Who Is Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 Coach Michael Italiano?

Published 02/09/2021, 4:46 AM EST
IMOLA, ITALY: A Renault Sport F1 team member celebrates the third place finish of Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Renault Sport F1 during the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)


To take part in any form of sports, fitness is paramount. The same is true of F1 and motorsport in general. Drivers have to adhere to certain weight criteria and have to be at their physical peak because they do lose a lot weight during a single race (about three kgs through sweat).

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As such, drivers hire fitness personnel to train them to be at their physical best as they aim to undergo the rigors of F1 racing to make it to the top of the sport.

Here we look at Michael Italiano, the personal trainer of current McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo.

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Where does Michael Italiano hail from and what is his background?

Michael Italiano hails from the Australian city of Perth, and that’s also where he developed his passion for health and fitness and became a fitness coach. He said, “I have always had a passion for health, fitness, and sport.

“I became a coach because I wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives and well-being.”

Italiano has trained many athletes from different sports such as football, rugby, golf, mixed martial arts and cricket.

When did Daniel Ricciardo and Michael Italiano meet? When did they team up?

The seven-time Grand Prix winner has known Italiano since they were both 12-year-olds.

Italiano made the switch from being a fitness consultant to Ricciardo’s personal fitness coach at the end of 2017 when the latter was at Red Bull. The duo are quite close personally, having been friends since their younger days.

Italiano replaced Ricciardo’s long time performance trainer Stuart Smith, who had been with the Australian since his early days in F1.

On making the transition, Italiano said, “It’s weird to change from training 30-40 clients to use all of your energy on one person; it’s weird but also exciting. I followed Formula 1 because of Daniel, but being involved in the sport is intriguing and fun.”

Italiano on challenges of training an F1 driver

Sitting in the cockpit of an F1 car is not an easy job. Apart from all the mental awareness that is required, the sport also demands a lot from one’s body. The G forces that drivers experience is a key aspect of the physical training.

Italiano shed light on this and how he works with Daniel.

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY – Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing walks in the Paddock during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring in Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

“He’s self-motivated, but keeping him motivated is part of my job too. It’s key to trust each other and understand how much work will we have to do to achieve our fitness and performance goals.

“It’s (the neck) the most difficult part of the body to train, so the best thing you can do as a trainer is ensure the neck is strong overall and conditioned, and that’s what we do. Warming up the neck prior to jumping to the car is important as it’s a sensitive area, and it’s under the most tension from start to finish.”

Other areas which Italiano helps Ricciardo develop are the calves, hips, the core, and shoulders.

What’s the pre-race training routine of Daniel Ricciardo like?

During a normal race week, Italiano gives Ricciardo some mobility training on Wednesday, and a light session of cycling on Thursday morning before the on-track action begins. On Fridays and Saturdays, rest is the main priority, and Italiano tries to keep Ricciardo at ease by handling his meals too.

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO: Daniel Ricciardo of Renault walks to his garage before qualifying. F1 Grand Prix of Monaco. Circuit de Monaco in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Although it’s impossible for Michael to be with Ricciardo all the time, the former keeps tabs on the McLaren driver on a daily basis. Italiano stated that he keeps track of Ricciardo’s diet, sleeping habits, training patterns, and everything in between.

Apart from that, in the off season, Italiano also designs special training routines for Ricciardo. For example, in 2020 during the extended pre-season, Michael developed a training routine using stuff that was found on Ricciardo’s farm since the Australian was staying there.

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What’s the best moment Italiano has had with Ricciardo since they joined forces?

The Australian trainer said, “The best moment in our work? Monaco. Hands down! I think only a Formula 1 championship title could top it.”

Italiano will continue to aid Ricciardo as the Australian driver has now moved to McLaren, recently completing his seat fit. Undoubtedly, he will be putting Daniel through the paces so that the ex-Renault man is all set to hit the ground running for the 2021 F1 season.

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Ronan Carvalho

1063 articles

Ronan Carvalho is senior F1 author for Essentiallysports. Ronan is currently pursuing his Journalism degree from St. Xavier's College.

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