What does it take to be the fastest man in Formula 1? Take a peek behind the doors at a cutting- edge training facility like the McLaren Technology Center and we guarantee you’ll be surprised.
Every week, hundreds of experts work tirelessly monitoring, tweaking, adapting and innovating, in an attempt to squeeze peak performance out of some of the most wildly complex and magnificent machines on the planet. No, not the cars, the drivers.
During races that can last up to two hours, an F1 driver’s body is put under strain like no other sport. With each turn of the steering wheel of a car that’s flying around a circuit at average speeds of over 240km/ph (150 mph), the average strain on the driver’s arms adds up to thousands of kilos.
At the same time, every single one of those 1,250 high-speed corners places a punishing G-Force on the drivers. This pressure, the load gravity exerts on an object when it is accelerating relative to free fall can hit as high as 5Gs. That’s five times the normal gravitational pull we all feel, with the brunt taken on the neck and shoulders.
This grueling physical exertion means a driver can burn 1,400 calories an hour and lose around 7 pounds of bodyweight in sweat over the course of a race. All of this while maintaining mental precision that isn’t just the difference between winning and losing, it’s also what stands between safety and potentially serious injury.
Prior to 2004, this presented F1 teams like McLaren with a unique problem. It was impossible to replicate the stresses of driving a Formula 1 car during a normal workout.
Then Technogym had an idea. Would it be possible to create a made-to-order F1 training machine that could help drivers develop the strength to withstand the forces they face in a long season?
The answer to that question now sits proudly as the centerpiece of the MacLaren training center – it’s called the Technogym F1 Trainer.
This made-to-order ‘car gym’ features cutting-edge technology that reproduces the high-impact stress imposed on the arms and neck inside the cockpit.
Drivers sit in a replica of their own car seat with front and rear cables attached to the their helmet. These wires produce angular resistance to help drivers prepare for the exertion from the car’s rapid acceleration and deceleration while hooks at the side provide neck muscle training to help drivers counteract the effects of centrifugal forces.
There’s also a weight-loaded steering wheel. It carries a nominal load of 55 lbs. with extra 5 lb. weight stacks that can be added to increase the training load on the forearms as drivers progress.
More recently, Technogym has also equipped the wheel with a mechanism that combines the weight force with a vibration device, to replicate the constant vibrations that occur on the track.
The F1 Trainer has become a vital tool for preparing young and top level drivers for the extremes of the race weekend.
“In every periodized training plan we create there will always be an integral element of using the F1 trainer.” Explains David Harvey, Human Performance Manager at the McLaren Technology Center and the UK’s only accredited Sport and Exercise Scientist to specialize in F1.
“But it’s not just for strength. We also use it to help drivers remember the tracks. While in the machine, we’ll ask them to simulate as best they can a track of their choosing from memory, time it and compare their actual race time with the time that they’ve simulated in the trainer.”
According to Harvey Technogym’s machine ushered in a big change. “Before working with Technogym, we used to use TheraBands and weights. To be honest it didn’t feel like drivers were in a high technology center, but now tech is a huge part of everything we do and now that we’ve got the F1 trainer it’s far more fitting that we’re using the best equipment throughout the center."
The F1 machine isn’t the only area where Technogym innovation is making a difference at
McLaren. The remote training potential of the MyWellness Cloudmywellness cloud offers real benefits not just for the drivers, but for the entire McLaren team.
With so many employees on the move for large parts of the year, ensuring wellness for all its employees is tough, but the cloud-based fitness is offering new solutions.
“Training people over all the world is a nightmare, but it’s a challenge that we absolutely relish.” says Harvey.
“The Technogym Cloud mywellness cloud is something that we’ve started to integrate. It allows us to supply training programs, not just to our drivers, but also the team. Quite often the hotels that we stay in have Technogym equipment, and if we know what they’ve got before we get there we can write a program for them for when they arrive. It’s great that we can do that. Without things like the Technogym Cloud mywellness cloud it just wouldn’t be possible.”