The cockpit of a Formula 1 car can reach extreme temperatures during the course of the race. This is especially true for races in exotic locations where the ambient temperature reaches much higher than usual. So how do F1 drivers keep cool?
Formula 1 drivers do not have any sophisticated cooling aids during races, and can only rely on the open cockpit design of their cars and cooling pads in their clothing to help cope with the heat. Heat conditioning and training is the most effective way in which drivers are able to keep their cool.
When it comes to the hotter races though, it is an extreme challenge for drivers to stay hydrated and to not overheat during races. These athletes go through a lot of preparation before these races in order to keep to their optimum performance.
Heat During Races
Formula 1 drivers need to put up with really high temperatures during races. Let’s take the most extreme example on the F1 calendar: the Singapore Grand Prix. Despite being a night race, the ambient temperature in Singapore can reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 80% humidity.
This sounds punishing enough already, but drivers have to wear fire resistant underwear, a balaclava, a race suit (which is equivalent to 3 clothing layers on its own), gloves and a helmet. Then they are strapped into a car where the engine is directly behind the driver’s back. The engine temperatures can reach in excess of 4000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Under normal circumstances, drivers can lift their visors to get a breath of fresh, cool air. However, in Singapore with 80% humidity, that is not possible for them. A driver’s core temperature can reach up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit during a race.
As Singapore is the longest and hottest event on the Formula 1 calendar, drivers can suffer severe dehydration in these conditions, and some lose up to 5 kilograms in body weight during the course of this race.
So, it is important that drivers are fully prepared and equipped to take on this challenge. They do this in various ways, and they have developed numerous technologies in order to keep themselves performing at their peak level.
Over the course of the weekend, drivers will take regular ice baths in order to keep their core body temperatures down. With a tightly packed schedule, drivers don’t always have the time to do this, so they keep their ice baths down to around 10 minutes before and after sessions.
Formula 1 cars, as you may have guessed do not have any cooling elements for the driver. Air conditioning and cooling units add a lot of weight to the car. All teams are fighting for the smallest of margins, and they try to shave as much weight off the cars as they can.
As such, technologies have been developed in order to help keep the drivers cool in the car. The first is a cooling vest, which is worn by the drivers underneath their race suits. These are specially made to be as thin as possible while still keeping an element of fire resistance to them. They also include sleeves in various areas (such as the chest and back) where they can keep freezing pads.
These freezing pads are put into the sleeves right before a session starts, however as you can imagine, they heat up rather quickly. In addition to the cooling vest, driver’s can also make use of a cooling collar, which goes around the neck, and can cool the blood flowing to the brain.
However, the freezing pads do not have an actual benefit to the driver’s performance other than comfort. The freezing pads do not lower the driver’s core temperatures (and that is the important part of driver cooling).
The old-fashioned way that drivers used to keep cool on the grid was by simply wrapping a cold, wet towel around their neck. This acts the same way as the cooling collar mentioned earlier. This is something that you could even do on a hot day to keep cool.
When the cars are in the pits, drivers can make use of cooling fans in order to cool themselves down. These are high powered fans which make use of dry ice that can act as a sort of air conditioning unit for drivers. However, once they leave pitlane, these air conditioners are gone.
As we mentioned earlier, Formula 1 drivers can lose up to 5 kilograms of weight during the course of a race. This is largely due to fluid loss caused by sweating in the extreme heat. It is therefore so crucial for drivers to properly hydrate in preparation for a race, and during a race.
Formula 1 cars have a drinks bottle built into the cockpit of the car. The drinks bottle is filled with a liquid containing tons of electrolytes that help hydration and energy levels. However, the bottle is not kept cool in the car.
Even if the liquid is frozen, it will probably only remain cool for the first few laps of the race. During the course of the race, this drink can become more like a hot tea for the drivers. Therefore, it does not actually have a cooling effect for the driver, but its main purpose is to keep the driver’s hydrated throughout the race.
Formula 1 drivers use their training to prepare for the extreme heat they will experience in the cockpit of the car during a race. This is similar to how long-distance runners will train at high altitudes in order to prepare for a marathon. There are various training techniques used by the drivers in order to achieve this though.
Some drivers like to do some training in a sauna. This is beneficial to them because they are making their body work under the same kind of circumstances that they will be experiencing in the car in terms of humidity and heat.
Others, like Daniel Ricciardo prefer to train outdoors. Being from Australia, he takes advantage of the hot Aussie summer to run or cycle in the extreme heat. This kind of conditioning also helps him to prepare his body for the temperatures that he will experience in a race.
Another conditioning technique used by some drivers is to train with their full racing gear on. Training while wearing a race suit will condition their body to experience heat while wearing full safety gear.
Formula 1 drivers have to condition their bodies to perform at maximum ability under extreme heat. There are a few key ways in which they do this. The main one being training under extreme circumstances such as wearing race suits and training in saunas.
They need to ensure that they keep their core temperatures down during as race in order to keep cool. Technologies have been developed in order to assist with this process such as the cooling vest and the cooling collar.