Max Verstappen with towel draped around neck as he looks onto the grid prior to the F1 Japan Grand Prix.
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Peak performance: the fitness secrets of F1 drivers

F1 drivers are some of the fittest athletes on the planet. But how do they stay at the top of their powers in a physically exhausting sport and the longest season in the championship’s history?
Written by Paul Keith
6 min readPublished on

Do F1 drivers go to the gym?

F1 drivers are elite athletes who need all-round strength to compete in a race. Supreme fitness will help them stay switched on, healthy and happy throughout a long campaign. In short, keeping fit is part of the job. Just ask three-time F1 World Champion Max Verstappen. “My father always said: you can never be tired in the car because then you are not strong enough.
“I don’t like to train in and of itself, but I do know what I need to do to be fit. It isn’t nice, but I just do it.”
Drivers have intense training schedules to get them fit for the season and keep them at the top of their sport. Helped by a Performance Coach, whose role is to ensure they are at peak physical and mental power come race day, drivers are put their through their paces. Just take a look at some of Verstappen's training in action.
For driver and machine to become as lightweight and aerodynamic as possible together, F1 drivers try not to put on a lot of muscle mass. Verstappen trains mostly working with his own body weight, meaning that his training is also made up of going on easy runs, doing free weight exercises as well as body weight training.

What does a Performance Coach do?

Verstappen’s Performance Coach Bradley Scanes is a physio, but the role encompasses personal trainer, nutritionist and psychologist. The role was created in the '80s by Ayrton Senna who was the first to employ a personal physio.
Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing celebrates with performance coach Bradley Scanes after winning the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 20, 2021 in Le Castellet, France.

Max Verstappen with performance coach Bradley Scanes

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Austrian Jo Leberer took on the role of training the Brazilian, creating an exacting training schedule that transformed the young Senna into a racing machine. But Leberer also became a close friend and confidant to Senna, helping him to process events on and off track. Today, every driver is supported by a Performance Coach.

How do drivers get in shape for the F1 season?

Off-season lasts from the final race of the year in December until the start of testing in February. That time is important to reconnect with family and friends, reset and unwind. But from early January drivers are back in the gym, hitting the weights to build body strength and cardio for stamina.
Visa Cash App RB driver Daniel Ricciardo knows a thing or two about getting back to it. He likes to mix up his training regime with gym sessions followed by boxing and cardio. In the gym, he practices standard weight lifting exercises like deadlifts, squats, and kettlebell lunges, while also incorporates planks – even putting an extra plate on his back to add to the challenge!
A 5k run, swim or mountain bike ride are excellent to build endurance. “We train six times a week, two sessions a day for seven to eight weeks and we’ll be performing a mixture of cardiovascular endurance work, strength work and high-intensity work,” says Scanes. “On a typical pre-season day, we’ll do some endurance stuff in the morning so about 50 to 70 minutes of running or cycling and then a strength session in the afternoon.”

How do F1 drivers train for G-force?

Daniel Ricciardo of Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive on the grid prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 7, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan.

Daniel Ricciardo put in the work on and off the track

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Your neck’s fragile, so you don’t want to start by putting 10kg plates on the side of your head – that takes time
Daniel Ricciardo
Muscular necks are a distinctive feature of F1 drivers. They experience 5-6Gs in a corner and on a typical racetrack like Circuit de Cataluyna-Barcelona, they might have to tolerate that load for four-five-six seconds at a time. Building up those muscles is essential. That involves hanging weights from your neck and a trainer pulling on a resistance band to simulate lateral forces.
Daniel Ricciardo recommends starting slowly with some neck extensions and neck lateral flexes. “Your neck’s fragile, so you don’t want to start by putting 10kg plates on the side of your head – that takes time,” says the Australian. “Lie on your back, lift your head and turn it slowly from left to right. Aim for 75 repetitions, then repeat on the front. That builds good endurance.”
And drivers have their own preferred methods: Red Bull Junior Team alum Carlos Sainz has a weighted helmet to wear while he goes karting.

How do F1 drivers train for driving?

In addition to those strong necks, core strength is important. “A very good basic move for core is bridges or planks,” says Ricciardo. “That not only builds strength around your lower back and your core, but actually if you get into a bit of a place mentally with it, it teaches you how to control your breathing.”
“You have some specifics for motorsport in which you obviously work the neck, forearms, grip, core and traps,” says Sergio Pérez’s Performance Coach José Canales. “It’s important to work on all the things that driving a car requires and making sure the driver is the fittest version of themselves.” It's certainly no walk in the park – take a look at just some of what's involved in one of Pérez's extreme training sessions.
While some drivers use a weight, Pérez has a steering wheel connected to weights to build specific muscles for driving, making it invaluable training for preparing for race day.

How do drivers stay fit at the track?

Once the season starts, it’s all about maintaining fitness, which is why when the race track is clear, you’ll see drivers and pit crews running and cycling around the track. A 5k run is ideal for keeping drivers at peak fitness. You will often see drivers working with their Performance Coach on agility exercise and reaction times.
“Reflex stuff can really help raise your game,” says Ricciardo. “Stand really close to a wall, facing it. Stare at the wall as a mate behind you throws a tennis ball at it. Then when the tennis ball bounces off the wall, you’ve got to catch it with one hand. That’s good for your reflexes and your peripheral vision. It’s fun too!”

What else do F1 drivers do to stay healthy through the season?

Fitness is also crucial outside the car. The life of an F1 driver is glamorous: travelling to exciting places, late nights, parties and exotic food are all on the agenda but those temptations can play havoc with fitness. An F1 season is also arduous and a high level of fitness, good diet and regular exercise help drivers to stay focused and boost their mental health.
For Verstappen, that means not just keeping fit at the gym and in performance centres, but working out at home and getting out to run.
Relaxing after a race is also essential, as Scanes explains: “A 24-race season, you spend a lot of time away from home, a lot of time travelling and doing that work. After a race, a few beers and a couple of days off is never a bad thing!”