If you’re a fan of F1 then you’ve probably heard the words “F1 isn’t a real sport” more times than you could count – in fact, if we all had a pound for each time, we could definitely buy our own Formula One team.
“All they do is drive around in circles”
“They sit down the whole race, it’s not a physical sport at all”
“Anybody can drive a car!”
So, is F1 really a sport? Or are we fighting a losing battle?
The definition of sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. So, let’s look at this objectively by dissecting each part of that exact definition.
Is F1 physically demanding? As Formula One fans, we know the answer. Of course it is! However, outside of the motorsport bubble, you can see why it might look like all they do is sit and drive. Believe it or not, Formula One drivers are some of the fittest athletes (yes, athletes) around! An intense amount of exercise goes into getting their bodies fit enough to cope with the demands of a Grand Prix and it’s time for those outside of the sport to acknowledge not just the mental, but the physical strength that these drivers endure. A huge focus area for fitness in motorsport is neck strengthening, the neck of a Formula One driver needs to be able to withstand extreme forces which are equal to around 3-5 times the force of gravity. Adding the weight of their helmets, and the weight of their own head, their necks need to withstand around 35kg of weight. A racing driver’s fitness is so unique, they need to build strength, great flexibility and mobility, they sit in such a cramped position for a long time with only small movements from their hands or legs – cue Nico Hulkenberg saying “my right asscheek is getting a bit numb.” When I say small movements, they are still mighty – their legs need to generate around 80 kilograms of downward pressure on the brake pedal just to get the car to slow down (a great example of this is at The Silverstone Experience – highly recommended!) The pedals of an F1 car are ridiculously stiff compared to a normal modern road car. Lets not forget about how much weight Formula One drivers lose per race, the mix of extreme heat, humidity and long stints on the car cause drivers to lose around 2-3 kilograms. Subsequently, each of them also battle dehydration due to the supply of liquid not matching up with the amount of water they lose through perspiration
Despite whether a driver has what it takes to be a Championship winning driver, each of them have an intense set of skills to even be one of those 20 drivers of a Formula One grid. Car control and race craft are critical skills for a driver to succeed, being able to test the limits and be able to reel the car back in on the times they push it a little too far – don’t even get me started about driving in wet weather conditions. In terms of race craft, Formula One drivers need to know how to start, how to execute a pass and to know where and when it’s important to go faster or slower. In the heart of all this, comes mental strength. I always say that Formula One drivers are built differently – their brains work in ways that I could only ever imagine and this is what I believe gives our drivers the edge over other athletes. The concentration and focus that drivers have to endure is enough to give me a headache just thinking about it, most race car drivers say that they go into an altered state of consciousness when driving – it’s just them and their car. Even before they get into their cars, you’ll often see drivers attempt to relax their brain, whether this be through breathing exercises, listening to music or mentally running through the corners one by one and seeing every apex in their mind. The average reaction time for an F1 driver is approximately 0.2 seconds, however it’s not just as easy as zooming off when the lights turn, the coordination in getting your car off the line – watching the lights, with their hands on the steering wheel as well as their feet releasing the brake and applying the throttle all at the same time. I could never.
Now, if you’re an F1 fan you probably read the first word and thought ‘ha, how on earth is she going to explain this one!’ and you would be correct. However, at the core of the sport yes – it is supposed to be competitive between not just teams, but individual drivers too. They are all fighting for points, they are all fighting for wins, podiums and championships however few drivers have spoken up about how ‘unfair’ Formula One is, and when you think that from 2014-2020 there were only three F1 teams that had actually won races in that time, it’s crazy to believe that we can call this sport ‘competitive’. Although, this could all be set to change with the 2022 regulations coming into play next season – one of the objectives was to allow closer racing and with the emphasis on simpler wings and creating more downforce, much more closer racing is what we hope to be getting. A cost cap of 175m per team per year is also coming in 2022, the ever-expanding gap between the smallest and the largest teams is slowly going to be closed down. You know what that means right? More chances for different teams to score more podiums!
F1 absolutely ticks all of the boxes necessary to make it a sport, however to me – it isn’t ‘just a sport’, it’s a motorsport.
Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsports, it’s been in this world since the 1950s and before that there used to be Grand Prix series all around the world.
In short, Formula One cars are not the same as Nissan Micras.