In the Zone with F1’s Carlos Sainz Jr

Formula 1’s Carlos Sainz Jr took time out of a training camp in Thanyapura earlier this year to talk to us about how he gets ‘In the Zone’. For athletes, preparation is key for big races. Carlos Sainz Jr used his time at Thanyapura, Phuket to acclimatise to the heat and improve his fitness ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix – where he placed eighth. 

Video time stamps

0.02 – What surprised you about Thanyapura?

0.13 – Is there anything that we are missing here?

0.37 – What kind of training have you been doing here?

1.14 – What have you been doing besides the cardio work?

2.09 – Why is it important for you to travel with a coach?

2.55 – Do you have a favourite car to drive outside of Formula 1?

3.19 – Your father is a legendary driver, did he ever give you any advice you care to share?

8.24 – How do you deal with fear?

8.53 – What do you see for yourself after your career in Formula 1?

9.44 – Who do you look up to in sports, other than your father?

Key points from the interview

Sitting behind the wheel of one of the fastest cars in the world, Formula 1 driver Carlos Sainz Jr epitomises control, confidence and discipline. In training, he prepares physically and more importantly, mentally to conquer in the Formula 1, where he says “talent is not an option… it’s all about hard work, dedication and preparation” (3.33). Time and time again, before every race, Carlos Sainz Jr must get ‘In the Zone’ – a place where athletes maintain the power to stay focused and perform under pressure.

Every athlete has a different meaning of being ‘In the Zone’. It comes down to understanding what makes you tick. Only you can understand how to deal with things that clog your mind, so it does not get in the way of success. Carlos Sainz Jr spoke to Thanyapura about what this mentality is to him and how he gets into The Zone (4.53).

“When I am In the Zone, I am confident and know that I have done everything to prepare for that moment. I have to put myself in the position where I am ready for every corner and lap… and know that I am going to take it a bit faster,” he said.

“I have a specific way [of getting In the Zone]. It all starts in the morning from when I wake up. I have a routine. When I arrive at the track, I always warm up for 15 minutes – 5 minutes of boxing, skipping and throwing a tennis ball with my trainer (5.42).

“I have exact periods of time where I rest. Then I go into my room and I get my radio set on with no music on at all to just to get my ears away from the noise. I just want to concentrate on myself. Then I can jump into a car being In the Zone and fully ready because I know that I have done something that has given me the win method in other races (7.12).

Athletes dedicate hour after hour to prepare for that race but in the end they can only ‘control the controllables’ (6.31). In Formula 1, there are many things that can and do go wrong. As a driver you control the direction and speed of the car but if there is something mechanically wrong, it is out of your power. Carlos Sainz Jr focuses on setting personal goals and has taught himself not to worry about the things he cannot control – the mechanics, the engine and the aerodynamics.

Carlos Sainz Jr said: “I focus on setting result goals because in Formula 1 there are many other factors that can go wrong and are not caused by me.

“You can sometimes try to do what you want to be quick but if you have an engine that is slower, you cannot control this. The engine is doing the job not yourself. You need to focus on not letting those little things that you can’t control affect you. It was not your mistake, it was something you couldn’t control.

“That is why I focus on myself and set my own personal goals because I can always improve on things. From there, you can create your best line and start improving the weak points (1.25).”

For tips, advice and more from our interview with Carlos Sainz Jr, watch the video in this blog post.

What does getting in ‘In the Zone’ mean?

Athletes perform under huge amounts of pressure every time they enter the track or field. They are expected to compete to the best of their ability, while maintaining control of their emotions. The power to stay focused and perform under pressure under all situations is dubbed The Zone.

To get ‘In the Zone’, athletes have to learn to let go of things they cannot control and trust their intuition and inner faith. They must accept the possibility that when they enter a race or competition, they could lose but they could also win. This ability to perform in any situation is essential in sport.

What are the stages of getting ‘In the Zone’?

Getting ‘In the Zone’ can be a ten-step process and each athlete follows this in a completely different way.

The first step is called ‘dream’. The Zone is a dream-like state where your conscious and unconscious flow together, without unnecessary clogs. If you can tap into your dreams you can start to understand your unconscious and where you let yourself down in a race.

If you want to get ‘In the Zone’ you have to prepare yourself to overcome the odds – this is step two. Putting yourself under pressure will reveal your weak spots. To prepare yourself to succeed you must understand what works for you leading up to a big race or competition, so that you can free clutter from your mind in the ever-challenging environment of sport.

Step three is where you transform your desire to succeed into knowing you will succeed. Desire exists to help you pursue a dream but you must transform your desire into something more. You must train your mind and build your confidence to know that you will and can do what you want in a competition.

Trust your brain, keep it simple and stay position in step four. Focus on what is in front of you and commit to achieving it.

Step five is to stay in the now and be in the process. Keep your mind focused in the present and resist distraction. If not, you will lose precious mental energy to help you succeed.

Manage your emotions and thoughts – step six. You must master intense feelings and not let them control you in the lead up to a race.

Step seven – keep motivated and focus on what you can achieve.

Acceptance and trust conquers fear – step eight. Fear is the great enemy of any competitor. If you conquer your fear you will find it is easier to get and stay ‘In the Zone’.

Step nine – build your confidence and win.

Performing under pressure is the final step to getting ‘In the Zone’. If you are able to put emotional, psychological and physical stresses aside and rise above them you can achieve a lot.


The Thanyapura Mind Centre offers services that will allow you to free your mind from worry and get into The Zone. Services include meditation, yoga and related practices that will help you seek greater meaning and fulfillment in your life. For more, visit




About the Author

In the Zone with F1's Carlos Sainz JrPierre Gagnon practised concentration and insight meditation intensively from 2010 to 2012, then went on to study meditation at Wat Suan Mokkh with the venerable Ajahn Po from 2013 to 2015. As well as his own practice, he has coordinated meditation retreats in the south of Thailand which were attended by more than 1,000 people.

Having a great passion in the field of neuroscience, he likes to integrate these concepts into meditation practice. He believes that much of our life is lived resisting and defending against internal and external experiences that people perceive as threats. Through the development of concentration and meditation, we can insightfully see that all experiences are harmless and there is no need to defend of contract around them.  Pierre has experience coordinating concentration and insight meditation retreats, teaching the relationship that exists between Buddhism and neuroscience.

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