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FIT FOR F1: How drivers balance their training and recovery

Special Contributor

Justin Hynes
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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 16: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Scuderia AlphaTauri prepares to drive

Last week drivers were pounding out laps in testing at the Bahrain International Circuit, often putting in more than two race distances in a single day in order to familiarise themselves with their new machinery, to dial the cars in for the first race of the season, and to reacquaint themselves with the intense forces they’ll be subjecting themselves to this year.

This weekend, the 2024 campaign began in earnest with Max Verstappen taking victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix. Being in peak physical condition undoubtedly helps drivers to cope with the demands but while, rocking an intense cardio session or racking up the weights enable a driver to take the physical punishment of two dozen race weekends, equally important is how they recover.

“It’s all about maintenance,” says F1 performance coach Mark Arnall, who spent two decades keeping 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen in tip-top condition, as well as looking after fellow champions Mika Hakkinen and Sebastian Vettel.

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“Racing is physical and the forces the drivers undergo during the session take a lot out of you, so it’s massively important the body gets enough time to recover from that.”

According to Arnall, the first step towards good maintenance is to carefully manage training during the season.

“After the intensity of pre-season training, it’s all about maintaining that level, but tapering down the training and ramping up the recovery as the season progresses,” he says. “If we're talking quite early into the season then, generally speaking, they would have Monday off. On Tuesday maybe a reasonably heavy session and on Wednesday maybe two sessions. One might be more of an easy cardio session, so a two-hour zone 2 bike ride for example, then in the evening we would do something gym focused, so functional work, looking at strength, core, and stability work. Maybe some treatment would follow that if it’s required.

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