Many people believe that drivers should not be real athletes. Is it true?
In reality Formula One drivers are some of the most highly conditioned athletes on earth, their bodies specifically adapted to the very exacting requirements of top-flight single-seater motor racing.
All drivers who enter Formula One need to undergo a period of conditioning to the physical demands of the sport: no other race series on earth requires so much of its drivers in terms of stamina and endurance. The vast loadings that Formula One cars are capable of creating, anything up to a sustained 3.5 g of cornering force, for example, means drivers have to be enormously strong to be able to last for full race distances. The extreme heat found in a Formula One cockpit, especially at the hotter rounds of the championship, also puts vast strain on the body: drivers can sweat off anything up to 3kg of their body weight during the course of a race.
Physical endurance is created through intensive cardio-vascular training: usually running or swimming, although some drivers prefer cycling or even roller-blading! But the unusual loadings experienced by neck and chest muscles cannot be easily replicated by conventional gym equipment, so many drivers use specially designed 'rigs' that enable them to specifically develop the muscles they will need to withstand cornering forces. Strength here is especially important, as the neck must support the weight of both the driver's head and helmet under these intense loadings. Powerful arm muscles are also required to enable the car to be controlled during longer races.
In terms of nutrition, most F1 drivers control their diets in much the same way as track and field athletes, carefully regulating the amount of carbohydrate and protein they absorb. During race weekends most drivers will be seen eating pasta or other carbohydrate-rich foods to provide energy and give the all-important stamina for the race itself. It is also vitally important that drivers take in large amounts of water before the race, even if they do not feel thirsty. Failure to do so could bring on dehydration through sweating - not surprising given that the physical endurance required to drive a Formula One race is not dissimilar to that required to run a marathon.