Anger and Racing – Be The One in Control

Dealing with other drivers is a huge part of racing – it’s one thing to be quick when you’re lapping alone, but to be a complete driver you also need to be able to optimise driving when you’re around others.

This includes aspects such as knowing when to hold back behind a driver (hoping to save tires or get away from a chasing pack), avoiding incidents that happen around you, defending against others, and executing successful overtaking moves.

Another part of dealing with competitors is how to handle them when they’re aggressive. Aggressive driving can range from a driver that will send it into narrow gaps, attempt overtaking moves at every possible opportunity, or blatantly push you off the track. A common and understandable reaction when you face such a driver, is to get angry.

Consequences of Getting Angry

The problem with getting angry is that it can lead to poor and rushed decisions, especially if you’re still close to the aggressor. You should always be making decisions that are likely to give you the best possible outcome. Getting angry will almost never do that – it’s unlikely to make you perform better.

These rushed decisions can be disastrous. A common reaction when getting angry is to become aggressive yourself. This can lead to a crash, lost time, lost positions, or even if you successfully retaliate and overtake the driver back through a push-to-pass manoeuvre, you may get penalised by the stewards. Just because the other driver “started it” it doesn’t give you free reign to return the aggression – in fact it’s likely that the stewards recognise it as retaliation and penalise you more because retaliation shows intent.

Strategies to Conquer the Anger

The first step is to recognize that you’re angry by noticing the signs as soon as they occur, so that you can do something about it before you react. Did you start grasping the wheel tighter? Feeling aggressive towards another driver?

– Reframe the Situation

There’s very little if anything you can do about how someone else drives or what they do. You are however in control of yourself, and that includes your thoughts. What someone else did isn’t what makes you angry – it’s your thoughts about what they did.

Reframing the situation can do wonders to how you react to it. If a driver pushed you out wide by bumping into you – maybe they just missed their braking point? Maybe they had a brake issue? Maybe someone else pushed them, and then they pushed you because it was impossible to avoid it? Make your default assumption that it was a simple mistake.

Even when it’s a very obvious case of purposefully aggressive driving, starting to fume over it will do little to better the situation. Put your focus towards planning a strategy to best deal with it. If you’re behind after the incident – where can you overtake in a way that you can build up a large enough gap to best prevent another aggressive move? How much risk are you willing to take? Was the move they put on you very likely punishable by the race officials? – if yes, the best strategy may even be to follow patiently, and make sure that any move you make is clean. Protest them after the race and let the officials deal with it. If you’re ahead – focus and get on with it!

Another possible strategy in reframing the situation is to blame yourself for the incident – even if just a little bit. “I should have defended” or “He wouldn’t have had a chance to be close enough to make the move if I didn’t make that mistake two corners earlier.” It’s very difficult to remain angry at yourself for long, and it’s better to direct your anger inwards rather than at another vehicle – especially if you learn to channel that internal anger to your benefit.

– Take a Deep Breathe

Feeling anger is natural – taking a deep breath on the next straight can help bring down the red mist. Difficult to do of course in the heat of the battle, but especially a “physiological sigh” can be beneficial.

A physiological sigh is simply a deep breath through the nose filling up your lungs, followed immediately by another extra inhalation, and then an exhale through your mouth.

Research shows that a physiological sigh may help reduce the intensity of negative emotions – help control emotional stress. When you get nervous or angry, you may start taking shallower, shorter breaths, so noticing the anger and taking a deep breath can help get your system back in balance.

This tool can also be used on the pre-grid to help control your anxiety levels.

– Channel the Anger

Learn to change what anger does to you. If you notice the signs of anger it’s much better to have a strategy in place that benefits your performance rather than hinders it. Make anger improve your focus and motivate you: “I’ll show that guy, I’m going to put in 10 qualifying laps and drive away from him like he’s in a different category.”

This applies even in the long-term. Felt hard done-by a driver at the race last weekend? Use it as motivation to work harder on your performance – get fitter, study your driving, improve. As soon as you notice the anger, get back to full focus!

Knowing ahead of time that things happen can help you prepare for it. Visualisation exercises can help – go through scenarios in your mind where another driver bumps you and overtakes you. How do you react? Do you let them control you, or are you the one in control?

– Avoid Retaliating

The worst thing you can do is to retaliate – this severely diminished your chances of making a successful complaint or protest, and you risk a crash taking you out of the race. Even if you end up relatively unscathed from a back-and-forth battle, it’s likely to cost you a lot of time in addition to risking a penalty.

What if it was a genuine mistake from the other driver? If you retaliate, now you’ve made them angry as well. The odds of a crash go up significantly when you’ve got two drivers with red mist in their eyes!

It should also go without saying that confronting the other in an aggressive way after the race is a bad idea. A physical fight should get you thrown out of the event or championship.

Know the Rules – And the Event

Was an aggressive move clearly against the rules, or just normal acceptable aggressive driving? If you know it was against the rules, then you have a chance of protesting it – or it may have been observed and already reported by marshalls.

If you know that the series you’re participating in is strict (or relaxed) on driving standards, it may change your strategy somewhat.

A series with strict enforcement means that if the incident(s) was witnessed, they’re very likely to get a penalty. Or at least if you bring up the incident to the officials, you know that they will take a proper look at it.

If you know the event is super relaxed on driving standards, you might first question why you’re racing in such a series. You could also be more likely to return aggression with aggression, if you feel it could be to your advantage. Key point being that you should still not let anger control your actions! Be the one in control.


If you’ve been able to control your anger during a race, and assumed that the other driver would have a penalty waiting for them but they didn’t, you have the option to protest them.

The rules for protesting vary from event to event, so make sure you’ve read the regulations so that you follow the correct procedure. In some events you may be able to request a review of the incident without a formal protest. An important part of protesting or dealing with race officials in general is to be calm and professional when you do so – heading into the stewards room in a fit of anger is a recipe for disaster. Take a deep breathe – or several if you’re still clenching your fists.

The only real complaining you should do about another driver is to the officials – ranting and raving about another driver to your teammates, friends, parents, etc. will likely just fuel your anger further in a negative way. Look at what you can do to improve the situation rather than make it worse. Hopefully the advice in this article will help in any future anger-inducing events you’re a part of.

Some great resources on controlling anger, which were also sources for this article:

Anger Secrets Podcast and Website (

How to Manage Your Anger During Games – Sports Psychology Coaching Podcast (Spotify)

Physiological Sigh – Huberman Lab (Youtube)

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