In order to wrestle a modern Formula One car around the track, you need to be in peak physical condition, right? Well, that's usually the case, but this season is seeing that notion turned on its head as some of the drivers are forced to undertake drastic weight-loss measures.
Why this season more than others, you ask? Because of changes in the regulations. While the new cars have smaller engines, other changes to the formula (like larger batteries) mean that the cars are heavier overall. Yet the minimum weight limit has apparently not been adjusted proportionately, forcing teams to look even harder to trim excess weight. And when everything's already made of carbon fiber, there's not much more weight to cut, so the onus falls on the drivers.
Those drivers (like flyweight Felipe Massa, who reportedly weighs just 130 pounds without his helmet and gear) already at the lighter end of the spectrum have an advantage, but those who are physically larger are undertaking drastic and potentially dangerous measures in order to keep up, let alone get ahead. Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, for example, is larger than his team-mate Daniil Kvyat. So to keep up with his lighter wingman, Vergne undertook a drastic weight-loss regimen that he has now revealed forced him into the hospital between the grands prix in Australia and Malaysia. Meanwhile Adrian Sutil, who at 165 pounds is one of the larger on the grid, has been forced to race without a water supply on board in order to cut weight.
That's why some of the drivers are petitioning to have the weight limits changed. Some of the lighter drivers, however, have reportedly been blocking the efforts, keen to hold on to their advantage. If action isn't taken soon, we can't imagine it will be too long before teams start dumping larger drivers in favor of physically smaller ones, leading Formula One down a path that would, not unlike horse racing, value smaller stature and lower weight over skill and experience in their drivers. But even before that happens, we could be looking at a situation where some of the larger drivers still on the grid, forced to lose weight and forgo drinking water during the race, could easily lose concentration or even consciousness behind the wheel, with potentially disastrous consequences given the speeds involved.