The Health Guru

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Fitness of a Formula One Driver

Posted on | September 28, 2012 | No Comments

Formula One Fitness

Do you consider a F1 driver an elite athlete?  Do you think they are more or less fitter than a long distance runner?

I guess that needing to drive some of the fastest cars in demanding conditions (both physical and mental) must need for them to train vigorously. Let’s take a look at what their body goes through:

The heart

Most humans have a resting heart rate of around 60 beats/minute, rising to around 150 during a run on the treadmill. An experiment using David Coulthard found he had a resting heart rate of 40 beats/minute, rising to 198 beats/minute during a two hour race.  That figure is approximately the same as a marathon runner when crossing the finishing line.  One of the reasons for this is that driving demands intense concentration, huge amounts of adrenalin is being pumped through the body, the physical strain of travelling at speeds more than 300km per hour and experiencing g-forces of 3-4 around corners indeed makes the heart beat faster!

Training: To cope with the stress on the heart, F1 drivers would need to conduct intense cardiovascular exercise.

The neck

The total weight of a human head and a F1 helmet weigh approximately 6kg. When taking corners and experiencing about 4G-Force, the neck has to support 24kg.

Training:  Large elastic bands are used to simulate the demands of high G-Force. Drivers also incorporate resistance work into their exercise regime – rowing and weight lifting.  But keeping in mind they need to avoid too much muscle hypertrophy in order to fit within the small driving cockpits.


Formula One drivers eat much like track and field athletes – carefully regulating their carbohydrate and protein intake. In the lead up to a big race they’ll gorge on carbohydrates for energy.  Immediately before the race and sometimes throughout, drivers drink huge amounts of water. Failure to do so could bring on dehydration through sweating.  The extreme heat found in a Formula One cockpit means drivers can sweat off up to 3 kg of their body weight during the course of a race.

Mental health

Formula One drivers don’t just take care of their bodies, they look after their mental health too. Many of the F1 Teams work with sports psychologists to ensure that a driver can exert unwavering mind control during a race. Methods include reviewing track maps, visualising a route and a perfect lap, in order for the driver to feel he has driven the course many times before he even arrives there.

Drivers also learn breathing techniques to stay calm at crucial moments, and techniques for shutting out the outside world – a driver getting into a car surrounded by a medical team, technical staff and thousands of fans and members of the press may use the click of the seat belt as a trigger to block these distractions.

So now do you think that a F1 driver is an elite athlete?  I am certainly convinced.

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