Guest blog by Thiemo Albers-Daly
Danielle Simpson is a chameleon of motorsport. Having started out as a grid girl at Brands Hatch, she then moved into the world of hospitality. When the pandemic struck, Danielle had arrived at a turning point in her life and decided that she had to reinvent herself once again – and this time, it’s been in a truly exciting and inspiring way.
That’s because she’s jumped head first into an area of the racing world that is incredibly important but currently underutilized: Mental Health. Danielle’s now on a crusade to revolutionize how mental health is viewed and approached throughout the racing world and has already begun working with racing drivers to demonstrate the importance of a positive mindset. She’s done this through her work as a mindset coach and as an author of the book, ‘The Mindset Mission.’
What is the Mindset Mission about?
Danielle wrote her debut book, ‘The Mindset Mission’ (Techniques to create a positive mindset to achieve your potential), having never written a book before – “If I can do it, anyone can!”. Danielle threw everything she had into it, being brutally honest about her life experiences and how this helped her learn about and develop the techniques in her book. For a short read, there’s a lot packed into the pages that’s worthy of reading and re-reading time and again.
“I am now so grateful for my life experiences as I wouldn’t be the strong, independent woman I am today without them. I’ve always loved helping people, whether it is through fitness, yoga or reading books together; I’m just so lucky I have found my passion in life. If I hadn’t lived the life I have I wouldn’t have found my true passion for helping people through coaching, meditation and the book club. My book brings me so much joy as I know I’ll be able to reach more people and serve them through my authentic writing.”
While mental health is an area that is growing in the world of motorsport, there’s still a lot to be done and there can still be confusion over what working with a mindset coach actually involves. When collaborating with Danielle for this piece, she talked me through the process that she goes through with her clients:
“We always start by identifying where they are currently, as you cannot implement change if you are not aware of the current reality. Once that is established we then focus on reducing self- limiting beliefs and look at where these could have stemmed from. And finally understand the techniques such as meditation and journaling, and how they can help and improve a situation.
Then throughout the race season I support the client at track and online, having check in’s about how the season is going, how we can improve and focusing on what is going well.”
It comes across as a logical, straightforward approach but in practice, this can be very far from the truth. This is enhanced by the competitive nature of the motorsport world and how that brutal ruthlessness can impact drivers of all ages and experience levels. Obviously though, mental health challenges don’t just impact racing drivers – they can burden anyone and everyone. Those working in racing behind the scenes off track are just as vital as those out on track and getting everyone in the right frame of mind armed with the necessary tools to ensure things stay that way creates a recipe for success.
“I have been so lucky to work with lots of amazing women in such a short period of time, ranging from grid girls, female mechanics and racing drivers. All clients revealed that their confidence had increased and they now have tools in place to calm the nervous system when life throws an unexpected curve ball.”
While straightforward to this motorsport journalist, it’s not the perception across a significant portion of the motorsport world – at least not yet. In recent years, we’ve seen drivers from every level of motorsport, including Formula 1 and Formula E come out and discuss their mental health challenges and how it’s impacted their career. Formula E Champion Jean Eric Vergne detailed his struggles which manifested physically, going as far as to starve himself so that he could be lighter inside the car during his time at Red Bull/Toro Rosso. Lando Norris has also come out and talked about his mental health when McLaren teamed up with the mental health charity Mind and current Alfa Romeo driver Valterri Bottas discussed his struggles during the early years of his F1 career at Williams too.
But while these are some of the positive examples of drivers coming out and talking about this still taboo issue, there are still those who don’t see why motorsport and mindset support should blend. Danielle herself has had experience of this but has made clear that this will only motivate her further to turn over this particular table.
“I would say my biggest challenge so far is finding open minded people within the industry. In all other sports it is second to none to have mindset support however in motorsport, some have said it makes you look weak, which I highly disagree with and my mission is to get that correct message across about the benefits and key involvement of mindset coaching.”
There is some good news to combat the bad though. When interviewing Danielle earlier in the year for my motorsport podcast, On the Kerbs, we talked about how it’s been easier to talk to the next generation of people working in motorsport about mental health and the importance of mindset techniques. This has then been reflected on track and perfectly demonstrates that positive change can and is happening.
“My biggest success has probably been when one of my most recent clients, only aged 16, confirmed that working with me has helped her in every aspect of life including school and managing her anxiety around GCSE’s; this comment honestly made me feel on cloud 9. Knowing I have shared tools and techniques that will always support her through life is an incredible feeling, which is why I wanted to help people in the first place. Supplying techniques that had helped me through a difficult period to others.”
Like anything worthwhile, it’s going to take some time before we see real permanent change in motorsport when it comes to mental health. But Danielle has the right approach as she works with the next generation to implement the techniques to create and maintain a positive mindset in life, both on and off track. She’s also not going to give up on the more stubborn parts of the motorsport world either (not that anyone would expect her to) and that persistence is surely going to pay off over time as the results continue to prove that this approach is a winning formula.
“I am very happy and grateful that I have had such success within the industry that is so close to my heart and I will continue to grow and share my mission across all paddocks, with the dream being Formula One.”
As Danielle has shown numerous times in her personal and professional life, it’s never too late to start again and to try something new if you’re willing to throw everything at it and that’s something everyone should keep in mind.
If you’re interested in Danielle’s book, ‘The Mindset Mission’, you can grab your copy at Waterstones, Amazon and other good retailers.
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