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McLaren: Positive Pressure in the Pit Lane with Dr Phil Hopley


Like so many companies, McLaren felt the full force of Covid across their F1 team with restrictions preventing them from performing as one large, unified team. Divided into covid secure bubbles of just 3 -4 team members, they had to adapt quickly to a new way of working adding to an already highly pressurised environment. As a result, the team experienced fatigue, reduced energy and increased irritability, typical of chronic stress and burnout.

Tom Stallard, Race Engineer and Head of Human Performance for the F1 team brought in Dr Phil Hopley at the height of the pandemic in the summer of 2020 to help the team with their resilience and performance.

Dr Phil travelled with the team to the German Grand Prix in October 2020 and after a series of 1-1 interviews, team meetings and reviews of recent engagement surveys identified these key themes:

  • Reduced resilience, disrupted sleep and emotional exhaustion
  • Dissatisfaction of working in micro-bubbles
  • Negative mindsets about the CV19 ways of working
  • Feeling increasingly disconnected from peers and family at home



As well as supporting a number of individuals struggling with their mental health that week, Phil made immediate recommendations across four key areas:

  • Individual Clinical Psychology work is the gold standard for treating mild to moderate stress related conditions including anxiety and depressive disorders.
  • Our webinars on the key mental and behavioural changes that enable sustainable high performance and sleep science are scientifically proven to improve wellbeing and build resilience under pressure
  • Our Psychometric Assessment tailored coaching programme is designed to enable leaders to enhance their personal resilience and optimise aspects of their leadership behaviours identified for improvement.
  • Cognitive Behavioural & Mindfulness coaching helps people with performance anxiety rapidly develop a sense of control leading to improved confidence, a key building block for sustainable performance.



The support programme was immediately welcomed by the team and over time led to lasting individual, sub-team and cultural changes. A shift in mindset rippled through the team creating improved communications, better team engagement and commitment by individuals to enhance their personal resilience. The 2021 season saw McLaren build on their 2020 progress placing 4th in the Championship, and at Monza achieving their first 1 & 2 double podium in over 10 years, an experience that Phil will never forget. This winter we moved on to deliver our Authentic Leadership programme building from 4 modular sessions into individual coaching.

This season, Dr Phil is continuing to travel with the team every few months to provide mental performance coaching and psychological support, working closely with the other members of an excellent multidisciplinary wellbeing team. And the early signs for 2022 are promising: after a challenging start, Lando Norris was on the podium (P3) in Imola and the McLaren F1 pit crew are currently ranked top of the DHL Pit Stop League recording fastest times in the pit lane in 3 of the first 4 races.

Feedback from the senior team and participants has been universally positive:   

Tom Stallard, Race Engineer and Head of Human Performance, commented:

“Since 2020, when the pandemic had a massive effect on the wellbeing of our trackside team, Dr. Phil has transformed our mental fitness, effectively developing both mental health and performance psychology. Often sport psychology may feel insufficient on the days one is struggling and psychiatry feels excessive in eking out the last 2% of performance, but Phil’s ability to understand and support both at an extremely high level has enabled the team to maintain resilience and deliver consistently great performance over the last 2 seasons.”

And feedback from Andrea Stella, Executive Racing Director:

Our collaboration with Cognacity continues to be excellent. Working with Dr Phil and Prof Pieter on their Authentic Leadership programme has delivered the impact we hoped for in terms of leader resilience development, leadership behaviour and improved team culture. As a result, we are delighted to expand the programme for the coming season.”

We look forward to making further progress and gains with the team this season.

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