Nobody reaches where they are without hard work and while looking upto some of the famous personalities, we tend to forget, how difficult it was for them to reach this level. And more importantly, how difficult it is to maintain that position, because it's easy to reach a position, it's difficult to maintain it! Formula One is one form of sport which many budding racers and automotive enthusiasts see upto.
But it's not at all easy being an F1 racer and moreover, a champion. Think for a moment, what sort of physical stress one racer has to go through - 300 km in 2 hours with speed exceeding 300 kmph and g-force upto 3.5 g's. This is only the figures from the main race and one has to do practice and qualifying run also. All this for 20 races in a season within 8 month period.
A single race can result in 3-3.5 kg weight reduction of the driver and then the slightest of mistake can result in a fatal accident! They wear fireproof suits to save themselves from any accident and the cockpit heat in itself is very high. They have to memorize each track perfectly to get the best out of the race, a race where even a micro-second counts.
So like we said earlier, it's easier to look upto them and idolize them, but much harder to follow their footsteps. But then there are some crazy who in the age as young as 17 years compete in this form of sport, and make a mark for themselves. If it's anything difficult for the pros, just imagine the sort of tumbling it takes on the rookies.
Case-in-point, Max Verstappen, who entered in the record books by racing at a young age of 17 years. Since F1 changed the minimum age of racing in an F1 to 18 years soon after, he will hold the record indefinitely. While the experienced drivers like Fernando Alonso knows the pressure, it's overwhelming to see how Verstappen, in such young age, is holding the strain.
And he is not only holding onto to the pressure, but also winning himself points. Racing for Toro Rosso, Verstappen has finished 9 times in top 10 and is currently placed at 10th position among the 20 racers. Verstappen says, “You have to be much more professional,” as compared to other form of sports. So what are the factors that makes you more professional and what makes an F1 driver, an F1 driver - we tell you here!
While going to the gym for us means getting ripped and reducing weight, gym for an F1 driver is all about surviving the brutal forces the F1 race throws at them. According to rules set by the FIA, the combined weight of the car and the driver should be atleast 691 kg. So, for every kilo you save on the driver, you get an extra punch in the car, which can be added strategically.
Now it's not as easy as it may sound! You have to find the right kind of diet and the right areas where most of the muscle training will go. Take for example the neck area, which has to be worked out the most in the weight room to keep the head and the helmet upright during a race. McLaren racer, Fernando Alonso was famous for breaking walnuts from his neck. While the new racers like Verstappen can't match such ability, they do exercise like lying horizontally and strap weights to the head.
The other forms of exercise include a lot of swimming, cycling, and running during the pre-season training. Talking about the diet, they have to follow a strict regime of eating small meals a day with lots of protein and less carbs. Verstappen says he was used to Eat at McDonald’s twice a week while racing in Formula 3 and now he follows his nutritionist blindly.
20 races, 20 different tracks! You have to follow the line continuously to save even a micro-second that can give you a win! Yes, fitness is important, but it won't help if you don't know how to win? One of the ways to get the best out of the circuit is memorizing the track so much so that you can even drive with a blindfold. But remembering the circuit is not your usual “left, left, right,” and so on.
One has to memorize the exact gear car will be at, where to brake, how much to brake and finally where to accelerate. All this needs an intensive homework, which sadly can't be done on the track all the time, because of the obvious reasons. This is where simulator comes in! A simulator is a machine that is similar to a video game with the exact track detail and atmosphere! The steering is original, the pedals are and so are the moments! What's not real is the g-forces which work during an actual race.
With your helmets on and with the exact data of the tracks, you can practice as much as you can before hitting the tarmac. Also, one can study the data from previous years, watch onboard video feeds from the past drivers, and understand how things went during the previous race on the same track. Basically a simulator helps you perform better, but only virtually.
Last but not the least is the talent, which happens to be the most important too! Training or no training, fit or no fit - you can't race in an F1 until you are talented beyond the normal limits. Thousands of racers each year strive hard to race in the big league, yet only 20 make it to the top. These 20 are touted as the top 20 fastest drivers on Earth.
And a simulator or a gym session can't make you experience what it feels to be in a real cockpit, facing the g-forces and heat, provided you survive crashing with a 300+ kmph car! Take for example the fuel reserve. A simulator can't explain the balance of the car when the fuel starts depleting and weight shifts, forcing the driver to change the strategy real time.
Similarly, as the temperature changes in the atmosphere, so does it changes on the tarmac resulting in grip change. Verstappen is right when he says, “All those things, you need to learn,” and this is what talent means - to tackle all the situation with utmost care and get yourself winning. Be it 17 years or be it 40 years, talent is not acquired but you are born with!