacenotes and the way they’re delivered to you? Do you feel the pressure of earlier mistakes is to blame for the lack of speed and ability to focus? This and approximately 1000 more questions are on my mind… to have at least some of them answered would be fantastic.