The expectation to continually perform in a results-driven arena naturally causes stress to build, and as such, staying in check with your emotional needs is a necessity.
Since April, Maserati MSG Racing has been raising awareness around stress and pressure in motorsport and has been shining the spotlight on Mental Health Awareness over the past week.
With a career that has spanned more than 20 years, James Rossiter is well acquainted with working in the face of pressure.
Now in the position of Team Principal, James has the unique perspective of being able to draw on his experiences as a racing driver to navigate a team in motorsport’s most unpredictable series, Formula E.
In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week, James opens up about the challenging situations he has faced in his career and explains his mindset and approach when looking after his own mental wellbeing.
“Being a racing driver is a high-pressure job, and the expectations from everybody inside a team are incredibly high,” explains James, who retired from professional competition in 2022.
“When you’re driving, you feel 100% responsible for the car and you want to give everything to do the best possible job, showcase your abilities, and reward the team for all of their hard work and support.
“The expectations bring an immense amount of stress, and this is something I experienced during the first part of my career and that naturally impacts your mental health.
“I always found that I needed 24 to 48 hours after a race to return to my balance and find my equilibrium, both after highs and lows.
“Highs and lows affect you in different ways, and returning to a balanced state is important so you can make good decisions.
“After a good result, you can be in good spirits and be excited, but it isn’t sustainable to keep that high. But it’s the same with the lows, too.
“If you have a bad result, it isn’t good to carry that mental load and it isn’t sustainable for anybody’s mental health. The peaks and troughs can be big as a driver.”
Even now as Team Principal, James experiences the same highs and lows but has desire to prioritise and look after the mental health of everyone inside Maserati MSG Racing.
“Now as a Team Principal, I’ve found that the highs aren’t quite as high and the lows aren’t as low as to when I was a driver, but the difference is that they last much longer,” he continues.
“That comes down to accountability. As Team Principal, I get to oversee an amazing, talented team of people, and it is my responsibility to create an environment in which they can perform at their best. To do that, it’s vital to look after their mental health and emotions.
“I like to help everybody get through the highs and lows. It takes effort, it takes energy, and whilst overseeing the team, it can be quite hard to look after myself too.”
Since taking up the position of Team Principal, James has seen himself grow both personally and professionally which has led to an evolution of his own perspective.
“The responsibility that comes from being a Team Principal is much higher than being the driver, and the difference is that I’m accountable for everyone,” he says.
“That accountability led to a big evolution in my understanding of the different issues that individual team members face, and seeing how every individual deals with and responds to stress and emotion has been very enlightening.
“I want everyone in Maserati MSG Racing to be accounted for, and I want to have everyone’s best interests heart and most importantly, make sure that nobody gets left behind.”
It is James’ ambition to build upon Maserati MSG Racing’s open and inclusive culture, and believes that to do so, it is vital to embrace the many unpredictable highs and lows that sport can serve.
“Firstly, I think it’s very important to make sure that everyone understands the different pressures that come with competing in sport.
“Sport is a high-performance, results-driven environment, so stress and pressure are part of its nature.
“In competition, the goal is to beat everybody else yet in sport, you’re the loser most of the time. That’s the way sport is.
“If you have a victory rate of 5%, you’re already excelling but understanding that 95% of sport is losing is a very difficult thing for people to grasp.
“That’s why it’s vital to maintain a balance, and that’s why we don’t always need to feel sad when we give our best and don’t get the results we deserve.
“We need to take the positives from every situation because we’re on a journey towards a goal.
“Reaching that goal takes a lot of effort and a lot of energy, and to get there, you need to constantly evolve because every other competitor has the same goal too.
“If everyone understands what we want to achieve, and what it takes to get there, it allows us to be united so we can fight forwards together.”
When we’re united as a team, we’re at our strongest, but it’s on the bad days that we often learn the most so we can come back stronger.
We welcome difficult situations so we can grow, and on a personal level, facing up to situations that might seem intimidating should be welcomed, because it’s ok to not be ok.
If someone is struggling with their own mental health, James believes that it is vital to talk.
“To anyone reading this who is struggling with their own mental health, I would say that you shouldn’t be afraid to voice how you feel,” adds James.
“It can feel daunting and uncomfortable in the beginning, but just discussing your concerns and worries is one of the most important things you can do.
“Having a conversation that might seem difficult will set you free. It’s ok to not be ok, and that’s part of human nature, but being honest and true to your mental health is something that should be embraced.
“Overcoming that fear is the most difficult part.”