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Despite having many representatives of different continents, nations, and religions across the over 70 year long history, Formula 1 always lacked representation. There were only 2 Muslim F1 drivers, only a handful of Jewish F1 drivers, and only 2 Buddhist F1 drivers in the history, with completely different careers and approaches to the religion. The first of the two Buddhist F1 drivers was Rikky Von Opel, who raced in 1973 and 1974, and now Formula 1 has the latter, but way more successful of the Buddhist f1 drivers on the grid.

Alex Albon: Thailand’s Fastest Buddhist

Alex Albon is currently competing in Formula One for Williams Racing, under the Thai flag. He drives car number 23, and has competed in 88 races over his career, scoring 228 career points with 2 podium finishes. Though born in London, Albon holds dual British and Thai nationality and races with a Thai license.

Beyond his driving talents, Albon is known as a practising Buddhist within the F1 paddock. He has spoken openly about his faith and the role it plays in his life:

“I’m a practising Buddhist – I meditate and I have tattoos representing my faith. When things move fast in racing, it’s important to just breathe.”

This ability to stay focused and calm has served Albon well in the chaotic world of Formula One. Like his Buddhist principles, Albon takes a measured, thoughtful approach amidst the hype and noise of grand prix racing.

Though Britain may be considered his home country, Albon feels a deep connection with Thailand thanks to his mother Kankamol’s Thai heritage:

“My mum is from Thailand so I have always felt like I have two homes. I have spent a lot of my life there so going back feels very normal. The support from Thai fans means the world to me as well.”

The Singapore Grand Prix holds special meaning for Albon each year. As the vibrant city atmosphere and the night race in the streets of reminds him of Thailand. The event provides a unique opportunity for Alex to share his Buddhist culture and traditions with the F1 community.

On the charity side, Albon has worked with several organizations in Thailand. This includes regular visits to impoverished regions to conduct donations and community outreach. True to the spirit of Buddhist compassion, Alex focuses not on his own glory but rather on using his platform to help others.

Albon’s Formula One Career

After rising through the junior ranks with Red Bull’s driver program, Albon made his Formula One race debut in 2019 driving for Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri). He delivered several strong midfield finishes, earning a promotion to Red Bull’s senior team later that year.

Over the next seasons with Red Bull, Albon continued to deliver results, which were not satisfactory for the Red Bull family. He scored only two podium finishes and emerged as a consistent, but too slow of a driver. Though he missed out on more podium opportunities, Albon proved his abilities at the pinnacle of motorsports.

When Red Bull signed Sergio Perez for 2021, Albon made the decision to step back from a race seat rather than join another midfield team. He took on reserve driver duties and competed part-time in the DTM touring car series.

This patience and composure amid a setback proved wise, as Albon secured a full-time return to the 2022 Formula One grid with Williams Racing, and will be representing the team at least until the end of 2024, trying to lead the Williams out of the deep crisis they are in right now.

Rikky von Opel: f1 Driver who became a Monk

The name Rikky von Opel may not be immediately familiar to modern Formula One fans – he competed decades ago, with a career lasting just two seasons from 1973-1974.

Representing the Principality of Liechtenstein, von Opel drove for Ensign and Brabham over the course of 14 Grand Prix entries. Though he scored no championship points, some strong qualifying performances offered promise.

Being the heir to the Opel automotive fortune afforded Rikky the opportunity to pursue his racing ambitions to the highest level. While he enjoyed modest results on track, the glitz and glamour of the F1 lifestyle never quite suited him.

Just a year after his final Grand Prix, disillusioned with public life, von Opel made a dramatic career change. He walked away from racing and joined a Buddhist monastery in rural Thailand, becoming a monk.

This retreat from fame and fortune seems almost cliché for the rich and bored. But for von Opel, embracing monastic Buddhism brought deeper fulfillment than racing ever could.

From the late 1970s up until today, Rikky von Opel has lived as a simple monk. He spends his days in spiritual reflection and service to his community. Beyond the occasional letter, he lives almost totally off-the-grid.

The contrast between von Opel’s first and second careers is stark. Yet through his journey he seems to have discovered a sense of meaning and inner tranquility that glamorous Formula One could not provide.

While von Opel has largely receded from public memory, Alex Albon keeps his pioneering legacy alive. As the second Buddhist driver to grace Formula One, Albon honors von Opel’s path – one of few who truly walked away to find himself.

The Buddhist f1 drivers Path of Mindfulness

For Alex Albon and Rikky von Opel alike, the Buddhist influence on their lives goes far beyond religion or identity. Buddhism instead provides a framework of mindfulness, tranquility and focus – principles serving them well in the high-intensity world of Formula One. Buddhists in F1 never had an easy life, as they have to travel across the world and live among buzz and hustle.

During weeks of extensive travel, stress, and pressure at Grand Prix events, mindfulness practices help keep the mind sharp and steady.

Both on and off the racetrack, moments arise every day to embrace compassion over anger, patience over impatience. Racing may have a reputation for ego and ruthlessness, but Buddhist F1 drivers embody another way.

Racing may provide profound experiences of flow, being so fully immersed in the present moment. This too lies at the heart of mindfulness. While offering very different paths, Buddhism and Formula One racing share this liberating sense of being totally, intensely alive.

For Albon, von Opel and other Buddhist F1 drivers across sports – racing and mindfulness go hand-in-hand. Competing is the expression of their contemplation

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