The answer could fill a book but in short words, being a driver mentor for a top-end driver is quite a different task than coaching a young driver. First of all, I will separate between two major areas, which are mental and technical aspects.
The mental aspect is very complex to explain because we are all unique and different. We have all grown up in different cultures and in very different ways, so our hard wiring of the brain is unique. Our actions and reactions, conscious or subconscious decisions will all be different. It also changes each day depending on the mindset of the individual at the exact time. So, to be in a position to coach someone mentally is a delicate task. It requires trust and, as a coach, a gentle approach.
What works for one, doesn’t work for someone else. And the coach and the athlete should find together ways and methods to get the best out of the athlete. I explain to my drivers different ways of mental preparation, and also physical preparation, and they should choose the way which seems most suitable to them. Over time, this creates a unique relationship between us and builds up our own model. Mental coaching takes trust and time.
Different is technical mentoring, which is much more facts and process driven and hence can apply for a broader mass. My work with the Williams’ drivers is mostly technical related (~70%), but one cannot draw a line. In order to process what is going on with the car, their mind must be clear and sharp.
So at first you must make sure that the quality of collected information from the car by the driver is good quality, and then we look to give clear and focused feedback to the engineers. It depends if we are testing, where its more about testing things back-to-back and one has more time to explain in detail. It’s a different approach if you need a quick setup fix for your next qualifying run, where the feedback must be extremely sharp, clear and short. Different situations require different styles of feedback. My job is to observe this process and intervene instantly if I think it is important, or after the weekend when it’s something for a longer term learning process.
I do not believe in old-school coaching where one tells and dictates to the athlete you must do it this way, or driving related where you must take this line. That’s old school training, but not proper coaching. Maybe it has short time gains, but sustainable effects will be achieved by explaining to the driver in enough detail that he can process the reason behind taking this line or the reason why his car has snap oversteer, so he can go and process this information and learn from it.
The coaching for driving alone is also interesting. With the FIA Institute Young Driver Academy, we did not complete a single lap on a race track for a full year. It was single corners or a section at the maximum. I am not their trainer, I coach, and that means they drive a corner and we talk about it. I explain the vehicle dynamics, the underlying laws of physics, and they go back out and do it again. Hopefully, they do it better and by the end they can explain to me what had happened on each of the four wheels in full detail. So, one corner can become a very long discussion.
Sorry, I threw quite a few things at you. I could talk about mentoring and coaching forever, but I leave it with this for now.