Lando Norris has revealed that he was far from the confident and secure rookie he appeared to be when he entered F1 last year, the McLaren driver admitting to putting on a brave face while also struggling with a few demons.
Norris scored his first top-ten finish in just his second race with McLaren, the 19-year-old gradually asserting himself as the season unfolded.
But underneath the surface of his burgeoning talent, doubts and anxieties lingered for the young charger.
On today's International Mens Day, in a blog entry for McLaren partner and mental health charity 'Mind', Norris opened up about his struggles and the need to talk candidly about mental health.
"During my first season racing in Formula 1, I might have looked like the new kid on the block full of confidence and enthusiasm but that really wasn’t the case," Norris said.
"I covered up the fact that I was struggling a lot with nerves and anxiety. Despite making it to F1, something I had dreamt of ever since I began racing, I found myself questioning my own self-belief: worrying if I had what it took, comparing myself with my team-mate and other drivers.
"It screws with your head. It’s tough to deal with and I'm sure many other drivers have struggled with it in the past.
"But in sport, because no one wants to give the opposition an edge or show any weakness, we don’t talk about mental health as much as we should – and we really should."
Norris underscored the importance for a young driver to have key individuals in one's entourage one can open up to, including team members.
"Having a strong, core group of people around you, whether it’s family, friends, colleagues, or someone else you feel you can open up to, is essential," continued the McLaren charger.
"For me, my family is most important. But when I’m racing, I’m away from home so my manager, performance coach and engineers – the people I work closest with – are my family.
"We spend so much time working together that we know each other really well and, for all of us to perform at our best, we need to be comfortable and open with each other.
"Just because I’m the one driving the car, it’s not just about how I feel. Everyone in the team must feel good about themselves and what they are doing to be in the right frame of mind and perform.
"Although we were physically apart for most of the winter and, of course, during lockdown, I spent a lot of time talking to this core group of people to try to overcome the nerves and anxiety I felt – something which risked affecting my second year in F1," he added.
"By talking things through with them, it helped me to come into this season feeling much better about myself – more confident, more positive. It really highlights just how powerful talking to someone can be and the importance of having people around you that you can trust and rely on."
Norris says he relied on a mind coach during his formative years in motorsport and up until the end of his first F1 season. But the Briton's level of confidence eventually allowed him to "take more responsibility" for his mental health.
"Until the end of last season, I worked with a mind coach for a few years – another great example of someone I could reach out to, to work on my nerves and get me into a more positive mental state," he said.
"But this year I felt confident enough to take more responsibility for my own mental health.
"I think it’s all part of the growing process. I had reached a stage where I felt ready to think for myself more when it came to finding ways to overcome mental challenges."
But Norris' personal development won't restrain the McLaren driver from raising awareness for the a serious issue of mental health.
"It’s something that affects us all, but it’s equally something people don’t feel like they can talk about," he concluded.
"This needs to change and I hope that the work we’re doing at McLaren, in support of Mind, can be a driving force for better mental health for everyone."