When we think of sports and fitness, F1 drivers hardly feature on our list. Lewis Hamilton, a champion F1 driver with odds of 1/12 for winning the 2019 F1 driver’s championship may not be considered as an athlete by most. Many people think that F1 drivers are not athletes as they are not performing any physical acts but rather sitting stationary and driving a car. However, this is far from the truth. F1 drivers need to have excellent fitness and have to sweat out hours in the gym to attain the same. Some of the key reasons why F1 drivers need to be extremely fit are provided below:
Pressure on the Neck
F1 drivers experience high acceleration and have to maneuver sharp corners at high speeds. This creates lot of pressure on their neck due to the application of G-force. F1 drivers can experience G-force of up to 5G. In simple terms, this means that everything will feel 5 times heavier to them. They have to experience and manage 5 times the weight of their helmet and head and neck support (HANS) on their neck. This can be very tough to negotiate and requires high degree of fitness and training by the drivers. To train for this kind of extreme force on their neck, the F1 drivers go through specific exercises to keep them fit and trained for such situations during the actual race.
A F1 race is a constant roller coaster ride without any breaks for nearly 2 hours. This can challenge the physical limits of drivers. They experience increased heartbeat of up to 185 or even 200 beats per minute (BPM). To provide a reference, the average human’s heartbeat is about 70bpm. The stress and adrenaline push the heartbeat higher and it leads to cardiovascular stress. The cardiovascular stress can become even worse if the weather is too hot and humid. The drivers need to be very fit and physically strong to endure such levels of cardiovascular stress.
Strong Arms and Upper Body
Managing a F1 car at neck breaking speeds require strong arms and upper body. The arms have to be strong enough to take the pressure for a 2-hour race. While the arms should be strong, it should not be bulky or oversized as it adds extra size and weight for the driver. They have to train for hours for developing arm strength. This prevents them from developing cramps in their arms while maneuvering the car at high speeds.
Strong Legs and Lower Body
Strong legs are very important for F1 drivers. They have to apply high degree of force to slow down the car from high speeds. It is estimated that nearly 80 Kg of downward force needs to be applied on the breaks to slow the car at the corners. This needs strong legs and lower body and requires rigorous training.
F1 drivers are tightly strapped in the cockpit during a F1 race. Free weights and chest presses are used for strengthening of chest and back muscles. It helps them to better manage and coordinate their legs and arms in maneuvering the car at high speeds. This requires strong core strength for which the drivers need to undergo special training and fitness regime.