Cars

13 Life Lessons From Legendary Race Car Drivers

Some argue, myself included, that driving is a form of expression. Depending on what you do behind the wheel, you can show the world your sensitivity, cognitive prowess, confidence, and creativity. Taken to an extreme level, it's possible to even move into a higher plane of understanding. Case in point: below is a series of quotes from some of the greatest Formula One masters the world has known. Every single time these guys climbed into their race cars, they knew full well that one mistake -- either by them or someone else -- could mean never returning home.

That kind of commitment to a sport is something few will comprehend, but the lessons they learned in such a crucible apply to all of us. It’s more than the old no risk, no reward cliche. To paraphrase Andretti, if you never fail, you not only limit the lessons you learn from adversity, but you have no idea just how far you could have gotten in life.

On self-determinism:

1. "My grandfather always told me that it is no good lying on a hospital bed saying, 'I had the right of way.'"
-- Nigel Mansell, 1992 World Champion (pictured above giving Ayrton Senna a lift)

2. "If you don't come walking back to the pits every once in a while holding a steering wheel in your hands, you're not trying hard enough."
-- Mario Andretti, 1978 World Champion

3. "Suddenly the steering wheel was in my hands. I tried to put it back on, but it was too late. I was just wondering where I was going to end up."
-- Kimi Raikkonen, 2007 World Champion

On risk:

4. "The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel. But more powerful than fear itself, is the will to win."
-- James Hunt, 1976 World Champion (pictured above)

5. "To achieve anything, you must be prepared to dabble on the boundary of disaster."
-- Stirling Moss, quadruple World Championship runner-up

6. "A lot of people criticize Formula One as an unnecessary risk. But what would life be like if we only did what is necessary?"
-- Niki Lauda, 1975, 1977, 1984 World Champion

Kimi Raikkonen, just wanting to drive a car at a media event.
Courtesy of Ferrari

On success:

7. "I'd rather be probably out of second and third place so I don't have to go to the prize-giving."
-- Kimi Raikkonen (pictured above)

8. "That same moment that you are seen as the best, the fastest, and somebody that cannot be touched, you are enormously fragile."
-- Ayrton Senna, 1988, 1990, 1991 World Champion

Sebastian Vettel at a Ferrari Press Event
Courtesy of Ferrari

On motivation:

9. "The moment money becomes your motivation, you are immediately not as good as someone who is stimulated by passion and internal will."
-- Sebastian Vettel, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 World Champion (pictured above)

10."I continuously go further and further, learning abut my own limitations, my body, my limitation, psychological limitations. It's a way of life for me."
-- Ayrton Senna

Sir Stirling Moss in his old Mercedes
Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

On love: 

11. "There are two things no man will admit he cannot do well: drive and make love."
-- Stirling Moss (pictured above)

12. "Happiness is an enemy. It weakens you. Suddenly, you have something to lose."
-- James Hunt

13. "Cornering is like bringing a woman to a climax. Both you and the car must work together. You start to enter the area of excitement at the corner, you set up a pace which is right for the car, and after you've told it it is coming along with you, you guide it along at a rhythm which has by now become natural. Only after you've cleared the corner can you both take pleasure in knowing it's gone well."
-- Jackie Stewart, 1969, 1971, 1973 World Champion

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Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter. He readily admits he gets a little philosophical about driving sometimes.