McLaren drivers prepare for winter training camp Engineers from the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes are busily preparing for the 2009 season in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart. Meanwhile, the test team has been readying two cars for December outings to Jerez, Spain, and the new Autodromo Internacional do Algarve circuit in Portugal.
Elsewhere, Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen, Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett are preparing for an outing of a different kind; limbering up for a five-day pre-season training camp at the Kuortane Sports Institute in western Finland.
The human performance partner of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, Kourtane has helped train some of the world’s top athletes, including Finland’s Olympic hopefuls, for more than 40 years. The training camp also acts as a useful team-building exercise, with mechanics and engineers joining the drivers for group exercises and tests at the Kuortane campus.
"Travelling to Finland for our winter training camp is one of the best weeks of the year for me; it feels like you’re miles from anywhere and totally cut off from the outside world. It allows me to focus solely on my training, which is great.
"It’s certainly not an easy week: Finland in the winter is cold and icy and we’re pushed hard for day after day. We spend the first part of the week doing tests to monitor our core strength and flexibility and spend the rest of the time building on specific exercises that will help us once we’re back in the car.
"After Brazil, it’s good to get a proper rest because it’s the one time of the year when you can relax your training a little. But Finland is when it all starts again in earnest. Brazil already seems a long time ago and I’m now focusing 100 per cent on 2009. I had my seat-fitting at MTC earlier this month and while the plan at the moment is to start testing in January, I’m really keen to get going.
"After Finland, I’m looking forward to a couple of big events in the UK. I’ll be attending the Autosport Awards, the Race of Champions and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year event. They’re all fantastic events and they give me a lot of energy because I get to spend time with some of my peers in a relaxed environment and also to meet the British fans, who are always fantastic.
"Before Christmas, I plan to take a holiday and return fresh and positive to kick start our winter test program with the MP4-24. I’ve already had a close look at the new car and the engineers have explained the philosophy behind it and just how different things will be next year.
"I’ve been watching testing with a lot of interest, I think the new cars will make next year’s championship wide open and I’m really looking forward to tackling the new regulations."
"The end of the season is a very important time for me; it’s the best time of the year to properly rest and recharge before everything begins again. That’s why it’s so important for your fitness. It’s vital to start the year with very good core fitness because it’s difficult to train as much as you’d like during the season. That means the basic fitness level you reach over the winter is what keeps you going for much of the year.
"That’s why our training camp in Seinajoki is so important: it’s just for the team and there are no distractions. It’s a hard schedule; up early, and training all day - often outside in the cold - but it’s always fun. Of course, it helps that it’s in my home country of Finland, which makes it especially relaxing and rewarding for me.
"For me, the 2009 season started as soon as I got home from Brazil. I spent two days at the McLaren Technology Centre having my seat-fitting in the 2009 chassis - which already looks like a very promising car for next year, I went to Stars & Cars in Stuttgart, then I went on a short holiday.
"After the training camp, I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car after a month out of the cockpit. I’m testing in Jerez and Portimao later this month and then preparing over Christmas for my first taste of the MP4-24.
"For me, 2009 can’t start soon enough and I’m really looking forward to beginning I’m really looking to getting back in the car and understanding how the new regulations will affect the drivers. I can’t wait to get started."