Racing drivers must be not only “fast” but also “strong,” they say.
Shun Koide in his third season in the FIA-F4 series this year achieved unstoppable five-straight wins in the initial three events, from 2nd to 6th rounds, despite he had lost 1st due to an accident he was not to blame for, and leaped up to the top of the point table.
Considering that, in the previous season, he had won only once and placed 6th overall, Koide’s performance this year seems to be of a different person, and at the same time, a proof of true strength.
Koide showed up at Suzuka in high spirits for the 4th event (R-7 & 8) and spoke out his mind, “I’m full of confidence this year, just the opposite of the year before.”
“I think you can polish your skills through training. Overtaking or blocking and so on in the race, and go quicker too. But that’s not enough, I believe. I mean, you can be strong only when you’re confident.”
Why couldn’t he come up with such a confidence earlier, say, in 2021 for instance?
“To be honest, I did not believe in myself last year.” said Koike rather offhandedly.
“Up until last year, I was kinda absorbed to adjust the car setting to my style. But this year, I’ve been working on the theme, ‘Adjust my style to the car instead.’ I’d had very little confidence in me before. That’s why I couldn’t adjust my driving style to the car. What I did this year in the preseason practice was ‘do without' changing set up and let my own driving deal with every situation. I think I came to know the knack of it, and it brought me a lot of confidence. As a result, I’ve never fallen down in lower positions from free practices to the race, always stayed in the top ranks and it made me confident even more.”
He exprained, just in time for his third year in FIA-F4, there came encouraging influences motivating him to change his mind. “Abe-san (Team Manager), Kaneishi-san (Advisor) and a few other senior members kindly gave me the advice, telling me with one voice, that I should change my way. I realized from their comment on the past examples that drivers who did change could only succeed in the upper categories. That’s why I was convinced the theme to be the one and only way for me to go.”
HFDP Team Manager, Abe himself now admits Koide is racing with absolute confidence.
“Koide is telling himself, ‘You’re invincible.’ while he's driving this year, almost all the time. He’s now very much sure he’d never lose, for he knows he's done every possible effort that he could think of. Racing driver can only be ‘strong’ when he has confidence in himself. The mileage of actual driving practice is not particularly long at our team. But he does it on a simulator he has at home. He’s been working hard on his own as such. On top of it, HFDP start providing him with a physical trainer from this season which helped him to be stronger, not only on physical but also on mental aspects.”
Koide talks on the simulator rather casually.
“Oh, yes, I got a simulator of my own some time ago. I use it as one of many exercises for the race but I don’t expect something ‘special’ in it. I simply enjoy playing a game. Of course, there’re times when I ponder, maybe unconsciously, ‘How can I go quicker?’ But there’s no pressure nor obligation in it. I’m a man who likes driving very much, loves racing from the bottom of my heart. In the actual race, I usually get nervous before the start, however, once I entered the race, I feel nothing but joy of driving. Just excitement, absolutely stress-free. I think I’m driving in delight and tension at the same time, maybe fifty-fifty.”
The 4th round of FIA-F4 series (R-7 & 8) was held at Suzuka Circuit on August 27-28 to which Koide headed out with high hopes for the sixth consecutive victory in the series, however, he failed to get pole position in the two occasions. To make matters worse, his teammate and the biggest rival, Yusuke Mitsui achieved back-to-back wins in the face of Koide, literally. Koide’s successive win was interrupted and now he was set back to 2nd in the point ranking albeit just 1-point behind Mitsui.
Koide could not hide his inner vexation right after the race, which was obvious on the podium and understandable too for anyone, but when he returned to the team, his face was relaxed and restoring usual mildness.
Team Manager, Abe, carefully watching Koide’s progress, said:
“It’s good to be confident, just like as Koide has grown this year. But there's always be the dark side. Young drivers have a tendency of overdo things. They often get overconfident, or "carried away" in other words, that is to say a cocky state of mind. You can’t win the race all the time. 2nd place is fine but defeat is defeat against 1st place, right? That's why we have to guide them not to lose the confidence in themselves in such a case.”
Young drivers fighting in the FIA-F4 series invariably wish to step up to the higher classes. It means that FIA-F4 is not the place to stay long, better “go through” as quickly as possible. Especially for Koide in his third season in the series, it would be a live-or-die moment of his career if said harshly. In that sense, he has an ultimate reason not to surrender the champion title this year. Nevertheless, Koide showed no sign of anxiety as he was engaged in packing to call it a day.
“This is my third season, and to be honest, I wanted to run this year in the upper category, I mean, Super Formula Lights (SFL). But now, I really think, ‘It’s good to have kept on doing in FIA-F4 for this season again.’ No joke, I’m serious. What I’ve learned this year, how important to be in confidence. Anything other than that, whole experiences or whatever, will come in effect sooner or later. Maybe more later than sooner, but for sure. If I run in SFL this season, as in my old, immature self, I’d be like a wheel turning without axle, and mess things up, most probably. When I go upper stages, I want to be perfectly ready for it, and do very best I can.”