Over the past 12 months, the world has been put on pause, and in this unprecedented period, the life that we lived before has become a distant memory.
With an invisible threat on our doorstep, we have been barricaded into our own homes and a ‘new normal’ has set in all around us.
Almost one year on since COVID-19 was declared as a Public Health Emergency, the need to stay connected is higher than ever. Mental health has never been so important.
In the face of uncertainty, however, we can remain resolute and only by communicating are we able to remember that it’s okay to not be okay.
Despite being some of the most resilient and mentally strong athletes in the world, racing drivers are not exempt from these challenges, and the cancellation of plans demands a new routine.
For Norman Nato – who will make his Formula E debut in Diriyah this February – the fluidity of the Season 7 calendar has been a frustrating affair as the Frenchman explains.
“The current situation that the world is in is not easy for anyone,” he said. “Everyone is struggling right now but I think I’m lucky because I’m still able to do my job to an extent.
“It isn’t, and hasn’t been, easy though. In the run-up to a season, drivers prepare not only physically but also mentally, and just as you can train your body, you can also train your mind.
“When we found out that we weren’t going to Santiago, I was put in a difficult position – I didn’t know what to do next because I didn’t know when we would go racing again.
“It’s good to train so you’re ready for the right moment but if you over-train, it can be very detrimental to your performance. That was one of the difficulties I was keen to avoid.
“Even though the season was starting later, I still ate healthily over Christmas so I could remain the same weight but it was also important for me to be careful about everything, especially the virus.
“If you have a positive test, there’s nothing you can do about it – you can’t react to it. As a rookie, that’s a risk I can’t take. I need to gain experience at every moment, so I’m taking every necessary precaution possible.”
With this concern at the forefront of his mind, Norman opted to spend the New Year on his own, having little to no company as we passed over into 2021.
Facing such a busy schedule, however, Norman was able to avoid any feeling of loneliness which partly came down to his usual approach to competition.
“From my perspective, I’m quite fortunate because when I prepare for races, I always stay far from any trouble or temptation,” he continued.
“I’m a fun and sociable guy, but when I’m preparing for an event or a new season, I’m very cautious, and I completely focus on what I have to do to deliver my best performance.
“I like my own company, and in motorsport, you’re always working with a lot of people and you’re always busy. You never really feel lonely.
“I’m quite happy when I go home to make my own dinner and watch a movie. I’m not sad about it and it’s something that I like. I think mindset is important in these situations and remembering that it’s temporary.”
Alongside the social effects of COVID-19, the unpredictability caused by the pandemic has also changed the way a driver approaches a race.
With uncertainty surrounding each championship calendar, every race has heightened importance and there is more at stake with every position and therefore, point.
“Because of the current circumstances of the world, you never know what’s going to happen and it is very hard to plan anything,” he added.
“When we start a season under restrictions like these, we don’t know exactly how many races we’re going to do and that means that it’s mandatory to score as many points as possible every race weekend.
“To do that, you need to stay on the track and finish the races and that can mean taking fewer risks. But even if things don’t go as planned, you can still learn from it and emerge stronger because of it.
“Sometimes for me my best days are the most challenging days – it means that you overcame a challenge by finding a solution with your team and mentally, that’s important.
“Even if I have a really bad day and I’m not in a good mood, I’ll do the debrief to see where I can improve and then just disconnect from motorsport for a few days.
“To me, that’s important for the team environment because negative feelings can bring everyone down. In such a difficult time, that’s the last thing that’s needed. It’s important to reset.”