Formula 1 is one of the most expensive sports in the world. In order to compete in the fastest competition in the world, teams need to assemble the best engineers and technicians to keep vehicles at their best. However, racing isn’t all about speed and drivers are more than just drivers, they are athletes.
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With races lasting for roughly 90 minutes, drivers face temperatures that can reach 40°C inside the car. While Formula 1 isn’t the only sport that faces such extreme conditions it is one of the few that can’t escape them. In this sense, only a sport such as cycling faces similar challenges. But how does one fight this? In cycling, riders, such as Egan Bernal, run training sessions lasting 5-7 hours in which heat variations are simulated. In 2019, when riders were faced with 40°C during the Tour de France, Bernal resisted these adverse conditions and convincingly won the race. As a result, according to outright odds for betting on cycling, he is currently one of the favourites to win the 2022 edition of the French Tour and reclaim his title at odds of 12/1.
Luckily, in Formula 1 there are different ways to fight the heat. Drivers wear special suits that promote breathability and shield them from overheating, but also are kept hydrated through a pump system installed in the cars containing isotonic drinks. Racers drive with a small straw placed in their mouths that can be active by simply pushing a button. This allows pilots to maintain their hydration and glucose at stable levels, which, in turn, directly affect concentration and reflexes. In fact, driver Sergio Pérez recently faced extreme conditions which resulted in dehydration.
Nonetheless, sitting behind a Formula 1 wheel requires more than fast reflexes and adequate heat resistance, it is also necessary to train daily, follow a strict diet with plenty of carbohydrates, and substantial rest.
When it comes to physical preparation methods and training strategies, each team and driver has a different approach, but the main challenge they all face is the need for tremendous physical endurance.
In order to prepare for races, it is essential for drivers to indulge in workouts that tackle aerobic and neuromuscular exercises, but also training related to motor coordination. Therefore, it is increasingly rare to see drivers running ‘normal’ bodybuilding programs. Training sessions mostly focus on exercises that simulate the motions that drivers are required to perform inside the cars. Using specific machines, the main goal is to strengthen the core region, which comprises the lumbar, buttocks and abdomen. This is mostly due to the position in which pilots sit, which forced them to have considerable core strength.
Moreover, in order to resist G-Force, caused by speed during races, which can be quite extreme on the human body, drivers use simulators and abundantly exercise neck muscles.
However, drivers also train other parts of the body, engaging with different sports. The legendary Ayrton Senna was known for racing long distances in order to achieve perfect body oxygenation. Additionally, cycling and swimming are also popular options. In recent years, drivers such as Lewis Hamilton have also tried boxing or CrossFit, although the objective here is to actively gain muscle mass.
Lastly, but equally important, drivers have access to psychologists. These trained professionals help drivers deal with the psychological struggles of elite competition and considerable mental pressure, that can naturally arise when one is living in different parts of the world far away from family and friends for long periods of time.