The Pressure Of Being A Formula One Driver
Last weekend we saw Lewis Hamilton make a mistake for the first time I can remember in years. One of the reasons why he is so successful is his mistakes are so limited and if he does something wrong he rectifies it immediately. On Sunday what he did could not be rectified as he tumbled from first to last in the space of 5 seconds.
The workload a driver encounters on just one lap is immense multiplied with gravitational forces that will pin the driver in different directions. A Formula One car has eight gears and thankfully on some tracks they are not all used as the straights are just too short.
What we saw in Baku last week which is a street circuit has the highest amount of gear changes out of all the tracks on the calendar. One lap around Baku will see an average of 78 gear changes which if you work it out time wise is one shift every 1.3 seconds. Thankfully drivers have a light on their steering wheel plus an ear piece alerting them to gear changes. Baku is only a street circuit with two main straights and many corners covering a total distance of 6.003km (3.73 miles).
A seriously complex high tech steering wheel that must take years to learn properly.
Monaco is literally half the course of Baku in distance and a driver needs to use 25 upshifts and 25 downshifts over the course which is a total of 50 gear changes in just 3km which is also nuts.
On a circuit like Monaco the one hairpin bend which takes 5 seconds to complete forces the drivers to cross their arms while turning the steering wheel to 180 degrees locking their arms in the process. Teams have put guards around the steering wheel so drivers don't push any extra buttons in error.
The driver doesn't just have to worry about gear changes and keeping the car on the right driving line but he has to adjust the brake set up as well. Not every corner is the same so the balance has to be constantly shifted. With the car becoming lighter as the race progresses due to burning the fuel the set up is changing constantly.
Another aspect is managing the ERS or Electric Recovery System which when deployed gives the car an extra boost of power. Drivers need to be harvesting this electric power every other lap when not using it. Tyre management is another key factor that plays a huge role over the course of the race and normally the winner or podium finishers have done a better job than the rest in this aspect.
As you can see this is not about just driving fast but a whole host of things drivers have to get right over the course of roughly 90 minutes of racing. This is not an easy sport even though many of us would give our eye teeth to be given a chance. I suppose once you have got used to the set up it would just seem like normal after a time and would be like driving a more complicated car.