Formula 1

Why F1 has a major weight problem

Red Bull new boy Daniel Ricciardo is slimming down for 2014 (©GettyImages)
Red Bull new boy Daniel Ricciardo is slimming down for 2014 (©GettyImages).

It’s funny, when you’re young you always dream about what you could do when your older, an astronaut, an entrepreneur, a footballer, yet when you set your sights on making that dream there are always obstacles in your path.

To be an astronaut you have to have like science, to be a entrepreneur you have you know business, to be a footballer you have to fall over gracefully, yet if you want to be a racing driver you have to have a bit more.

Courage to drive at a few hundred miles an hour, skill to control a several hundred kilos of metal in any weather and a nous for mechanical engineering comes in handy.

Of course as is the case with any sportsmen your body is often your temple unless you play golf in which case you can (almost) be any shape or size you wish.

Again for racing drivers this is no different you need muscles capable of coping with very high G forces and reactions have to be among the sharpest in the human race.

Weight does play a large part with all teams hoping to keep their cars as close to the minimum limit as possible, however with new rules for 2014 putting bigger drivers at a distinct disadvantage you could almost call it discrimination.

Next year’s cars have to weigh a minimum of 690kg, 48kg more than in 2013, the increase in weight from the new V6 turbo units complete with Energy Recovery Systems mean that rise is actually not enough.

Therefore cars with bigger drivers will find it hard to stay close to that 690kg limit, in the rather controversial meeting of the F1 Commission on Monday the pantomime acts were out in force this festive period as the double points rule was introduced and the never ending issue of a budget cap put back on the agenda.

However the request of increasing the minimum weight limit was denied, so while F1 bosses can increase the gimmicks, a common sense topic like ensuring humans of all shapes and sizes can (in theory) compete on a level playing field was apparently wrong.

I remember back in 2003 current IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who happens to be a mere 6″4 look as if he was standing in the Minardi and Jaguar he drove that year, sadly his height and subsequent weight meant his stay in F1 was very brief indeed.

Certainly there would be no place for Wilson in F1 now as current smaller drivers such as Nico Hulkenberg and even the bulkier figure of Sergio Perez play a part in hindering their futures in the sport, happily Force India, run by the rather porky Vijay Mallya appear to have come to both driver’s rescue.

It’s not just the FIA that are against people above of normal height and normal weight because Red Bull’s chief designer Adrian Newey has been at it for years.

Newey is well known for his tight fitting cars as any area of aerodynamic gain is exploited to it’s maximum, bigger people have been able to drive his creations, David Coulthard did it at both McLaren and Red Bull despite his enormous chin and Mark Webber has despite being average height for the current generation.

However as Daniel Ricciardo prepares to embark on a mission very few would dare undertake – partnering mighty mouse himself Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull – this 5″9, 70 kilo 24-year-old was too big to fit into Newey’s RB10.

When met with this slight issue Ricciardo was his usual joyful self about it, before he was confirmed as Webber’s replacement he joked when asked if he thought it posed any danger to him getting the seat.

He said: “No chance,” he said. “I’d shave my hips if necessary. I might die of blood loss but it would be worth it!”

Since then the young Aussie has been losing more weight and muscle in areas where he could and will indeed be a snug fit into the whatever number he chooses Red Bull next year.

Certainly the ‘issue’ of driver weight is one most look at as a sign of the times in F1, even the aforementioned chief culprit of not liking bigger drivers, Mr Adrian Newey, called for an increase in the minimum limit.

While it now seems too late for any changes to be made for 2014 if there is any significant disadvantage for the bigger driver a change will need to be made for 2015 after all we don’t want to install ladders just to get to the top step of the podium do we.

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Formula 1

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