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How to train like an F1 driver

  1. Still festively plump? Fancy an F1-themed new year’s resolution? Well we’ve enlisted the fitness experts from the Porsche Human Performance Centre in Silverstone to tell you how they train the “surprisingly quite fit” men of Formula One.

    The likes of Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Jensen Button and Moto GP’s Bradley Smith have passed through its doors, and they seem to be doing pretty well - you’re in safe hands TopGear.commers.

    WARNING - this is actually quite useful…

  2. “F1 drivers are endurance athletes and train across a number of sports to improve cardio-vascular (CV) fitness. Good CV fitness lowers blood lactate production and helps a driver to maintain a lean body composition. An F1 driver should aim to maintain between 8-12% body fat - extra fat is essentially dead weight and an insulator, so the leaner and aerobically fitter a driver is the better their body can regulate heat, particularly important for races in hot and humid climates.

    Train like a racing driver by mixing regular swimming, cycling, running, rowing or XC skiing endurance, tempo and interval sessions to improve CV fitness. Jenson Button is a keen triathlete and Mark Webber regularly competes in adventure racing both of which help improve CV fitness.”

  3. “Elite racing drivers have some of the best reactions and coordination of any athlete, keeping these in top condition is essential.

    Drivers can practice using either BATAK or saccadic fixator reaction testing equipment, but reactions can also be improved outside of a specialised training environment. Give racket sports a go and learn how to juggle. These both help to improve hand eye co-ordination and reaction times.”

  4. A strong lower body is required to manage all the footwork for breaking and accelerating within any area of motorsport, but we also advise drivers to use their whole body when applying force during a race too.

    In the gym, why not try the following exercises: with or without weights, squats or single leg variations such as step ups, single-leg squats or lunges.

    To improve your total body strength a Body Pump class is always a good start, but if you are training alone try some deadlifts, tuck jumps and medicine ball throw exercises.

  5. F1 drivers need good strength endurance in their shoulders and chest. Keeping their hands on the steering wheel throughout the duration of testing, qualifying and racing is very demanding. Training the upper back also helps strengthen the neck - one of the main areas for focussed strength training in motorsport (see section 5)

    Test yourself with press-ups and shoulder press exercises for the chest/shoulders and pull-ups or chin ups for the upper back.

  6. The forces F1 drivers can experience can be over 4G during a race; therefore neck strength is one of the main areas concentrated on for specific training.

    The neck is a very delicate area, so specific training should only be undertaken under the supervision of qualified sports professional, however the type of exercises you could expect to do would be: Swiss Ball bridges, work with an Isometric Neck Harness or training on a four-way neck machine.

  7. An F1 driver’s grip needs great strength endurance. Typically, drivers of single seated cars optimally need grip strength of at least 60KgF.

    Grip strength can be honed with various tools within in the gym. However, hitting the climbing wall on a regular basis can also be a great to improve the power of your grip.

  8. A drivers’ torso needs to be strong. The endless hours in a race seat in testing can be debilitating, but stability is the key. As a drivers’ body is locked into position in a race seat, the aim of torso training is to resist movement and external forces. Again as the neck is an extension of the torso, improvements in torso strength have a positive effect on neck strength and stability.

    Try a Yoga or Pilates class to improve core strength, flexibility and recovery or boost your fitness regime with Planks and single arm dumbbell exercises.

  9. Recovery is an oft-overlooked area in motorsport. The high physiological demands of a race weekend can easily carry over to the next weekend and affect the drivers’ performance.

    Swimming is an effective recovery activity as it helps flush the body of lactic acid accumulation that can build up during a race weekend. Other recovery methods to try are low intensity aerobic activity or yoga classes to promote stretching and flexibility.

  10. The nutritional and hydration habits of professional drivers can greatly affect their race performance. These habits can be separated into areas for consideration and can be applied to everyday life:

    Firstly, for fuel eat; lean protein, vegetables, fruit, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats are the bulk of a motorsport diet.

    Secondly, individual body composition should be considered and assisted through nutrition: ideally a male F1 driver’s body fat percentage should be between 8-12%.

    Thirdly, a bespoke hydration strategy should be created. Water and non-calorie containing drinks can be used mainly for day to day hydration and exercise, while recovery drinks should be used as and when required. If you want to know even more, tests to measure the amount of sodium lost in sweat can be completed then drinks can be formulated to maintain optimal hydration.

  11. Mental preparation is as important for a professional racing driver as the physical activity undertaken. Drivers can work alongside sports psychologists to ensure their mindset is ready for day. Areas such as motivation, visualisation and self talk are often implemented.

    Want more? Visit the Porsche Human Performance Centre at Silverstone

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