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Why Do F1 Drivers Have To Be Fit? (Full Explanation)

The physical fitness requirements of F1 are immense, and drivers often undergo heavy training and follow strict diets in order to prepare for the racing season. Despite what many casual Formula 1 viewers believe, there are many reasons why F1 drivers have to be fit.

F1 drivers have to be fit to withstand the G forces they experience in the car. Driving a Formula 1 car at full speed is incredibly tough on the body, and drivers need to ensure they can do it for an entire race. This is why they need to train regularly to remain fit enough to race.

F1 drivers have personal trainers that put them through intense cardio and resistance training. Despite this though, drivers don’t bulk up with a lot of muscle. There’s a very good reason why drivers remain slim and lightweight, and we take a closer look at all of this below.

Are All F1 Drivers Fit?

All F1 drivers are fit, and even racing at a junior level requires a driver to be fit. When drivers race, they build something known as “race fitness.” This can be developed even from karting, and this race fitness is what allows F1 drivers to remain in control of their cars in racing conditions.

Race fitness is directly related to G forces, so it can’t be replicated without the driver being in the car. In other words, there’s no way to build race fitness other than being in the car. Race fitness involves using your core to withstand the G forces that are pushing against your body while you’re in the car.

Tougher Than You Think

Some Formula 1 drivers are more fit than others are though, and this is a combination of work ethic and experience. Experienced drivers understand the level of fitness required to drive Formula 1 cars. Following his rookie season in 2021, Yuki Tsunoda said that his main focus was to improve his fitness levels as he underestimated the physical requirements of a Formula 1 car.

Some drivers work harder and are more focused on improving their fitness than other drivers, and this is why they tend to be fitter than the rest. There are drivers who participate in athletic events during their spare time to improve their fitness levels rather than taking the time off.

Are F1 Drivers Athletes?

All F1 drivers are athletes. However, many casual F1 fans believe that they are not. There’s a common misconception that driving an F1 car is easy. But drivers can lose up to 3 kilograms (6.6 lbs) during a Grand Prix just through sweat, illustrating how tough conditions are in an F1 cockpit.

Driving a Formula 1 car is far different from your average daily commute. Drivers need to withstand up to 6 Gs throughout the course of an F1 race – this is similar to what fighter pilots experience. This puts strain on their bodies, and in order to withstand this strain and maintain control of the car, drivers must be extremely strong. 

Formula 1 cars have no comfort features either. Drivers need to be able to withstand temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) while wearing fireproof race suits and driving their cars. Drivers often compare this to working out in a sauna while wearing a race suit.

F1 Drivers Competing In Athletic Events

Formula 1 drivers don’t need to prove their fitness levels, but many of them take part in athletic events when they’re not racing cars. From cycling to running, we often see formula 1 drivers completing some of the toughest events on the planet, proving that they are definitely high-caliber athletes.

Jenson Button for example completed the Iron Man multiple times, and many drivers have competed in marathons with good results. Drivers train on a weekly basis which makes them fit enough to compete in these events, just like other athletes.

Drivers also compete in swimming events because of the cardio and full-body exercise benefits they get from it. Every year, drivers on the Formula 1 grid – past and present – participate in a charity football match in Monaco with other athletes and celebrities. These are just some of the activities F1 drivers participate in to keep fit when they’re not racing.

Why Do F1 Drivers Need To Be Fit?

F1 drivers need to be fit because of the physical demands required to drive a Formula 1 car. These are the fastest cars in the world, especially when it comes to cornering speeds. This means that it takes much more effort than your standard race car, with high G-forces being tough to withstand.

The main factor that drivers need to withstand is the G forces. Drivers need to be able to go up against as much as 6 Gs. This is when your body feels like it weighs 6 times more than its normal weight. A driver needs to be able to focus, keep their head up straight, and turn the steering wheel when their body weighs 6 times more than normal.

Cardiovascular Health

Another important factor when it comes to G force is the driver’s cardiovascular capabilities. The G forces acting on the driver’s body will make it more difficult for them to breathe, and they need to have the incredibly strong lung capacity to keep pushing their cars as fast as possible while getting enough oxygen into their bodies. 

Fitness is also important to a driver’s level of performance. When a driver becomes tired, their mental capabilities will also begin to fade. Drivers will lose focus and start making mistakes towards the end of the race, so the ultimate goal is to be fit enough to push their car as fast as possible to the end of the Grand Prix.

KEY POINTS

• F1 drivers are athletes, despite what many people may think

• Racing an F1 car is a tough experience, and it can cause drivers to lose several kilograms through sweat

• Many F1 drivers will take part in other fitness-related activities outside of Formula 1

• The most strenuous part of driving an F1 car are the G-forces the drivers are exposed to

• This means they need to be exceptionally strong

The Most Important Muscle Groups For F1 Drivers

It’s not enough for a driver to just work on their entire body when it comes to fitness. There are a few important muscle groups that drivers must focus on if they want to fit and be strong enough to survive a full Grand Prix.

Formula 1 drivers have personal trainers who specialize in working out fitness programs that fit motorsport. These programs have a heavy focus on some specific fitness routines that drivers need to follow to strengthen specific parts of their bodies.

Personal trainers often travel with drivers to each country, training them in the hotel gyms and in their local gyms close to their homes. Personal trainers even stay with the drivers during the race weekend, and you can often spot them in the garage helping the drivers with their warm-ups.

Warming up properly before getting into the car is incredibly important, especially when it comes to race day. Drivers will usually focus on reaction training for their warm-ups, as well as light stretches and cardio exercises.

Lower Body

The driver’s lower body and legs are incredibly important when driving a Formula 1 car, specifically the driver’s left leg. The driver’s left leg controls the brakes, which are not the same as the brakes you would find on your average road car.

The brakes on a Formula 1 car are incredibly powerful as they need to be able to bring the car to a complete stop within seconds. Hitting the brakes from 200 miles per hour (320 kph) can slow the car down in just 4 seconds. As a result, the brake pedal is incredibly stiff, and the drivers need to push down on the brake pedal with about 160 kilograms (350 lbs) of force

In other words, their left leg needs to leg press that weight just to get the car to stop as quickly as possible. Remember, the later the driver brakes the faster they will go. In order to brake later, you need to brake harder. Drivers often have to use their brakes with heavy force at every corner (on average 20 corners per circuit) and they need to do so every lap for the entire Grand Prix.

Core

The driver’s core is another area that they need to strengthen. Just like fighter pilots, core strength is an incredibly important area that Formula 1 drivers put a lot of focus on. This is more related to the G forces than anything else.

When the driver goes around a corner and pulls up to 6 Gs, they need to have a strong enough core to keep their body upright. With their body weighing more than normal, this is much more difficult than you might expect it to be.

You might experience some Gs when you’re in the back seat of a car that’s going relatively fast around a corner. You often have to grab onto something to stop yourself from falling over or moving around too much. However, oftentimes this is only a fraction of what drivers experience in their Formula 1 cars, so you can imagine how strong their core needs to be.

Being able to keep their body in the right position is important for drivers if they want to keep control of their cars. They can’t be moving around in their seat or fighting the G forces too much while trying to steer the car and control the brakes or throttle pedals.

Neck

The driver’s neck is another crucial area that is heavily affected by the G forces they pull inside the car. The driver’s head plus their helmet will weigh much more than usual when the drivers are pulling Gs during corners, and they need to be able to keep their head upright while cornering in order to see where they are going.

The driver’s head and helmet can weigh as much as 37 kilograms (81 lbs) when pulling 5 Gs (a fairly standard G-force through many F1 corners), and the force will be pushing against their head in a lateral direction. In other words, the driver would need to be able to withstand that amount of weight pulling against their head from side to side through the corners.

The average person would struggle to complete a single lap in a Formula 1 car with the G forces weighing their heads down. Richard Hammond drove the 2004 Renault F1 car on Top Gear and struggled to do more than a couple of laps (without going full throttle) because of his neck muscles giving in. 

There are several 2 or 3-seater F1 car experiences in the world, and from watching footage it’s clear that the average person does not have enough strength in their neck muscles to keep their head upright in a Formula 1 car during cornering!

KEY POINTS

• F1 drivers need a strong core to withstand the massive G-forces they’ll feel during a race

• They especially need strong necks to keep their head level in the corners

• F1 drivers also need strong leg muscles to use the brake pedal

How Do F1 Drivers Keep Fit?

F1 drivers keep fit by working out regularly and they have personal trainers who travel with them to each race. Even while F1 drivers are at home, these personal trainers are responsible for ensuring that they remain fit, whether it’s a run outdoors or a session in the gym.

Formula 1 drivers need to stay fit at all times. There’s no slowing down in this fast-paced sport, and if you take a day off, your rival might still be going full steam ahead, which would put you behind them. Any Formula 1 driver will take their fitness seriously because they are competitive.

Drivers know that they need to make sure that they are fit enough to compete against the best of the best. If their fitness fails them during a race their performance will begin to drop rapidly, which would even allow slower cars to overtake them towards the end of the race simply because the drivers can still push themselves.

Drivers also need to ensure that their diet is on point. Without having the correct diet, all of the driver’s hard work in the gym will be undone. The driver’s diet is essentially the fuel that their body needs to perform at such a high level.

Cycling

Cycling is a great exercise that Formula 1 drivers enjoy taking part in. The first benefit that it has is that it’s a great cardiovascular exercise. This means that it helps the driver to improve their lung capacity and strength, which is great when it comes to breathing while pulling heavy Gs.

Another benefit that cycling has is that it builds a lot of lower body strength. The muscles and tendons in the legs undergo a lot of strain during cycling, which is what the drivers will also be experiencing in the car, especially when it comes to their left leg.

Cycling helps the drivers’ bodies to build a lot of endurance, which is also needed in Formula 1. Some races can be particularly long and would require the drivers to be under an extraordinary amount of physical strain for up to nearly 2 hours at a time.

Drivers will often use cycling as their primary form of exercise during the off-season. Drivers are usually less likely to cycle during the season because there is a higher risk of being injured. Fernando Alonso is just one of the victims of a cycling incident that left him injured heading into the opening rounds of the 2021 season (although it luckily didn’t affect his season).

Swimming

Swimming is a great full-body exercise. The entire body from the upper to lower, and even the core is worked during swimming. This means that a couple of hours spent in a swimming pool can be very beneficial to a driver’s overall fitness, especially if they don’t have a gym at their disposal.

Swimming also helps the driver to control their breathing, increasing lung capacity and endurance. While swimming, you usually don’t breathe as much as you do when doing other cardio exercises such as cycling and running, which means that the lungs get a real push.

Overall swimming is one of the best exercises that drivers can do to keep fit. Many younger drivers who are in karting or junior single seaters tend to take on swimming more often as it’s a great full-body workout and it works the cardio aspect of the driver’s body as well.

Running

Running is one of the best cardiovascular exercises that you can do. Better yet, you hardly need any equipment to do it. Most drivers tend to run outdoors wherever they are, even if they’re traveling through different countries that are hosting races.

With consistent running, drivers will also be building strength in their legs and lower body which is just as important when it comes to keeping the car under control. This is in addition to regular resistance training.

Another benefit that drivers will get from doing a lot of running is that their body fat percentage will drop significantly. This will help them to keep their weight as low as possible while building strength in their muscles as opposed to putting on more weight that will negatively affect them when they pull heavy Gs in the car.

Running is the most common form of exercise that drivers will be doing during the season. This is mainly because of how accessible it is and the fact that there is no need to bring any equipment with them on their travels.

KEY POINTS

• F1 drivers will have their own personal trainer who helps keep them in shape

• They might do a number of activities, including cycling, running and swimming

• F1 drivers will limit muscle mass to keep them as light as possible

F1 Driver Fitness Routines Explained

Formula 1 drivers have to follow very strict fitness routines. It’s not just about going to the gym and lifting weights. If drivers pick up too much weight, they’ll not only struggle with the G forces in the car, but they might also be adding extra weight to the car, slowing it down.

Drivers have their own personal trainers who are in charge of the extremely strict and difficult training plan that they need to follow. These personal trainers need to ensure that the driver does the correct exercises to build as much strength as possible without adding too much weight to their overall body mass.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, because if a person exercises vigorously and has a healthy diet, they will naturally begin to build muscle and add weight to their frame. This is not what a driver wants though, and they need to make sure to follow the exact plan that has been given to them to ensure they make their training work.

The personal trainers are also there to motivate the drivers. It’s much easier to commit to a training plan when you’ve got someone helping you to stay motivated through it. In addition, the personal trainers can push their drivers past their limits by identifying areas where they can improve.

Resistance Training

Resistance training is the best way for drivers to build strength. There are a few main areas that they need to focus on. However, they do not focus on hypertrophy training – which results in an increase in muscle mass. Instead, the drivers and their personal trainers will focus on strength training, which does not necessarily increase muscle mass and size.

Drivers will put a lot of focus on their lower body, neck muscles, and core. These are the most important areas where a driver needs a lot of strength. These areas are put through the most strain with G forces and the force required to push down on the brake pedal in a Formula 1 car.

Many drivers prefer to use bodyweight exercises rather than resistance training. Using bodyweight exercises rather than traditional gym weights allows the driver to focus more on building strength than building muscle mass.

The problem though is that resistance training can be difficult for a driver when they are traveling often. There is also more of an injury risk that comes with resistance training that you won’t get with bodyweight training.

Cardio Training

Cardio is very important for Formula 1 drivers as they need to have the endurance and lung capacity to make it through a Grand Prix. A Grand Prix is often long and difficult for a Formula 1 driver to complete considering the temperatures in the cockpit and the G forces they will be put through.

Cardio training helps with the driver’s muscle endurance as well as their capability to breathe under strenuous physical activity. Drivers will often take part in as much cardio exercise as they can during the season.

Running is the most common type of cardio exercise that drivers will be doing. There is much less injury risk involved as compared to cycling. Running can also be done anywhere compared to swimming and cycling, making it much more convenient for the driver.

During the off-season, drivers will most likely be taking part in some form of cardio training. Whether it’s cycling, running, swimming, or all three. This helps the drivers to stay active even when they’re on their break for the winter.

Heat Preparation 

There’s one part of the driver’s fitness routine that may be slightly unexpected. Drivers need to get their bodies acclimatized to the intense heat that they will experience inside the cockpit of their Formula 1 cars. 

The cockpit of an F1 car can easily reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). Drivers need to endure these temperatures for the entire Grand Prix, which can take a toll on their mental and physical strength. 

In order to prepare for this, drivers will spend a lot of time in a sauna. Many drivers have compared racing at the Singapore Grand Prix to working out in a sauna with racing gear on, which is why drivers often use saunas to help their bodies get used to it.

The heat and humidity inside a sauna are much more intense than in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car, but this is why the drivers will feel much more comfortable inside the car while they’re driving. It’s the best way for the drivers to prepare their bodies and mind for the more intense Grands Prix on the calendar.

Final Thoughts

F1 drivers have to be incredibly fit as they undergo a lot of strain while racing, especially with the G forces that they pull through braking and cornering. Drivers will train their lower body, core, and neck muscles, and do a lot of cardio in preparation for the racing season.