During the early days of F1 racing, it was not unusual for a driver to be over forty years old. As the demands of the sport have changed so have the drivers. Today’s F1 racing drivers are a younger generation. They are also a lot more fit than drivers in the past. Training begins at a young age and the career of a F1 driver is usually over by his mid-30s.
Most F1 drivers begin their careers driving in other racing sports in Europe. In the past, the Formula 3000 series were considered the final stepping-stone before entering F1 racing. Recently, however, the champions in the new GP2 series have moved on to F1 racing. Additionally, former British F3 drivers are also commonly found in F1.
Working as a test driver for an F1 team is considered the perfect training ground for any new driver to F1 racing. Test drivers have the opportunity to drive during Friday on F1 weekends. Considering the quantity of testing that is performed with F1 vehicles, it is not uncommon for test drivers to complete a season with more drive time than the actual team drivers.
F1 is a physically demanding sport that requires endurance and stamina. F1 drivers are among the most conditioned athletes in the world.
The aerodynamic design of a Formula One racecar allows it to create g-force up to 3.5. Drivers must be exceptionally strong to endure that amount of force for the length of a Formula One race. The heat centered in the cockpit of a Formula One racing vehicle can cause a driver to sweat up off up to six pounds of their body weight during a Formula One racing event.
In order to successfully deal with the physical demands of F1, drivers workout using very intensive cardio-vascular sports such as running and swimming. Special devices are used to strengthen the neck and chest muscles. Strengthening these muscles is especially important considering the force exerted on the helmet and head while going around corners. Strong arm muscles are required to control the high-speed F1 cars.
The drivers follow a carefully regulated diet that controls the amounts of protein and carbs their bodies absorb. Like long-distance runners, F1 drivers eat large quantities of pasta and other high-carb food for energy and stamina during race weekends. They must also make sure they consume large quantities of water before a race to prevent dehydration.
The extreme demands of F1 force most drivers from the competition by their mid-30s. After retiring from F1 many drivers continue to race in less demanding motorsports. Some former drivers choose to compete in DTM while some choose to move to America and compete in the IndyCar or NASCAR series. The Grand Prix Masters, a new series begun in 2005, requires that all the drivers be retired Grand Prix drivers over 40 who have been retired at least two years. The Grand Prix Masters should be a common series to spot former F1 racing drivers in the future.
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