How Does a Racing Driver Prepare for the Race Physically?
Even in front of the screen, the speed we get caught in the wind while watching is not easy. A racing driver always prepares for the race with versatile training from endurance to awareness. Racing drivers go through an intense and heavy preparation period. Because the conditioning they develop in physical and mental training builds their steering dominance from different angles. Let's examine how a driver usually spends the pre-season.
The Physical and Mental Requirements of Racing Drivers
Through an F1 race, drivers reach high speeds of 240-250 km/h on curves and 320 km/h on straights in an area that can be considered almost uncomfortable in a narrow cockpit. They encounter the G-force. Even at a stationary moment, the helmet shows five times more resistance to the head or neck region than normal, making it difficult to fight the pressure given by the speed they reach. Moreover, being aware of the fact that the slightest loss of concentration can cause very distressing events while doing this, requires both great focusing power and great physical competence to continue this work.
Pilots exposed to G force have stronger neck muscles than a normal person to be able to lift the pressure, and when we consider the races that are completed in an average of 90 minutes, the pilots need a solid core-central region in order not to lose their control and maintain their endurance until the end of the race. In addition, in motorsports where the speed factor is prominent, each gram of racing vehicle is considered separately and a certain weight balance is achieved.
Ideal weight is of high importance for racing drivers. Good performance requires racers, who are integral with the vehicle, to have a certain weight and endurance. Pilots must have physical strength above the weight determined for their form and the endurance of a marathoner.
The Training of a Racing Driver
Considering the pieces of training specific to their branches, which we consider as elite athletes and those who continue their professional sports life, if we look at the diversity and intensity of the training and preparation periods of F1 pilots, it is possible to say that the training of elite athletes is a little simple compared to those of F1 pilots.
One day of the routine program implemented by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in pre-season preparation goes like this:
-15:00 Aerobic and other training
-17:00 End the day
An Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo's pre-season and mid-season preparation routines:
-Peripheral vision exercises
-Long-term endurance training programs
Of course, these programs and training routines are shaped according to the needs, shortcomings, and strengths of the pilots. As we have seen in these two pilots, although the methods have changed, the variety and intensity of the training are almost the same. To summarize; before and in the middle of the season, they need to stay strong with the strength they do with weights in the gym, the cardio they do by pedaling on the bike in any room at home, and the endurance training on a hill, in the forest.
If we talk about neck and wrist injuries, as seen especially in motorsports athletes; Various studies are needed to prevent this. During the race, the head weight of the pilots, together with the neck and helmets, increases up to 6-7 kilograms. With the G force exposed during the race, this reflects on the neck as 24-42 kilos. In studies, the neck is the most frequently injured area in pilots competing in F1-style vehicles. It is stated that this is 34 percent of all injuries. To manage this situation, very strong and durable neck muscles are required. Pilots spend a very important time on their necks in physical condition. It is recommended to work with special strength training equipment or large elastic bands to strengthen the muscles around the neck.
Meditation and awareness studies are included in the preparation process. These preparations are essential for driving wheel-to-wheel with opponents while battling adrenaline and G-force. During the race, the heart rate increases to an average of 190 per second. A deep awareness work to stay calm and at the moment is applied as exercises that make it easier to stay in the moment and make easy decisions in moments of increased stress and adrenaline.
The diet of racing drivers is focused on protein, carbohydrates, and fluids. A few days before the race, foods such as pasta and bread, which contain carbohydrates, are taken with plenty of fluids just before the race. During the race, the temperature of the cockpit where the pilots are located is 50 degrees and the humidity is up to 80 percent on some tracks. Add to this heat fireproof clothing. Pilots can lose 2-3 kilos during a race. The lost fluid is replaced before and during the race, trying to prevent both performance and concentration loss. Drivers usually drink 1 liter of fluid before the race and 1-2 liters during and after the race.
In the pre-and mid-season, these programs and training routines are shaped according to the needs, shortcomings, and strengths of the pilots. Even though the methods change in pilots, the variety and intensity of the training are almost the same. Sometimes they need to stay strong with the strength they do with weights in gyms, sometimes with cardio they do by pedaling or endurance training on a hill or in the forest.
Being a racing driver looks very tempting, but it's not easy. Being a good player in one of the most followed sports in the world takes system and discipline, dominating racing cars requires a great deal of will and strength.