Formula 1 is undeniably a real sport which takes a very physical toll on the body. Therefore it is of utmost importance that the drivers take on board fluids regularly so as to avoid dehydration. But with both hands gripped tight around the steering wheel for the entire race, how are F1 pilots able to drink and stay hydrated?
How Do They Drink During a Race?
The modern solution to this problem is to install a liquid-filled pouch, which is connected to a straw which feeds directly into the mouth of the driver. To keep distractions to a minimum, all the driver has to do is press a dedicated “drinks” button on the steering wheel which squirts the fluids into the mouth.
Obviously, the pouch adds weight to the car which is far from ideal. Engineers make sure to place the liquid bag as low down by the drivers’ legs as possible to keep the center of gravity close to the ground.
This mechanism is not the most cutting-edge, and often doesn’t work as intended. Take Kimi Raikkonen’s all too regular complaints about his drink being disconnected for example. “Disconnected” could mean anything from the tube detaching from the pouch to the button on the steering wheel malfunctioning. Owing to the drink’s inconspicuous location, it can be difficult for the Formula One driver to ascertain why they can’t get any precious fluids into their bodies. Hence the famous confusion of Raikkonen and his race engineer back at Ferrari during the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Dangers of Dehydration
Dehydration and accompanying exhaustion has caught out many a driver in the past, especially when drinking during the race wasn’t as commonplace as it is today.
It can get very hot inside the cramped cockpit of an F1 car. Even when the outside temperatures are not particularly high, all the moving mechanical parts of the car emanate huge amounts of heat energy towards the driver’s body, and conditions inside the carbon monocoque can become quite unbearable. With temperatures reaching upwards of 122°F (or 50°C), an F1 pilot can lose between 2 and 3 kilograms in just a couple of hours.
This can have disastrous consequences. Take the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix, which took place in blistering heat and saw many drivers complain about the uncomfortable track surface. Nigel Mansell lead more than half of the race but dropped back as his gearbox began to fail. His Lotus came to a grinding halt a mere handful of metres from the chequered flag and was forced to push his car towards the finish line. But overwhelming fatigue got the better of him and he fainted. Watch the video below for a visual perspective of the incident:
More recently at the 2021 United States GP at COTA, Sergio Perez was unable to get his drinks pouch to function for the whole race distance. Although he managed to finish the event and even get on the podium, he told journalists at the post-race press conference that he had gone into “survival mode” due to the dehydration he experienced in the cockpit.
“Already from lap 20 I was completely gone”, he told reporters. “I had no strength, I was losing strength on my hands, strength on my feet, the vision as well was getting quite uncomfortable”. As you can tell, a lack of fluids in the body is a very serious issue which all F1 teams know must be addressed.
What Do They Drink?
While the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are constantly trying to advertise Monster Energy and Red Bull respectively, you definitely do not want to be intaking such drinks during a race.
The fluids are specially curated by nutritionists to replenish various vitamins and minerals lost through sweating. The liquids of choice are unlikely to be carbonated either, as this provides no purpose but to irritate the stomach.
In general, it seems to consists primarily of water with a little bit of salt added in so that it matches the concentration of salts found in the bloodstream. Sugar will be added to make it somewhat tastier, but with the pouch being lightly toasted by the components of the car it isn’t likely that the drivers are drinking for any kind of pleasure.
Besides, Verstappen probably wasn’t thinking about the flavour of his drink as he overtook Hamilton on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi GP to take the title anyway!
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