Many who do not know much about Formula 1 and other forms of motor racing do not consider it to be a physically demanding sport. Compared to something like soccer, where the players are running for 90 minutes, or rugby, which takes an incredible toll on the body, a Formula 1 driver just has to sit in his car and steer for 100-200 laps over the course of an entire weekend, right?
Of course, any Formula 1 fan knows that this is not the case. Both physical and mental fitness are required in order for a Formula 1 driver to win races and have a successful season. Our guest correspondent Nathan Henley takes a closer look at how crucial fitness is in Formula 1…
He must learn how to clear his mind of stress and external distractions, such as team relations, upcoming interviews, and sponsor demands. Any driver who wants to perform well must learn how to be completely relaxed and focused during a race.
The physical demands of a Formula 1 driver can be easily overlooked by those who do not understand the sport. Advances in aerodynamic grip have increased the amount of G-forces that a driver feels around those tight corners.
These forces, combined with the weight of a driver’s helmet, will make his head feel about five times heavier than normal, putting a considerable amount of stress on his neck. His legs must also be fit, since he has to apply a sudden force of 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds, on the carbon brakes. Drivers must train to be able to release quick bursts of power from their muscles in order to handle the car at high speeds and in unexpected situations.
Off the Racetrack
Maintaining physical fitness off the racetrack is important for driving performance, but it also helps with managing stress. All year, drivers must constantly deal with demands from sponsors, relationships with team members, and obligations to the media and fans through interviews, press conferences, and publicity.
They must also work to keep themselves fit in the off-season with endurance and muscle training and a healthy diet.
As you can see, the physical and mental demands of a Formula 1 driver are far more than meets the eye. For this reason, they must train just as hard as any other athlete, both during the season and after the season ends.
This article was written by Nathan Henley. He is a sports psychologist and physical trainer. He also owns the site Sports Psychology Degree for students interested in getting a degree in sports psychology.
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[Images via European Triathlete, Formula 1, Sydney Morning Herald]