Where some assumed that F1 drivers do little but sit behind a wheel and steer, their skills amounting to nothing more extraordinary than a school student progressing from their Ps to their full licence, the hugely popular Netflix series Drive to Survive changed all perceptions around racing. No longer are F1 drivers’ talents ridiculed or maligned. Now, these drivers are finally getting the recognition from those outside of the sport that they so deserve.
Daniel Ricciardo might be known as the Aussie racing star whose down-to-earth and relaxed demeanour make him a favourite amongst fans, but make no mistake: this is a man who is focused, motivated and takes no shortcuts when it comes to achieving success. With eight wins and 32 podiums under his belt, Ricciardo is quickly cementing his position as one of the best in the sport.
Last year, in an interview with GQ, he revealed just some of the things he does to ensure he performs at his best. “The racing, especially in Formula 1, is physically demanding and exhausting, but it’s also everything else that comes with it as well. It’s not like we just wake up on Sunday and drive for two hours and go home. Our race weekends sometimes span across five days. The days are relentless,” he explained. “Whether you’re speaking with engineers, media – we’re constantly on. Even our mental energy gets zapped. Sunday, when we’re already a little bit drained, we have to put on our best physical performance of the weekend.”
If it wasn’t clear that these athletes are some of the fittest and most elite in the world, then allow Ricciardo to convince you. With the 2022 season opener just around the corner, the McLaren driver has gone further into revealing just what it takes to fuel a Formula 1 champion. Speaking with GQ, he explained that drivers tend to train six days a week, with the morning always devoted to a strength session, followed by cardio and conditioning in the afternoon.
“We have to be strong to hold the G-forces that our body goes through in the car, they can be four or five times my weight – but we also can’t be heavy because it’s a lightweight sport. So we’re doing stuff which is more focused on strength endurance than gaining mass, and most of that is core strength, as well as neck and shoulders, but we do need decent lower body too, to give us a good low centre of gravity,” said Ricciardo. Ok, so basically they’re doing full-body training in the gym. Special attention is paid to neck strength, with athletes doing exercises involving harnesses and light loads. Reaction training is also important, with active exercises involving grabbing, catching and specific equipment to test reaction speed.
As for diet, Ricciardo reveals that while he does love to indulge here and there, he also loves eating healthy. “I just try and keep my food balanced. I’m eating an even portion of carbs, proteins and fats, and trying to have lots of colours in my meals. My metabolism is very fast so having carbs and fats in there is important. That’s it, simple!”