SUR­VIVAL OF THE FITTEST

F1 Racing (UK) - - SCHUMACHER: THE LEGACY -

“MICHAEL KNEW FIT­NESS WAS EQUAL TO LAP TIME AND HE BROKE NEW GROUND” PAT SY­MONDS

In the mid-1980s, it wasn’t un­usual to see Keke Ros­berg light up a cig­a­rette on the grid. Drivers would work out to strengthen their arms and necks for the in­creas­ing speeds and G-forces they ex­pe­ri­enced through cor­ners, but it didn’t go much be­yond that. When Michael Schu­macher broke on to the scene in the 1990s he rev­o­lu­tionised at­ti­tudes to­wards fit­ness.

To­day, ev­ery driver on the grid has a per­sonal trainer in tow, con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing their phys­i­cal con­di­tion, their health, sleep pat­terns, well-be­ing and nu­tri­tion. Con­di­tion­ing is mon­i­tored with sci­en­tific pre­ci­sion – and that’s the norm in For­mula 1 now. But it was Michael Schu­macher who did it first.

“Michael knew fit­ness was equal to lap time and he broke new ground,” says Pat Sy­monds, who helped en­gi­neer Schu­macher’s dou­ble ti­tle suc­cess at Benet­ton in 1994 and ’95. “In test­ing we’d do race-dis­tance runs, but when we stopped for tyres we would pause before con­tin­u­ing. In those breaks, Michael’s trainer would take a blood sam­ple. By analysing the blood, when Michael next went into the gym he would train to a level that repli­cated those sam­ples dur­ing test­ing, so he knew his aer­o­bic rates for a race dis­tance would be cor­rect.”

In test­ing, Schu­macher would bring a glass-sided mobile gym to the track. Then, in the evening, after 100-plus laps in the car, he would work out with a re­lent­less self-mo­ti­va­tion in full view of his de­mor­alised ri­vals.

Ev­ery mod­ern F1 driver is fit – Jen­son But­ton be­came an ac­com­plished triath­lete late in his driv­ing ca­reer – and some con­tinue to ex­plore the sci­en­tific quest for peak con­di­tion. Este­ban Ocon ex­plains how he spent last win­ter at the high-al­ti­tude Font-romeu train­ing camp in the Pyre­nees, which is nor­mally used by Olympic ath­letes. “ev­ery day of the year, I will not miss one train­ing ses­sion,” in­sists Ocon. “Last Christ­mas I took two

days off, trained at home in the week be­tween Christ­mas and New Year, then went high-al­ti­tude train­ing from 2 Jan­uary. Most drivers who at­tend Font-romeu go for a fort­night; I stayed for two-and-a-half months.”

Work­ing with spe­cial­ists he de­scribes as “body engineers”, Ocon con­tin­ues to push the limits of fit­ness in the way pi­o­neered by Schu­macher. Ev­i­dence of his quest for op­ti­mum hu­man per­for­mance is re­vealed when he re­ports that on his lean 186cm, 66kg frame, he car­ries just “4.8 per cent fat”. This re­lent­less quest to har­ness lap time through peak phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing is now en­demic through­out the sport.

“IF WE NEEDED HIM TO TEST, I WOULD RING MICHAEL UP AND SAY ‘CAN YOU BE HERE TO­MOR­ROW?’ ‘YEP, WHAT TIME?’ WOULD BE THE RE­PLY. NEVER ANY HES­I­TA­TION. OTH­ERS I WOULD RING UP AND IT WOULD BE, ‘I WANT TO SEE MY KIDS TO­MOR­ROW.’ YOU NEVER HAD THOSE DIS­CUS­SIONS WITH MICHAEL” ROSS BRAWN

…whereas now, in the post­michael era,there is a sci­en­tific in­ten­sity to fit­ness. Like all mod­ern F1 drivers Este­ban Ocon is super fit and even trained at high al­ti­tude last win­ter

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