Hours of grueling driving in scorching sun, rain or at night, F1 drivers are tested to the limit at the pinnacle of motorsport.
This weekend will see F1 return to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and although the races will not be held in the scorching Saudi sun, night racing is still expected to prove tricky on the twisty track.
Drivers like Lewis Hamilton need to be in top form and in peak physical condition as they battle the 200mph rocket around F1 circuits around the world.
That means drivers have to follow grim training routines and tough diets to make sure they’re in sight of the checkered flag.
Gone are the days when mechanical steering was king, giving us images of Nigel Mansell collapsing during a race and Ayrton Senna unable to lift the winners trophy in his home race in Brazil .
However, modern cars arguably put more stress on the body than older cars due to their extremely high downforce, and drivers should work on the force as much as they can.
What does F1 driver training look like?
One of the key workouts for F1 drivers is to strengthen their neck muscles, as they can pull up to 6G in certain corners.
Special exercises target weightlifting for their neck and trapezius muscles, meaning F1 stars can move around 40kg with their neck alone.
Drivers use special helmets attached to ropes that pull against them as they try to keep their heads still. These can be made to mimic the turns of a particular circuit, such as the famous turn eight in Istanbul.
F1 driver workouts must be tough, as drivers seek to maintain a certain weight while building as much muscle as possible.
This means that steering still requires a fair amount of muscle and more typical shoulder workouts are used to mimic steering the car.
“Pull-up exercises” like pull-ups are vital and “help prevent and correct upper back rounding,” according to Hintsa Performance’s Pete McKnight.
He explained to F1 that “rounding” is a risk due to the position the cars are driven in, using curved seats, which is unhealthy for a person’s back.
The driving position can also affect the leg muscles needed to press hard on the accelerator and brake pedals.
Deadlifts are useful for stopping hamstring shortening, as well as for intense core work – the lower back being key to a driver’s stability in the car.
With virtually every muscle in the body targeted by strength training, riders also need to be in good cardio shape, as their heart rate can average 170 bpm during a race. A normal resting heart rate is around 60 to 70 bpm.
In addition to the time spent in the simulator, the drivers mix up their workouts, which are usually done twice a day.
McLaren driver’s trainer Daniel Riicardo has shared a kettlebell routine the Aussie does regularly.
The set, which has a two-minute rest in between and must be repeated five times, is as follows:
- Reverse Lunge Press – 10 reps
- Front squats – 10 reps
- Kettlebell swings – 10 reps
- Thrusters – 10 reps
- Sumo deadlift – 10 reps
- Military Press – 10 reps
What does an F1 driver’s diet look like?
Riders like Lewis Hamilton can lose around 4kg of fluids in hotter races like Singapore, so nutrition is key to performance.
Endurance is key in F1 so a high protein diet is a must. Hamilton, a vegan, may find it more difficult according to some experts.
Ricciardo explained F1’s approach to nutrition: “Balance is the first thing that comes to mind. I’ve certainly experimented over the years, but I work best with balance. “
“Obviously with the training that we do protein is important but I also think we need carbs for a bit of extra energy and we also need fat for that more sustained fuel and not just to waste away. .”
He also shared a typical day of meals for him while he does his workouts and any other duties:
Breakfast – 350 calories
Post-cardio snack – 127 calories
Lunch – 549 calories
- Poached chicken breast
- lemon garlic sauce
Post-workout snack – 110 calories
Dinner – 559 calories
- Poached jerk chicken breast
- Black beans