There seems to be a slightly strange assessment of Formula One, with some people saying that it is not a sport as it may not be as physically demanding as sports like Football or NFL. In plain language, this is a pointless criticism and there are many different reasons why F1 is a sport.
The Physical Demands
One of the harshest criticism of Formula One not being a sport is because the drivers are not running or lifting heavily, instead they are sat in a seat for two hours. But that is a very simple way of looking at it, with F1 being incredibly physically demanding.
The first incredibly physical demand is due to the incredible speeds of Formula One cars. The cars can reach speeds of over 340 Km/h and while this may not be too demanding in itself, the braking is vicious. This causes some incredibly high G forces.
G force is essentially the gravitational force that the body is under. A normal person supports a force 1G when standing vertically. These forces fluctuate hugely when driving a Formula One car.
Force under Braking
In harsh braking at the end of a straight, G force can reach upwards of 5, meaning the force on the body is 5 times your normal body weight.
This is even worse in crashes. In 2021, Max Verstappen’s slam into the wall in the British Grand Prix was one of the hardest and most talked about crashes of the year. In the crash, Verstappen was put under 51G when he struck the wall, a huge impact that knocked the Dutch driver out.
These forces are incredibly challenging for drivers, but this is not the only challenge for Formula One drivers.
Endurance and Heat
Endurance is a huge factor in F1. Races are made of drivers pushing their cars to the limit for two straight hours, with no breaks at all, even when stationary in a pit stop for a few seconds.
This is a huge challenge, staying focused for two hours straight is something a normal human would struggle with. But what makes it even more challenging is that a split second loss of concentration can waste hours of work. There have been countless moments across Formula One history where drops in concentration have caused drivers spinning into the wall. The very best drivers are the ones who can hold their focus for every race and produce as little mistakes as possible.
It is not an easy challenge for drivers however, particularly with the conditions of some of the races. Singapore is the main culprit for incredibly difficult conditions. The sweltering heat means that drivers can lose around 3kg of weight during the race, a huge amount of sweat. They are also not able to have constant water breaks like many other sports.
Formula One cars have a small 1.5-litre tank for the drivers but once this is empty, drivers will need to wait until after the race. The incredibly difficult conditions have seen plenty of drivers struggling to stand at the podium, the heat and focus causing severe exhaustion. So there is absolutely no reason why F1 is not a sport in terms of the physical element.
There is pretty much no other sport in the world where you have to be completely laser focused for almost two hours. F1 drivers don’t get a break during races and any small lapses in concentration can end your race. Drivers reaction time also has to be perfect as in races like Monaco and Hungary, the reaction time can make all the difference at the start when overtaking is difficult.
One of the other similarities between Formula one and other sports is the intense training that the drivers go through. A normal human would not be able to handle the G-forces that Formula One cars put you through. The G forces are horrible and drivers need the muscular endurance to withstand these for two hours straight.
So there is some pretty unique training that drivers go through. The extreme training involves drivers turning an incredibly heavy steering wheel. They also train as athletes for multiple reasons. They need great muscular endurance for the physical pressures of driving a Formula One car flat out for over two hours during a race.
The neck is also key in this. Drivers need to build extremely strong necks due to the pressures of G force. If you are putting your body under 5G force, then it means your body would weight five times as much as normal. This may be fine for a Formula One car, but it puts huge pressure on your neck when suddenly, your head could weigh five times as much as it does usually. This is why drivers have to train as athletes.
But drivers also need to find a balance as they are also looking to weigh as little as possible when they step into a Formula One car. This is because the car is faster with less weight, so the more an F1 driver weighs, the slower the car will go in a straight line. Drivers have to find the balance between muscle gain for races, while maintaining a low weight.
Here is a video of Sergio Perez training for the 2021 season
Sport is all about competition and there is some criticism that Formula One does not always have competition, with some fans claiming that the fastest car always wins. But driver skill plays a huge role.
Race winners like Pastor Maldonado, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon all did not have the fastest car when they won faces, all three having cars outside the top three fastest. This competition and driver skill is another reasons why you have to see Formula One as a sport.
It is also a competition because Formula One is still a team sport. Teams need to produce the fastest car that they possibly can. Teams also have an impact on their drivers through pit stops. A team like Red Bull Racing have often given their driver the edge in a round of pit stops as they set record breaking pit stop times. Actually, the fastest pit-stop world record is held by Red Bull Racing with a 1.82 second stop at the 2019 Brazilian GP.
What do you think? Is Formula 1 a sport?