What F1 Driver Training Is Like

Do you think drivers don't need to be in great shape to get in their cars and drive? Here's why this is a myth!
What F1 Driver Training Is Like
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 09 October, 2022

Whoever thinks that motorsport stars don’t have to prepare their bodies and depend only on their cars is really mistaken. Formula 1 or F1 drivers, for example, have a strict training routine for every moment of the season.

It’s clear that they don’t have a large range of motion inside the cockpit of the single-seaters. However, this doesn’t mean that their bodies are not subjected to great loads of effort.

Strength and endurance are fundamental factors for enduring races lasting an hour and a half that are preceded by several hours more in the days leading up to the final.

How do F1 drivers train?

Like any professional sport, Formula 1 demands very specific and hard training from the drivers who participate in the category. Some of them, such as Spain’s Carlos Sainz Junior, Pierre Gasly, and Valtteri Bottas, have often talked about how they prepare their bodies to achieve the best performances on race days.

Cardio and F1 driver training

Cardiovascular work is practically the backbone of training, as Frenchman Gasly has expressed a couple of years ago. This type of exercise provides the stamina needed to cope with so many minutes of continuous effort in the cockpit.

To fulfill this part of the training, F1 drivers do swimming, cycling, running, and, in the case of Carlos Sainz, even triathlon routines. The Spanish driver said that this is the part he likes the least, and that’s why he does it early in the day on an empty stomach.

Carlos Sainz
 F1 driver Carlos Sainz gave details about his training in several interviews, remarking that cardio is key, although he doesn’t enjoy it as much.

Strength training

In addition to cardio, F1 drivers’ training includes strength work. These are the exercises that allow the muscles to adapt to the great physical demands of driving a single-seater at more than 300 kilometers per hour.

For these athletes, training the shoulders, arms, and the middle area is essential. These muscles are the most demanding when moving the car’s steering wheel and maintaining a stable posture while driving.

However, leg work is also indispensable. According to Sainz, this is because as much strength as resistance is needed to step on the pedals for the required time without suffering from cramps or losing precision due to fatigue.

Finally, and as strange as it may seem, drivers exercise their neck area a lot. These muscle groups suffers from the pressure of the force of 5 G or even 6 G (gravity force), both forward and backward, as well as to the sides.

To strengthen these muscles, they often resort to isometric exercises, such as planks without resting their hands on the floor. This may also involve work with weights, lifting, or moving loads using the head, as shown by the Red Bull team with its driver Sergio Pérez. There are also devices that use springs to generate a force that athletes must overcome with their necks.

Complementary training

In addition to strength and cardio training for F1 drivers, there’s also complementary training. This is the type of training that includes agility and reflexes exercises, which are key for a top international driver to react to unforeseen events in the competition.

Likewise, work based on neuroscience has been carried out to improve driver’s skills such as concentration and mental endurance. In races lasting more than 90 minutes at a constant demand, these are two points that should never be neglected.

The diet of F1 drivers

After learning about the training of F1 drivers, it’s also appropriate to mention their diets. In this regard, Carlos Sainz said that he focuses on eating a healthy diet, with almost no junk food – except for some occasional treats – as well as a diet that’s low in carbohydrates.

Instead, the Spaniard aims to consume protein to preserve his muscle health, as stated in a study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Another of the benefits of this nutrient is that it helps to promote muscle recovery.

diet is a big part of F1 driver training
High-protein diets are indicated in almost any sport to help the muscles recover.

Training and diet, two vital pillars of F1 driver training

With all that said, it’s clear that the “invisible” work that an F1 driver does in his or her training is the basis of what he or she can show later on the track. In addition to increasing their strength and endurance, it’s a fact that professional race car drivers must stay at an appropriate weight so as not to affect the performance of their car.

So, the next time you watch a race in this category, pay attention to these details. Underneath the driver’s suits and helmets are hidden athletes who are just as well trained – if not more so – than those of any other discipline.

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  • Morton, R. W., Murphy, K. T., McKellar, S. R., Schoenfeld, B. J., Henselmans, M., Helms, E., … & Phillips, S. M. (2018). A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. British journal of sports medicine52(6), 376-384.

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