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The Pressing Concerns Over Formula One Drivers and Their Strict Diets

Written by Alejandra Guajardo Lozano, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

(Getty Images)

Formula One drivers are the epitome of racing drivers. They must remain in great shape, and at peak performance and fitness round the year. About a decade ago, Formula 1 cars had to weigh a minimum of 795 kg with the driver, to maintain competitiveness through the season.

Should a driver be even a kilogram overweight, they could lose up to two seconds during a race. F1 cars have gotten heavier throughout the years, forcing drivers to limit their weight further. This has always been a problem for taller drivers, who have been forced to take drastic measures with their calorie intake, often leading to illness and a lack of sleep.

Former F1 driver Mark Webber went on his Twitter to publish a controversial statement.

“Haven’t eaten for the last 5 years!” He tweeted, before deleting it minutes later.

2009 World Champion Jenson Button also struggled with the extreme weight limitation.

“I love fitness training but there are things I can’t do because I have to be a set weight – not eat carbohydrates, not build muscle,” Button told reporters at the Korean Grand Prix, “I struggle to meet the weight limit. I have done for three years.”

Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas has bravely opened up about his struggles with the weight limit too. He revealed the truth regarding his eating struggles, and dealing with an eating disorder early in his career. Bottas stated how exercise and eating became an "addiction" for him, as he tried to lose 6kg and reach the weight his bosses demanded.

He revealed to Finnish journalist Maria Veitola that he lived off an unhealthy diet of steamed broccoli, and hid his struggles from those close to him. "I trained myself to pain, physically and mentally," Bottas said,

"No eating disorder was officially diagnosed, but it was definitely there. It wasn't very healthy. I wanted to be the best, and I thought I had to do that. If the team says that I have to weigh 68 kilos and I naturally weigh 73 kilos, then they will do everything for that."

Bottas revealed that he decided to seek professional help from a psychologist until Jules Bianchi’s death in 2015. Jules was his former F3 teammate, and sadly passed following a horrific crash during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix

"I needed a psychologist to help me recover, whose first assessment of me was that I'm almost like a robot who only wants to reach his goal and has no feelings at all," he explained. "It startled me. It's true that at that time I had no other life than F1."

Another driver bravely opening up about an eating disorder was former Red Bull driver David Coulthard. Coulthard was nearly 6ft tall, but weighed just nine stone, and was determined not to get any heavier. In his autobiography, he talked about his obsession with controlling his diet and working out.

"I stopped eating fattening food and, before I knew what had happened, I was bulimic. In my mind the only way I could keep my weight down was by making myself vomit.”

Eating disorders are a sensitive topic, and a struggle for many, and should definitely be spoken about in detail, in such an influential sport like Formula 1. For 2019, a minimum 80kg (176lb) threshold was introduced for a driver and their seat, and anyone falling below this would need to add ballast to their cars, in order to make up the difference. This has eased the pressure on certain drivers, and allowed them to maintain healthier weights, and build up their muscle mass.

Even so, weight limitation is still a struggle for the drivers, both mentally and physically, and should be addressed more regularly. What are your thoughts on this? Do share your thoughts in the comments.

(Getty Images)

1 comment

1 Comment

May 20, 2023

Its an area of the sport which must be addressed sooner rather than later, kudos to Bottas for highlighting whilst he is still relevant.

Its of a different time of course and not relevant at all to todays debate but often evolving sports do well to look at their heritage - its with that in mind that Jose Froilan Gonzalez (the Pampus Bull!), Fangio, both Ascari boys, Jo Siffert, Regazzoni, Brambilla later on, the likes of Keke Rosberg and a host of others would and maybe do despair at modern F1 in so many respects. Total athletes they might be but is that what the world wants to see ? Its opinion based of course but the thing Motorsport ha…

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