October 2, 2022

Sky Sports journalist Marc Bazeley is put to the test to see how he compares to a Formula 1 driver

In terms of physical preparation, Formula 1 has come a long way since the days when a warm-up meant doing a few laps on the morning of a race and rehydrating perhaps involved more champagne on the podium than drinks containing complex electrolytes.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not enough to sit behind the wheel and race for a few hours on Sunday. The modern Formula 1 driver must be in peak mental and physical condition to cope with the extremes of driving some of the most advanced racing cars on the planet.

Repeated exposure to forces of up to 6g under braking lap after lap, struggling to maintain control of cars capable of speeds in excess of 200mph and maintaining a high level of concentration are just some of the challenges facing them.

Added to that are things that can’t be controlled like the heat inside the cockpit while wearing a fireproof suit, gloves and running shoes and a helmet, and the balance of trying to reduce as much their own weight as possible so as not to compromise the performance of the car.

“We want the drivers to be lightweight, but we also want them to have decent muscle mass to cope with the strength demands of the sport,” said Jack Wilson, chief sport scientist at the Porsche Human Performance Center. sky sports.

“Some of them touch on upper body strength, they also need high core strength to tolerate g-force and being thrown into the cockpit and lower body strength for brake application .

“How do they do that? They make sure their body fat is as low as possible within a healthy range because having a low level of body fat allows you to have a decent amount of muscle mass and stay lean.

Ahead of this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, we look back at some of the most memorable moments from previous races in Baku.

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Ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, we look back at some of the most memorable moments from previous races in Baku.

Ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, we look back at some of the most memorable moments from previous races in Baku.

“One of the biggest risks of having such a meager composition is compromised immune function. of people, so it’s a pretty interesting balancing act to play with the pilots as well, maintaining a lean body percentage while having a fully supported immune system.”

This weekend’s 51-lap Azerbaijan Grand Prix is ​​one of the biggest tests of all these regions – a 20-turn circuit around the capital Baku with long straights and tight corners. With a shaded length of over 6km, it is the third longest track on the calendar, while temperatures in the cockpit can reach up to 44 degrees centigrade during the summer race on the Europe-Asia border.

That’s why, on a slightly cooler gray afternoon in the English Midlands at the start of the race week, we find ourselves in the laboratory of the Porsche Human Performance Center in Silverstone to undergo a battery of tests which will give an idea of ​​the levels the best in the world. drivers must be at.

After a body composition analysis, he is directly on the Batak light board to test reactions, followed by grip strength, then neck strength. Then it’s on the watt bike for the VO2 max test to determine endurance, as well as a before and after Stroop test to see how much fatigue affects cognitive function.

Sky Sports reporter Marc Bazeley undergoes neck strength test

Sky Sports reporter Marc Bazeley undergoes neck strength test

To top it all off, a run on the treadmill in the thermal chamber, then a sweat test to determine the amount of sodium – vital for regulating body fluid balance and retention, blood viscosity and cognitive function – that you lose when you sweat.

It varies from person to person and given its importance in maintaining balance in the body, it is something included in the supplements that drivers will add to their drinks that they have in their car for each race. Even then, it doesn’t always solve the problem of dehydration at Grands Prix like Azerbaijan.

“Most of them, especially for those hot and humid runs, will have fluid in the car,” said Abby Coleman, chief scientist at Precision Fuel and Hydration. sky sports.

“It will contain electrolytes, it will contain carbs, but the counter to that is that the liquid is there, but whether they drink it is a question mark. Due to the heat in the car, that liquid gets quite warm quickly and can make it quite unpleasant.

Average person vs Formula 1 driver

CategoryMarc BazeleyIdeal Formula 1 driver
Height182cmUp to 186cm
lester79kgHigh 60s-Low 70s kg
body fat percentage20%8-12%
Batak trial76 lights per minuteMore than 120 lights per minute
grip strength34 kg right, 31 kg left55-65kg
VO2 max32mL/(kg-min)High 50s-low 60s mL/(kg-min)

“Drinking hot water when you’re already uncomfortably hot in that suit, helmet, gloves and boots, what you really want is something cool and refreshing and that liquid is far from it.

“That’s why some athletes don’t drink enough, that’s why it’s not uncommon for some to finish a race two percent dehydrated, which the literature suggests can impair cognitive function, which we don’t don’t want pilots to live. You have to take those factors into consideration.”

Drivers are also limited to carrying a liter and a half of liquid in the drink bags that go in the car and more would create a headache for the team engineers where else to try to save weight while ensuring that the person in the car does not suffer from compromised performance levels.

The way around this is to try and make sure the drivers are as hydrated as possible before getting in the car, although it’s not just about taking liter after liter of water before starting a race.

Staying hydrated is vital for Formula 1 drivers to help maintain cognitive function behind the wheel

Staying hydrated is vital for Formula 1 drivers to help maintain cognitive function behind the wheel

“If we drink a lot of plain water, we risk diluting the body’s blood sodium levels and end up going to the bathroom often and starting with low fluid and low sodium,” Coleman said. “The idea of ​​pre-hydration is to drink a high sodium drink before the race.

“If you put a fluid in the body that has a fairly high degree of sodium, it creates an imbalance the other way around and the body isn’t going to get rid of that fluid to make that imbalance worse, it’s trying to retain it.

“You start with that fluid and sodium buffer, something that the athlete will potentially sweat in the car in quite a significant amount. That’s the part that hopefully is the most controllable.”

As someone who can see 40 rapidly accelerating towards me on the horizon and whose own athletic pursuits are well below elite level, it’s no surprise that my own test results don’t quite match those Formula 1 competitors.

Sky Sports reporter Marc Bazeley undergoes a sweat test

Sky Sports reporter Marc Bazeley undergoes a sweat test

Still, what it underlines is just how much of an athlete these drivers are as any other sportsman – and how much more there is to doing in Formula 1 than just getting behind the wheel and driving.

“The key thing with drivers is the multi-faceted nature of their fitness,” Wilson said. “You might have individuals who might be decent in one or two of those areas, but to be F1 level in all areas is quite special.

Watch the Azerbaijan Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1, with coverage starting Friday at 11.40am.