Formula 1 racing drivers are some of the most competitive people on the planet. They must adopt a very driven mindset on the racetrack to overcome their rivals. Their bravery and commitment to race at speeds of more than 200mph is applauded and many of them are adrenaline junkies that crave action during downtime away from the F1 circuit.
That’s why you’ll often find that several Formula 1 stars of the last two decades have become a dab hand at the poker tables, as they indulge in a battle of skill and mind games to get the blood pumping. Michael Schumacher, who was recently overtaken by Lewis Hamilton for the greatest number of F1 race victories of all-time, was a renowned lover of poker and could be found pitting his wits against rivals like Robert Kubica. He was also a regular entrant into celebrity tournaments for charitable causes.
The Force India motorhome has often been a hub for F1 stars to battle it out at the poker table before and after race day. The likes of Robert Kubica, Fernando Alonso, and Rubens Barrichello would regularly join in. The drivers typically indulged in Texas Hold’em which remains the most popular of all poker games variants available today, including Omaha and 7-Card Stud. These games would also regularly attract the sport’s biggest benefactors too, notably Bernie Ecclestone and Vijay Mallya.
Mind sports like poker are the perfect remedy for F1 drivers when they aren’t at the steering wheel. Back in 2009, an Italian television channel broadcasted a live poker tournament involving the likes of Kubica, Eddie Irvine, Tonio Liuzzi, and Giancarlo Fisichella. The now-retired Nico Rosberg took down the tournament that evening, but the likes of Fisichella have continued playing poker more seriously in the years after their F1 careers.
Fisichella became an ambassador for one of the largest online poker rooms in Europe, and the former Ferrari driver often entered some of the most illustrious poker tournaments across the globe, including those staged at the Melbourne Crown Casino in Australia.
Former Spanish F1 driver Jaime Alguersuari was another to discover a natural aptitude for poker. Alguersuari, who raced for Toro Rosso between 2009 and 2011 as a young 17-year-old, was inspired by Fisichella’s exploits at the poker tables and opted to enter some of the biggest live poker events in the industry, including the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the European Poker Tour (EPT). He became a sponsored player at a leading online poker room, but since his departure from F1, he has switched his attentions to another love – music production.
Pastimes like poker clearly help F1’s biggest stars feel alive. Current F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton is not someone who appears to have indulged in the sport’s inner poker ring, but ironically, recent media reports have suggested that the Briton is “playing poker” with his new prospective contract with Mercedes because the team “depends on him” and will be prepared to “wait for him” to decide what he wants.
With such a good poker face in contract negotiations, maybe Hamilton should consider going all-in with Texas Hold’em once he’s hung up his driver’s helmet!