Earlier this week, Casey Stoner, the 2007 and 2011 MotoGP world champion, revealed on the Gypsy Tales podcast that he suffered from anxiety throughout his racing career, and was recently officially diagnosed with it.
Stoner admitted that during much of his active time, the more successful he was during a weekend, “the more I wanted to die”, and that his anxiety seriously affected him.
The Australian retired at the end of 2012 aged just 27, having only competed in the premier class for seven years.
Dovizioso , who was Stoner’s teammate at Honda in 2011, says he “wasn’t too surprised” to hear of Stoner’s plight, as it’s something that has affected many riders.
“Yes, nobody knows what each driver feels, and each one experiences the race in a completely different way, for many reasons,” RNF Racing driver Dovizioso said in Malaysia on Friday.
“I’m not too surprised because if you follow a lot of stories of the best athletes in the world, a lot of them struggle in a different way.”
“But this is the pressure of high-level sport, or the consequence of family things.”
“Everything is on the limit, so each athlete has a lot of pressure and lives in this situation most of the time, not as beautiful as everyone thinks.”
“So no, I’m not surprised. Every story is different, but I follow a lot of sports and a lot of motocross riders, and a lot of them retire before they’re 30 even though they won it all.”
“It seems like if you race for 20 years and win a lot of things, managing the pressure every year gets worse and worse for that type of athlete. It’s a bit strange, but it happens a lot.”
“So it’s one of the reasons why athletes retire even when they’re very competitive or have a big active contract. But this is the reality.”
Asked by Motorsport.com how much social media affects the pressure drivers feel now, he added: “For sure social media now affects a lot more than in the past.
“I don’t think when Casey had those problems, social media was as important as it is now.”
“But it’s about how important the championship is, how many people follow it and it’s related to pressure.”
“I think when you win a lot of things and show how strong you are, it creates a weird situation where you have to be in that mood every time you race.”
“And that I think, for that type of athlete, it becomes difficult.”
“It’s almost impossible to stay at that level for a long time, and when you’re used to winning and it starts to get a little bit more difficult, it’s hard to manage.”
“And in my opinion, that is the reason why this happens,” concluded Andrea Dovizioso.