The heavier weight of the single-seaters and the rigid set-up will make driving harder. Understeer will have to get used to. The engineers will ask the champions to lose a few pounds: everyone on a diet?
Forget the romantic years of flower children in which the legendary James Hunt smoked a cigarette before the start of a grand prix and preferred a night of wild sex to an hour of gymnastics. The life of today’s drivers is marked by promotional commitments, continuous technical meetings with engineers and above all a lot of training. It is not just a matter of driving the fastest cars in the world on the track, but of doing it with the constancy and perfection of a robot, a result that can only be obtained starting from a monstrous physical preparation, like real Superman. The road was opened by the great Ayrton Senna, the first to take care of this aspect in a meticulous and obsessive way, going to run on an athletics track under the guru’s guru Nuno Cobra. Then Michael Schumacher shifted gears at the end of the 1990s to bring along a traveling gym on the circuits, which forced everyone to leap into a new dimension. And today all the F1 champions are athletes, from Hamilton to Verstappen, from Leclerc to Norris.
It takes a beastly stamina to run an entire race enduring the tremendous lateral accelerations that the current single-seaters develop. Former world champion Nico Rosberg, who retired at the end of 2016, recently said: “If I get back behind the wheel, I won’t be able to hold on for more than two laps …”. In 2022 the machines will change radically, by virtue of the new regulations, and their dynamic behavior will also be different, above all due to the increased weight and the large rear aerodynamic load generated by the bottom and the diffuser with the return to the ground effect. This will oblige the drivers to adapt their driving style and will have an impact on physical preparation. Those who tried the new F1 simulator immediately noticed the difference. The cars, weighed down by the new tires on 18-inch rims and by the chassis safety structures that the FIA wanted to increase, will be less agile and therefore more difficult to turn when changing direction, which drivers do not usually like. In addition, the total mass, about 900 kilos in running order with fuel on board, will be felt under braking. In terms of behavior, the cars will tend to be very stable at the rear, due to the large grip, and slightly understeer (the tendency to go straight out of corners). There are drivers like Vettel and Alonso who prefer such a setting, while others prefer a car with large corner entry and therefore more oversteer, including Hamilton and Leclerc. Anyone who will be able to adapt quickly without suffering setbacks will be good, and the young Ferrari driver seems able to do so, because so far he has driven a bit in all configurations, pulling out the maximum. The 2022 single-seaters will travel very close to the asphalt, to make the most of the air flowing under the bottom, and this will lead to very rigid set-ups, with greater vibrations and shaking on the curbs.
The more “physical” driving will require a crazy level of intensity during the races. A challenge for everyone. Being able to maintain an exceptional state of form throughout the championship could make the difference (Alonso has always been a specialist in this sense). Also because the 2022 World Championship, with the 23 GP record on the calendar, will be a marathon rather than a 100-meter sprint. But being strong will not be enough. Pilots are also likely to be required to be thinner and lighter than they are now. With the weight increased, it will be important for engineers to have some leeway to be able to use to place a few pounds of ballast at strategic points, even if the regulation offers the possibility of placing it only in the area under the driver’s seat. Perhaps we will see more drawn faces around the paddock, without reaching the levels of “anorexia” reached in some seasons. In fact, since 2019 there has been a minimum weight for the rider, set at 80 kilos (whoever is below is ballasted), which has made the diet less stressful. So much so that Hamilton, a convinced vegan, in recent years has been able to build bodybuilder muscles in the gym without worrying too much about the increasing mass, rediscovering the taste of his beloved donuts. Who knows if he’ll have to give it up now.
October 29, 2021 (change October 29, 2021 | 19:24)
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F1, superman drivers for 2022 single-seaters: they will have to be strong and lean