Sports

The super-powered brains of F1 drivers

Romain Grosjean: Stress testing a Formula One star's brain

Andrew Stewart, CNN

Updated 6:22 AM ET, Fri October 13, 2017

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The helmet of Haas F1's French driver Romain Grosjean is displayed in Melbourne on March 23, 2017, ahead of the Formula One Australian Grand Prix. / AFP PHOTO / Paul Crock / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE --        (Photo credit should read PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)

Formula One's 'Super Performers'

Sebastian Vettel celebrates on the podium after winning the 2017 Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix.

'One of the greatest drivers I've ever seen'

My first car? Fernando Alonso's Renault

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MAY 12: Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren Honda laughs in the Drivers Press Conference during previews to the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya on May 12, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Alonso and McLaren 'have unfinished business'

McLaren's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso drives his car during the qualifying session of the Formula One Austria Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, on July 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Hungarian Grand Prix and Alonso: The Circuit

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his epic victory in the Spanish Grand Prix for Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton triumphs in Spanish GP

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 21: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari takes part in the drivers' parade before the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 21, 2014 in Singapore, Singapore. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

F1: The Ice Man's first car

williams martini racing formula 1 pit stop bahrain gp the circuit spc_00000519.jpg

Inside the Formula One pit stop with Williams

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - APRIL 16:  Race winner Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari celebrates his win on the podium during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 16, 2017 in Bahrain, Bahrain.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Vettel: It was a 'close to perfect night'

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The Circuit guide to the F1 driver lineup

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track  during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

F1 2017: New season, new cars, same rivalry

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Daniel Ricciardo's pre-season training

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates with his wife Vivian Sibold and his team after finishing second and securing the F1 World Drivers Championship at the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

F1: Nico Rosberg on rivalries, relief & retirement

the circuit five memorable moments lewis hamilton hakkinen daniel ricciardo red bull mercedes spc_00010005.jpg

Five memorable moments from The Circuit 2016

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A 'Force' to be reckoned with

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The fastest car in F1 history?

SUZUKA, JAPAN:  World champion Michael Schumacher (L) of Germany is congratulated by the team's technical director Ross Brawn (R) during an awarding ceremony in the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, 10 October 2004. Schumacher won the 53-lap race with a time of 1 hour 24 minutes and 26.985 seconds.          AFP PHOTO/Toru YAMANAKA  (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

Ross Brawn: Picking the brains of F1's 'maestro'

Story highlights

  • F1 drivers dubbed "super performers"
  • Romain Grosjean undergoes brain testing
  • Tests conducted with EEG headset

(CNN)If you want to get ahead on the Formula One grid it turns out you need to be a cognitive "super performer."

Making split decisions at high speed again and again, F1 drivers' brains are working overtime to deal with the extreme demands of one of the world's most pressurized sports, according to performance scientist James Hewitt, who works at Hintsa Performance — a company working in the area of "human high-performance."Follow @cnnsport

READ: Spark plug failure stalls Vettel's title bid"I'm really interested in super performers, people who exhibit particularly high levels of cognitive capabilities, maybe an ability to sustain their attention to a much greater degree than you see in the average population," Hewitt, who is head of science and innovation at Hintsa, told CNN's The Circuit. "It's the integration of these different cognitive capabilities — many residing in the front of the brain in the frontal cortex — that define what I would call super performers," added Hewitt. "We see many of these in Formula One."Read More');$vidEndSlate.removeClass('video__end-slate–inactive').addClass('video__end-slate–active');}};CNN.autoPlayVideoExist = (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === true) ? true : false;var configObj = {thumb: 'none',video: 'sports/2017/10/03/joshua-paul-formula-one-f1-photographer-104-year-old-camera-the-circuit-spc.cnn',width: '100%',height: '100%',section: 'domestic',profile: 'expansion',network: 'cnn',markupId: 'body-text_10',adsection: 'cnn.com_worldsport_motorsport_inpage',frameWidth: '100%',frameHeight: '100%',posterImageOverride: 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'Race can be lost before it's started'

For drivers like Romain Grosjean of the Haas F1 Team, it's not just the stress of 20 grands prix a season his brain has to contend with.His is a sport which crisscrosses the world over the course of a season creating "issues with jet leg, different climate, different places, different food and different beds.""It's really hard to get every time in the right mood and the right place for racing," said the 31-year-old driver, who is 13th in the drivers' standings with 28 points after the Japanese Grand Prix."The race can be lost before the racing has started."So far this season, Grosjean's best finish came at the Austrian Grand Prix when he was placed sixth — one of eight top 10 finishes for the Frenchman in 2017.');$vidEndSlate.removeClass('video__end-slate–inactive').addClass('video__end-slate–active');}};CNN.autoPlayVideoExist = (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === true) ? true : false;var configObj = {thumb: 'none',video: 'tv/2015/09/25/spc-the-circuit-prost-versus-senna.cnn',width: 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isQueue) {CNN.VideoPlayer.showSpinner(containerId);},onContentMetadata: function (containerId, playerId, metadata, contentId, duration, width, height) {var endSlateLen = jQuery(document.getElementById(containerId)).parent().find('.js-video__end-slate').eq(0).length;CNN.VideoSourceUtils.updateSource(containerId, metadata);if (endSlateLen > 0) {videoEndSlateImpl.fetchAndShowRecommendedVideos(metadata);}},onAdPlay: function (containerId, cvpId, token, mode, id, duration, blockId, adType) {clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== 'undefined' && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);videoPinner.animateDown();}}},onTrackingFullscreen: function (containerId, PlayerId, dataObj) {CNN.VideoPlayer.handleFullscreenChange(containerId, dataObj);},onContentPlay: function (containerId, cvpId, event) {var playerInstance,prevVideoId;/** When the video 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videoPinner !== 'undefined' && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(false);}}},onCVPVisibilityChange: function (containerId, cvpId, visible) {CNN.VideoPlayer.handleAdOnCVPVisibilityChange(containerId, visible);}};if (typeof configObj.context !== 'string' || configObj.context.length 0) {configObj.adsection = window.ssid;}CNN.autoPlayVideoExist = (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === true) ? true : false;CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibrary(configObj, callbackObj, isLivePlayer);});/* videodemanddust is a default feature of the injector */CNN.INJECTOR.scriptComplete('videodemanddust');Prost vs. Senna: The Battles of SuzukaProst vs. Senna: The Battles of Suzuka

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'All in your head'

Hewitt remarks that "more is known about outer space than the brain." For The Circuit, Grosjean underwent three different tests — supervised by Hewitt — using an EEG headset, where electrodes pick up the electrical activity that are generated by hundreds of thousands of neurons in the brain to gauge cognitive workload.The three tests "stressed" different parts of the brain, to measure memory performance, attention and reaction times, pushing "human cognition to its limit."Grosjean has picked up 28 points this season.Grosjean has picked up 28 points this season.Haas F1 drivers Kevin Magnussen (L) and Romain Grosjean.Haas F1 drivers Kevin Magnussen (L) and Romain Grosjean.The good news for Grosjean, according to Hewitt, is that he falls into the "super performer" category."The human brain is an incredibly complex collection of tissues," explained Hewitt. "The brain works like an incredible orchestra where each of the players are playing slightly different tunes, but together you get an incredible symphony.Or as Grosjean puts it: "the difference between a really good and bad day is that it's all in your head."Original Article

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