We have seen cars racing and making humming sounds on a Formula 1 racing track. The speed can reach more than 320 km/hr and every split second is important to make the right decisions. A race takes almost 80 to 100 minutes to complete. Imagine the continuous stress and alertness a driver has to maintain throughout the laps on the track!
This is why Formula 1 drivers are considered to be the fittest in the world. At that speed, the human body receives huge gravitational force. The continuous braking and accelerating along with making remarkable split-second decisions are no less than flying a fighter jet with your life on the line.
As mentioned earlier, a Formula 1 race goes on for nearly 100 minutes. A driver will have to fit into the small space of a Formula 1 car due to aerodynamic features. The cars attend a speed of more than 300 km/hr and everything seems to be blurred. With all the gear on, it seems really heavy at times when the drivers apply brakes or accelerate.
Imagine what will happen to you when you tolerate five times the normal gravity! Yes, the drivers can face up to 5 times the normal gravitational force (5G) on them when they apply brakes. They face two times the gravity when they accelerate. They also have to face such gruelling forces inside the cockpit of the car during turns and overtaking. A normal person will faint in 5G. This is why they are considered to be the fittest athletes in the world.
It looks so easy when the drivers go past the cameras on the track. The sight makes us speechless! You will be surprised to know that the weight of the driver has to be on the scale to use minimum fuel during the race. A 2019 rule mandates that the cumulative weight of the driver and his seat must be at least 80 kg. In fact, Lewis Hamilton, a professional Formula 1 driver lost 4.53 kg after the 1 hour 45 minutes of the race in Miami Grand Prix 2022.
Formula 1 Car and Driver Inside the Cockpit
Here is why Formula 1 Drivers are considered to be the fittest among the athletes in the world.
As mentioned earlier, the G-force can increase up to 5G when a driver applies a brake. It can also increase to 2G when he accelerates. In simpler terms, the weight of the driver’s head will feel more than 25 kg. It is during this time that a normal person loses consciousness.
Throughout an entire race, a driver will feel double his bodyweight. The cockpit is also very hot due to the engine’s combustion of fuel. The driver sweats profusely in this increased G-force condition and loses nearly 4 kg of body mass.
Now that we know how the head of a driver feels, imagine the stress on the neck that supports it. The neck muscles will have to continuously support the heavier neck at the elevated G-force condition. They wear helmets, wielding the Head and Neck Support (HANS) technology, which protect their head and neck from injuries. Despite this fact, the cumulative weight of the head and helmet can increase considerably.
Hence, the drivers have to work on the neck and shoulder muscles to stay focused throughout the race without feeling a twitch. They are considered the fittest athletes in the world and the reasons are clear!
The same pressure of escalated G-force will also be exerted on the heart muscles. Also, the drivers will always be in an escalated heart rate condition. These F1 drivers tolerate 170bpm heart rate all the time throughout the race. It can also peak to 200. A normal healthy young man’s heart rate is 72pbm. It means the drivers need aggressive training to make their heart muscles strong enough to tolerate such overload for more than an hour.
You will be surprised to know that the lung capacity of F1 drivers is around 60. Let us explain! The normal lung capacity of an average adult VO2 is 35. Imagine reaching the mark 60 with proper exercise and diet. It is similar to that of footballers and rowers.
Now, the problem is the protective gear an F1 driver has to wear. The compression of the small cockpit and the protective gear makes it hard to breathe and maintain the proper oxygen level in their brains. Despite this fact, the drivers maintain their concentration and focus to make split-second decisions. This is why they are the fittest athletes in the world.
Countering the escalated G-force needs extreme core strength. A driver has to brake and accelerate throughout the race. The force applied to the equipment needs core strength. Moreover, the turns, braking, and acceleration will also need core strength to keep the head in the right place.
This is how an F1 driver feels when they are on the track and in full adrenaline mode. The continuous tremendous force makes them lose weight. The F1 cockpit temperature reaches 122°F and the driver loses 4kg within an hour. Hence, if you want to learn how to become a Formula 1 racer, you will have to prepare your body first.
Your mind should be sharp and fast enough to make split-second decisions. A wrong decision can take a driver’s life. Proper mind and body training are required for coordination. Becoming an F1 driver is not easy.