Well this is one question every F1 amateur wants the answer to.
There are 2 reasons for the post-race weighing of drivers. First, it is to check the drivers’ weight after the race in order to check their health, to make sure they haven’t lost too much weight. F1 drivers tend to lose between 3-5 kg (7-11 lbs) of water due to the G force they are taking. It is also done because, according to FIA rules, a minimum permissible weight of the car of 702 kg, including the driver but not the fuel, is to be attained at the end of the race. At the end of the race, the sporting authorities prefer showing the drivers celebrating rather than weigh them directly. Thus, the drivers get out of their car, celebrate, then get weighed, their weight is then added to the car’s weight.
Fun fact: the car is weighed with dry weather tyres on. At the end of the race, drivers race at the edge of the track in order to pick marbles on both tyres. Thus, adding 1-2 kg of extra weight. The aim is to be sure to reach the minimum weight limit at the end of the race.
Now if you want to learn more about how the drivers’ weight change or what are the details of it, keep reading.
How The Drivers Drink During The Race…
First important things that there is to know: drivers lose 3 to 5 kg (7 to 11 pounds) during a race. It is mainly water and fluids. In order to compensate, drivers have a system that allows them to drink in their cars.
The system is made of a flexible bag of drinks attached to the side of the cockpit. To smooth things, a pump delivers the drink to the driver. Basically, on the steering wheel of the car, the driver has a drink button that activates the pump which in turn delivers the drink. The pump used is a regular car windscreen washer pump. The drink is delivered via a tube that links the bag to the helmet.
The drivers drink approximately 1,5 litres of their drink during the race. They need to replace the lost fluids. They will drink usually on the long straights of a race, giving them more time to drink. The drink is usually a high concentrated glucose-based fluid with vitamins and minerals.
In the cockpit, the temperature is about 50°C (122°F). On top of the efforts needed to drive such a car, the fact that the drivers have serious protective equipment makes it necessary for them to drink. In fact, the cockpit is so hot that the drink is very warm and not cold at all. It is more like a hot tea that will be sipped when needed.
… And How The Drivers Get Rid of the Surplus
It is advised to go to the toilets before a race since an F1 race can last up to 2 hours. But in order to take zero risks, F1 drivers have provisions, bags, in order to relieve themselves in their suits. Some are even wearing diapers. As Lewis Hamilton told The Mirror:
“You’re supposed to go in your suit, but I can’t do it. I’ve never done it. But there are drivers that do,”
Often times, someone needs to carry the “provision” when the race is over. And jokes were even made to newbie mechanics about an unidentified leak coming from the car…
Some Bad Cases Of Dehydration
During the Bahrain Grand Prix, 2-time World Champion Fernando Alonso’s drink pump failed. On top of that, he had an overheating problem behind his back giving him first degree burns. He lost 4 kg (10 lbs) that day. And he still managed to finish 8th. Here is what he looked like :
This also happened to Valteri Bottas, the Mercedes driver, after a drink pump failure during the Singapore Grand Prix of 2017. He reported that his eyesight began to suffer by the end of the race due to dehydration. As he told Channel 4:
“It was just towards the end of the race that I could feel my vision was not as clear as it should be. But you know human beings can do amazing things as long as you don’t give up.”
He just spent 2 hours in one of the hottest circuits of the calendar with a broke drink pump… As you can see, drinking during the race is literally vital for drivers. Kevin Magnussen also lived the same thing during the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix. He was racing for McLaren then. He suffered from minor burns when hot air leaked from the radiator into the cockpit. As he recalled:
“It was completely terrible. I can’t remember the last half of the race — I was just waiting to blackout. I was so hot and I was overheating, sweating and dehydrated. It was like racing in a very hot sauna. I just accepted that I might blackout at some point. You just try your best. You don’t know if you are going to blackout, so there is no point giving up.”
Ultimately It All Comes Down To Weight … and Health
Drivers drink inside their cars in order to stay healthy. And as said earlier they are weighed after the race in order to check on their health and in order to check the total weight of the car plus the drivers but without the fuel.
Obviously, the lighter a car is the faster it will be. But some teams sometimes push the light reduction obsession a bit too far. As said earlier, some drivers drive in purpose into the marbles to increase the weight of the car. However, this only works when they are missing a few kilos or pound. When the design of the car makes it too light by the end of the race, F1 teams had ballast to their design.
This ballast is made of a special tungsten alloy that makes it very dense, very heavy but with little volume. This alloy is called Densamet. You can see below a comparison between an aluminium ballast and a densamet ballast.
As you can see the Tungsten alloy is much heavier and smaller. Teams tend to put his ballast near the ground in order to have a low gravity centre. This gives the cars a better grip.
To Wrat It Up
The sport is so demanding that without a doubt F1 drivers are athletes. They lose so mush fluids and water that they need to drink and pee during the race. They life literally depends on this and on the drink pump in their car. Weight management and driver weight management is key to success in F1 as it is a key component of a car’s performance.