An ex-soccer player confessed that when he was a professional he envied pilots, because a soccer player’s training consists of playing soccer every day of the week; while the pilot has before him a wide range of sports to reach the optimal point of form. In this F1 preseason there are no rules, rather customs and styles, but it can be summed up as ‘anything goes’ as long as the drivers refine their physique. Running, cycling, racket, bodybuilding, extreme sports… and steering wheel.
The base is in resistance. A race is around two hours long and the heart rate exceeds the anaerobic threshold at various times. This is why all the drivers practice cardio sports even during race weekends. Alonso is a classic on the bike, on the road, mountain or stationary. De la Rosa, for example, changed running for cycling because it punishes the knees less. Sainz is less a fan of pedaling, he is of the race: rare is the Thursday of a grand prix in which he does not go jogging along the track with his engineering team. And rare is the Monday after a race in which Hamilton does not gallop along the coast of Monte Carlo.
The gym is the other fundamental pillar of a pilot’s work. “The first thing that is done with an athlete is to set up the gym at home,” pointed out Xavi Martos, Checo Pérez’s physical trainer. The upper trunk and especially the neck must support high G forces every time they go out on the track. When braking, accelerating or taking a curve (around 3G constantly, although in the event of an accident the number skyrockets). Some pilots have a thinner physique, others have strengthened their muscles in recent years (Sainz is one of the examples), but the strength of the neck is not in question. That is where the musculature of Alonso stands out, who lived through another era: when there were refuellings, all the race laps were at the maximum of the benefits offered by the car, qualifying style, and the neck paid for it.
Ski, paddle or motocross
From there, it all adds up. Some disconnect in winter with seasonal sports such as skiing (Leclerc) and snowboarding (Hamilton). Sainz is more of golf. Also squash, a sport that forces you to make decisions in tenths of a second and under stress, more or less what happens behind the wheel of an F1. Likewise, paddle tennis is gaining ground over tennis in the Spanish-speaking sector of the grid. But there is no recipe, everyone does what works for them: Raikkonen was a motocross lover even though it sometimes caused him the typical limp uncomfortable after a fall.
But “As much as you train everything very well and specifically, circuits, neck, nothing is the same as driving a Formula 1”, usually remembers Martos. The drivers redouble their karting efforts at this stage of the season. Although it will not be a surprise if the teams resort to the classic ‘filming day’ after the presentation (100 kilometers on the track), to a test with an old car (2021 or earlier) or to the appropriate Pirelli tests. (Fernando will have February 7 and 8 available in Jerez) to remove the rust of winter and give quality kilometers to its pilots. Ferrari pulls Fiorano as much as it can. And it is that with only three days of official training (February 23-25 in Sakhir), just one and a half per driver, the preseason will be as short as it is intense. And the season will start just a week later with the Bahrain GP on March 5.