Formula One drivers train harder in off-season to get their bodies to withstand the high g-force everytime they press the accelerator. The lockdown due to Covid-19 meant these 20 men had to work doubly hard to make sure they are in top shape when the wheels start rolling this weekend with the Austrian Grand Prix. Take Pierre Gasly, for example. Instead of going home, the Frenchman stayed in Dubai for two months — after the season-opening Australian GP got cancelled mid-March — acclimatising to warmer temperatures for F1’s summer period, following the strictest diet he has ever been on, doing cardio and weight exercises, cycling and running for lengthy periods for six days a week.
“I was pretty lucky to be able to stay in Dubai for about two months after Australia at the time when the pandemic hit Europe quite hard,” the AlphaTauri driver said from his team base in Italy.
“I improved a lot and for sure I am in my best shape ever,” said Gasly.
The 24-year-old had initially planned to be in Dubai for a few days but chose to extend his stay and not risk returning to Europe where novel coronavirus cases were spiking.
“Me and my trainer managed to have the use of a personal gym there so I could train every single day for two months and really focus on the physical preparation, which was great. I improved a lot and for sure I am in my best shape ever,” said Gasly, who scored his first podium at last year’s Brazilian GP, beating world champion Lewis Hamilton in a scintillating finish.
Gasly’s teammate Daniil Kvyat took an unusual route to keep fit. “I like boxing a lot so I tried to go and get better as often as I could,” said the Russian.
Drivers took to virtual racing during the lockdown to stoke competitive instincts. Though it had the fun element, both drivers said that it comes nowhere close to the real deal. “I like gaming and do a lot of sim (simulator) racing to prepare myself for races but, of course, it’s not the same,” said Gasly.
BACK ON TRACK
Now, having spent time with family in what was the longest break of their careers, the drivers are itching to get back on track. “I missed being at the track and driving the car so just kept myself busy with sim driving but now, I just can’t wait to get the season started,” said Kvyat, 26. “I’m sure I’ll remember very quickly how to drive the car to the limit even if we had a long break and will certainly give my best from the very beginning to get the most out of the car.”
Though F1 will commence this weekend at Spielberg, it won’t be without massive changes, the most notable being the absence of spectators. “I’m curious to see how it will be without any spectators on track because usually it’s the fans who are making the atmosphere so special for us drivers, before and after the race,” said Kvyat.
To combat Covid-19, there will no podium celebrations or driver parades either. “I’m pretty sure it will feel strange and unusual at first, but we are lucky that we can still participate in our sport even if that means we have to do it without podium celebrations and driver parades,” said Kvyat, who has had three rostrum finishes in his career.
Nestled in the picturesque Styrian mountains, the Red Bull Ring that will host the first two races of the rescheduled season, has been put into a fortress-like lockdown. F1 personnel will have adhere to strict precautionary and sanitary measures. Some of protocols put in place are: two-metre social-distancing rules, compulsory visors or masks, each team being reduced to a maximum of 80 staff (it was 130 earlier) who have been asked to refrain from mixing with other groups and even split into subgroups to limit any possible cross contagion.
Anyone at the track must also agree to being tested for Covid-19 along with regular temperature checks while team members will have to download a tracing app. Instead of traditional ‘motorhome’ hospitality units, tents will be set up behind garages.
“Let’s take it step by step and go race by race. I don’t have any fears. F1 has done everything it can to be as well prepared as possible and has taken all the necessary precautionary measures for a safe season. We just have to be patient, be careful and respect the rules,” says Kvyat.