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Why Are F1 Drivers Weighed? (Why Driver Weight Matters)

We often see F1 drivers getting onto a scale after getting out of the car when they finish a qualifying session or even after a race. This might seem like an insignificant part of the process at the end of the session, but there’s an important reason why F1 drivers are weighed.

F1 drivers are weighed after every session as they must meet a minimum weight requirement. All cars must comply with the minimum weight restrictions, as lighter cars are faster. The FIA sets these rules at the start of each season, and the car and the driver must be above the weight limit.

Weight restrictions are not the only reason that driver weight matters in Formula 1 racing. There are many ways that weight can affect car and driver performance. Below, we go into more details on why F1 drivers are weighed and the importance behind it.

Why Are F1 Drivers Weighed After A Race?

F1 drivers are weighed after a race to ensure that they are above the specified weight limit (currently 80 kg/176 lbs). If a driver is under the limit, they are automatically disqualified. The weight limit was created to ensure the field is equal and each driver has fair opportunity to compete.

Weight is important in this sport because the lighter the car is, the faster it can go. Think about pushing a shopping trolley or pulling a wheeled luggage suitcase. It might have wheels, but the heavier it is the more difficult it becomes to push. This is especially true when going uphill, but most importantly around corners – which is where Formula 1 cars truly excel.

Some drivers are naturally heavier than others, and some cars are heavier than others too. Implementing a minimum weight limit that applies to all cars makes the field more equal and gives each driver an opportunity to compete without worrying about the advantage in weight that smaller drivers have. The drivers are weighed immediately after a race. There are typically no exceptions to this rule.

Are All Drivers Weighed After The Race?

All drivers are required to be weighed after the race. We typically only see the top three drivers being weighed, as the other drivers are weighed in a different section that isn’t always visible on camera. Drivers are weighed with an FIA official present directly after the session is completed.

Though the attention is on the top three racers, all drivers will be weighed. While the camera is focused on the top three finishers you may see some of the other drivers walking past in the background. They are usually weighed in the scrutineering area, which is one of the unused garages in the pitlane.

F1 drivers are weighed with their helmet, gloves, full race suit and HANS device after each session, before they drink (or eat) anything. This all contributes to what is known as their ‘seat weight’, and this ensures that everything within the car is accounted for in the total weight of the car. The car is weighed separately, and the two weights are combined.

Why Does Weight Matter In F1?

Weight matters in F1 because it has an impact on the speed of the car. Having a lighter car can give a team advantage in all areas on the track. Though it isn’t easy, you can adjust the weight of a car. However, a driver’s weight can’t be easily changed. Taller, heavier drivers are at a disadvantage.

Weight is crucial in Formula 1. Engineers estimate that a car can go 0.3 seconds per lap faster for every 10 kilograms of weight that is taken off the car. While this might not sound like a lot at first, in the context of Formula 1, three-tenths of a second can mean the difference between winning and coming second.

Driving 0.3 seconds a lap faster than another car means that the faster car can easily take pole position in qualifying or pull a gap over their opponent in the race. Oftentimes, three-tenths of a second can be the difference between pole position and fifth place on the grid.

Making a heavy car lighter is never an easy task since Formula 1 cars only have the essentials on them and do not have any extras that can be removed from the car to reduce its weight. One of the most difficult aspects of the weight of the cars to manage is the driver. Unlike the car, the driver’s weight often can’t be reduced leaving taller and naturally heavier drivers at a disadvantage.

Rules Required

Therefore, the minimum weight limit rule was introduced. Having all teams understand the target weight that they need to reach will prevent any teams from simply making their car lighter to go faster. This creates an even playing field and provides equal opportunity for all drivers.

Modern Formula 1 cars are much heavier than they were in the past, and there are several factors that have contributed to this increase in their mass. However, chief among those is the complexity of the hybrid power unit as well as the advancements in safety that have been implemented on the cars.

The Story Of Michael Schumacher’s Helmet

In the early 2000s, crash helmet designs became more and more popular as the popularity of the sport grew. Drivers were moving further away from the plain designs of the 1980s and 90s and more towards interesting, unique designs.

Michael Schumacher had his helmet designed with less paint than other drivers. His helmet painter created a special paint mixture that was lighter than others and applied it in thinner layers.

While the weight saving was minimal, the idea was to reduce the amount of G-force on Schumacher’s neck throughout the race, meaning he could push his car longer without getting as tired. The change in weight may be tiny, but in F1, the smallest of margins can make big differences.

What Are The Rules Regarding Driver Weight In F1?

The rules regarding driver weight in F1 are implemented by the FIA and apply to each and every car and driver on the grid. If any car or driver is lighter than the weight limit, even by 0.1 kg, they are disqualified. The rules are strict and do not allow for exceptions or changes.

Towards the end of the 2010s, many drivers began complaining that they would have a disadvantage over other drivers who are lighter and have a smaller build. Previously, the total weight of the car was measured, so they would always be slightly heavier than other drivers.

An Adaptation Of The Rules

This is where the rules were adapted in 2019, creating a more equal and fairer environment for all drivers across the grid, even if they were taller or heavier. The changes might seem minimal from the outside, but to the drivers, it does make a big difference.

Rather than measuring the total weight of the entire car, it was split into different areas. The first thing that would be weighed is the car as a whole. The second element is known as the “seat weight” of the car.

This “seat weight” includes the driver and all their gear as well as their seat. The seat has been included as this is where weight can be added to the driver. All drivers must be above this minimum seat weight limit, and the total minimum weight limit includes their seat weight and the weight of the car.

Average Weight Of Formula 1 Drivers

Formula 1 drivers are extremely lightweight. Many of them are short, which is why they can keep their weight down. Some of the taller drivers are naturally heavier and are unable to lose any more weight than they already have.

The tallest and heaviest driver on the 2022 grid is Alex Albon, weighing around 163 lbs (74 kg) and he has a height of 6 ft 1 in (1.86 m). The shortest driver on the current grid, Yuki Tsunoda at 5 ft 2 in (1.59 m), is also the lightest driver at 119 lbs (54 kg).

Without the minimum weight limits, Tsunoda would be a quicker driver as he is much lighter, and Albon’s car is simply heavier as a result of him being taller. However, Formula 1 has neutralized this aspect by ensuring Yuki must use ballast to get up to the minimum weight limit (as does Albon).

Why Don’t F1 Drivers Gain Muscle?

Formula 1 drivers need to be extremely fit to power their state-of-the-art machines around a world-class racetrack. We often see them in the gym, running, swimming, or cycling whenever they aren’t at a racetrack. This leaves some wondering why the drivers haven’t acquired a bodybuilder stature.

Drivers tend to focus on increasing their strength and endurance during training rather than their overall size. This is because putting on more muscle will make them much heavier. The heavier they are, the slower they go.

Lewis Hamilton, for example, says that he focuses more on lower body exercises as it means that his center of gravity is lower in the car. Having a heavier upper body makes it more difficult to tolerate the G-forces when turning the steering wheel and going through corners.

How Much Weight Do F1 Drivers Lose During A Race?

F1 drivers often lose between 2 and 3 kilograms, or 4.4 lbs and 6.6 lbs, during a race. This is a result of the harsh conditions inside the cockpit of the car and the physical strain that drivers are under. The weight loss is a result of water loss through sweat.

On an average race day, the temperatures inside the cockpit and underneath the drivers’ fireproof race suits can easily reach close to 50 degrees Celsius, or 120 degrees Fahrenheit. On top of that, they need to control the fastest cars in the world and sustain high g-forces through every corner of the racetrack.

It’s a bit like going to the gym in a sauna on a hot day. The drivers will always lose weight during the course of a Grand Prix, despite drinking liters of water throughout the entire weekend to prepare and having an electrolyte-filled drink in the car.

Drivers Lose More Weigh During Hotter Races

When Formula 1 heads over to race in hotter climates such as Singapore and in the Middle East, the drivers can lose even more weight during a race. It’s estimated that drivers lose around 8.8 lbs (4 kg) or more during one of these races. In these hotter climates, we often see how physically drained the drivers are. They prepare long in advance for these races by drinking a surplus of water.

Dehydration is a serious risk at these races, so it’s crucial that the drivers have their drinks ready in the cars. However, it’s not a cool sip of water. The drivers use a type of electrolyte drink that offers maximum hydration mid-race. There’s no cooling system so drivers have described this drink as being like “hot tea,” with some electing not to drink it at all.

Final Thoughts

F1 Drivers are weighed after races to ensure they are above the minimum weight limit. Their weight plays a vital role in the performance of the car. Rules have been put in place to ensure that lighter drivers do not gain an unfair advantage. Drivers under the weight limit are disqualified.