In order to compete in the most challenging branch of motorsport against some of the best drivers in the world, there is a certain level of physical fitness required. Formula 1 drivers need to be incredibly fit to drive a Formula 1 car competitively, and this requires extensive training.
F1 drivers train by following a strict training regime in order to be fit enough to compete in the sport. Drivers have their own personal trainers who are in charge of their training routines, which involve a lot of endurance and strength training with a huge focus on core and cardio work.
There is a misconception that Formula 1 drivers simply sit in their car and turn the steering wheel. However, there is a lot more to driving a Formula 1 car than just that. Simply driving a modern Formula 1 car is exhausting, and below we go through in detail how F1 drivers train for races.
How Fit Are F1 Drivers?
Many people think that driving a Formula 1 car is easy. There has always been a debate about whether Formula 1 drivers are real athletes or not. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they are indeed athletes, and also some of the fittest in the world too.
Many Formula 1 drivers are fit enough to participate in marathons and triathlon events, which is impressive in itself. In fact, many of the drivers do take part in these events, especially during the off season when there are no racing responsibilities for them to commit to.
Jenson Button was known for completing the Iron Man challenge multiple times during his time as a Formula 1 driver, and many of the current drivers do the same. Cycling is also a hobby of many F1 drivers, with Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas both being keen cyclists. But why do F1 drivers actually need to be fit?
Why Do F1 Drivers Need To Be Fit?
In the debate about whether Formula 1 drivers are real athletes or not, many people ask why Formula 1 drivers need to be fit. Many choose the line of argument, “After all, I drive my car every day and I can easily manage.” The argument is that it doesn’t take a lot of physical effort to sit in a car and turn a steering wheel.
However, the reality is that Formula 1 isn’t just sitting in a car and turning a steering wheel. There are several important elements to consider that these mega athletes need to go through that other athletes don’t experience in their respective sports.
These factors contribute to the physical and mental effort that goes into driving a Formula 1 car. It’s likely that no other athlete would be able to drive a Formula 1 car as fast as possible for the full race distance that Formula 1 drivers do, obviously without extensive training on how to actually drive the car, but also without doing the specific physical training either.
The first factor that you need to consider is the extreme temperatures that Formula 1 drivers need to withstand while they’re in the cockpit of their cars. The cockpit of a Formula 1 car can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit during some of the hotter races such as those in Singapore.
This heat alone is enough for the average person to start sweating and feel drained of energy very quickly. However, there is another factor that adds on to this extreme heat that Formula 1 drivers need to endure throughout a Grand Prix.
All Formula 1 drivers must wear thick fireproof race suits with no ventilation, which can raise their body temperature even further. In addition, drivers must wear fire retardant clothing underneath, including a balaclava and socks. Add all of this up and you’ve got temperatures that are difficult to withstand even if you’re just sitting down, never mind driving a Formula 1 car to its limits!
Formula 1 drivers lose between 2 and 4 kilograms every race just through sweat. This is purely from the physical effort that they put in and the heat that they need to withstand inside the cockpit of the car throughout the entire Grand Prix.
One factor that you’ll find in motorsport that doesn’t affect the majority of other athletes is the exposure to extreme G-forces. G-forces are essentially the forces that act against your body when you’re moving quickly, for example when you go around a corner really fast and it feels like your body is pushed to the side.
1 G is the force you feel as a result of the Earth’s gravity. Our bodies are used to it, as we’re born under these forces and made to withstand it. However, when our bodies are exposed to forces equivalent to multiple times that gravitational force, we are said to be experiencing G-forces. Basically, your body begins to feel heavier, in whichever direction the G-forces are acting.
Formula 1 drivers experience G-forces at a fairly extreme level. During braking and cornering, the G-forces they pull can be up to five or sometimes six g. In other words, this is effectively 5-6 times the driver’s body weight pushing against them, and they need to have a core strong enough to withstand that.
This is why Formula 1 drivers are often compared to fighter pilots. Fighter pilots can sometimes experience between five and nine g when pulling off aerobatic maneuvers, and they can even black out during high G-forces. To compare, the G-forces you’ll experience during the take-off of a standard commercial flight is about 0.4 g, and to many people this would already be a strange feeling.
Formula 1 drivers pull more g than any other racing drivers because of the aerodynamic downforce that the cars have. Because of the high downforce, F1 drivers can corner at speeds that force their bodies away from the corners so much that they undergo up to 6 g in some of the fastest turns on the calendar.
Formula 1 cars have the highest cornering speeds compared to other cars, which is why Formula 1 drivers need to be some of the strongest athletes in the world.
Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, where the 20 best drivers in the world all compete against each other. This level of competition means that you need to work hard and do everything you can if you want to be the best. Michael Schumacher was the first driver that took his fitness seriously in the sport, and it yielded him a record 7 world championships.
All F1 drivers now work on their fitness levels and spend considerable time in the gym, which gives them the edge over a driver who is less fit. Overall, a driver that is less fit than others is at a disadvantage in Formula 1, even if they are the fastest driver on the grid around one lap. An unfit driver will not be able to keep their pace up for long enough to compete against the others.
Every driver on the grid wants to win, as it’s the only reason they’re in Formula 1. That means that all of them are constantly working hard to improve themselves, whether it’s their level of focus, driving abilities, or fitness levels. In order to keep up with the competition, a driver needs to keep up their fitness.
How F1 Drivers Train
Each F1 driver has their own personal trainer and dietician. The personal trainer will not only plan out workouts for the drivers and guide them through it, but they will also travel with the drivers to each of their races.
You’ll often see the drivers warming up with their personal trainers before a session in a Formula 1 car. This is important as the drivers have a person with them who is dedicated to looking after their fitness and ensuring that they are prepared to race.
A driver’s personal trainer will usually stay with them for their entire career. Even if the driver switches teams, their personal trainer will often stick with them. This is because the driver and the personal trainer develop a relationship and they understand each other, which helps the driver to keep their fitness levels as high as possible.
Much of a driver’s training takes place in a gym. Using weights and various other machines for resistance training is the best way to build the strength and endurance that the drivers need to survive a Grand Prix weekend.
All drivers have their own preferences in terms of the equipment and types of workouts that they do, but strength and endurance training are at the center of what drivers focus on when they train, and the best way to achieve that is in the gym.
One of the most punishing elements of driving a Formula 1 car is the heat that the drivers have to withstand inside the cockpit of the car. This is especially true in the hotter and more humid climates, such as those of the Middle Eastern and Asian races.
One of the best ways to prepare for these races is by getting into a sauna that is hot and humid. Spending a lot of time in the sauna will condition the drivers’ bodies to get used to the climate and the type of conditions they’ll be driving in.
Sometimes they pair the sauna with mental exercises to ensure that their mind stays sharp despite the difficult conditions. It might not sound difficult, but it’s important for the drivers to acclimatize to the conditions that they will face in the car.
Simulators are another way in which F1 drivers train. Not only does a simulator help the driver to improve their driving abilities and sharpen their skills, but if the settings are accurate, it can also represent the effort they will be putting in during the race (with the exception of the G-forces of course).
The main form of training in this scenario is to improve their focus and concentration over long periods of time. Many drivers will put in double a Grand Prix distance in the simulator to train their mind to focus for longer than it needs to in a race.
With concentration being so important for handling a Formula 1 car, it is key that drivers take the time to do simulator work whenever they can, especially when they come back from the off season and they need to get back into gear as soon as possible.
Being Race Fit
One of the most difficult forms of “training” for a Formula 1 driver is staying “race fit.” This is almost impossible to do without a car. Race fitness is something entirely different, and it’s something that only racing drivers will truly understand.
No matter how strong you are or how much stamina you have, there’s something about driving a racing car that drains your body of all its energy. It’s the combination of all the factors, physical effort, heat, intense concentration, and high G-forces all put together, and there’s nothing else that can simulate that, making it difficult for driver to prepare for this.
At the beginning of the season, we often see drivers struggling with their fitness, and they’ll wake up the day after a race with an aching body. However, as the season progresses their body becomes used to it and they build up “race fitness.”
The only possible way to ‘train’ their race fitness during the off season is to drive a car fast. Many drivers drive Formula 3 cars or karts to get back into the rhythm, since unofficial testing of a Formula 1 car is banned by the FIA.
F1 Driver Training Regime Example
Each driver will have their own training regime that has been set up by their personal trainer based on their preferences, in terms of exercises and where they need to build their strength and endurance. This means that each driver’s training regime will be completely different to the next.
On top of that, there are other factors to consider in terms of how much training each driver does during the day. Some might only train for half a day, whereas others might train for eight hours a day, focusing on different elements.
However, each driver’s training regime will be based on four different elements. These elements are at the core of a driver’s fitness and all of them are crucial to the driver’s success in the sport. The way in which the drivers train these four elements will differ.
The first element is strength training. This is mostly done in the gym using some form of resistance, whether it’s weights, bands, or machines. Strength is important for a Formula 1 driver for several different reasons.
The first reason is that they need to withstand extreme G-forces while they’re in the car. In order to withstand these forces their body needs to be strong enough to push back against them.
Drivers also need a lot of lower body strength, particularly in their left leg. Their left foot is used to press down on the braking pedal, which needs up to 125 kilograms of force just to get the car to start slowing down. Drivers use their brakes multiple times per lap for the entirety of the Grand Prix, so they need a lot of leg strength!
Another factor that is important in withstanding the extreme G-forces that drivers experience in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car is their core strength. Having a strong core is important for every athlete, but it is especially crucial in Formula 1.
Drivers can train their core is different ways. This can sometimes be achieved during strength training sessions, but drivers will often focus on their core in a different training session altogether.
Drivers can train their core strength by using weights, static holds, ab exercises or even calisthenics to an extent. Keeping their core strong will help them to withstand the G-forces better and keep them more stable and in control of their car throughout a lap.
A Formula 1 race can sometimes go on for up to two hours. This means that a driver’s body needs to be able to withstand the extreme conditions inside the car for extended periods of time, and this requires a lot of endurance.
While strength training can be used to help build the endurance of their muscles, cardio exercises are often the best way for drivers to build endurance. Cardio exercises such as running, cycling and swimming put the body under pressure for extended periods of time.
This also allows the drivers to build up their lung capacity, which is very important in Formula 1. While experiencing high G-forces it can be difficult to breathe, so having endurance and stamina greatly helps F1 drivers in this regard.
The mind is another important element in Formula 1 that needs to be trained and kept as sharp as possible if the driver wants to be successful. There are two main mental elements that F1 drivers need to train.
The first is focus, which drivers need to do for long periods of time during a race weekend. Many drivers use simulators to train their minds to focus for longer periods of time, but others may prefer different forms of training here, and some may have a specific person who helps them train this aspect.
The second important element that drivers need to focus on when training their mind is their reaction times. Reaction times are not only important at the start when the lights go out, but also throughout the race when they need to react to what other cars are doing or even to what their own car might be doing.
F1 drivers can often be seen using the Batak light board or similar equipment, which tests the driver’s reaction times by having them rapidly tap randomly lit targets within a given time. Other drivers, like Pierre Gasly, may use tennis balls being dropped from a trainer’s hand at shoulder height, forcing the driver to react quickly and catch the ball before it hits the ground.
How Do F1 Drivers Train Their Necks?
Formula 1 drivers train their necks by using resistance training. The majority of drivers use a device called a GS Harness, which is similar to a gym cable machine, but the harness attaches to your head. Some drivers will use a helmet with this device to simulate what it’s like being in the car.
A Formula 1 driver’s neck is one of the areas that receives the most focus during training. The G-forces in the car push and pull the drivers necks endlessly throughout the course of a race, and if their neck muscles weren’t strong enough they would struggle to complete a lap.
There have been many scenarios where average people, and even other athletes, have tried driving in a two-seater Formula 1 car. Oftentimes it takes no more than two laps before the passenger’s neck gives in and becomes sore, as they aren’t trained to withstand the G-forces.
F1 drivers train using various training regimes that focus on physical endurance, core and neck strength, and mental endurance. Drivers usually have a personal trainer, and they help the driver maintain a strict training routine. F1 is a physically and mentally demanding sport, so training is key.