Lewis Hamilton gave a bunch of journalists a fascinating insight into his world inside the cockpit of a Formula One car from wrestling to keep the tyres under control to keeping coping with up to 6-G force.
Guardian journalist Maurice Hamilton liked it to ‘controlling a car with flat tyres and no power steering’.
He was among the media party invited to the McLaren headquarters to witness the world champions preparation for Sunday’s first race in Melbourne and also attempt some of the exercises.
He wrote: ‘Never let it be said that a forumla one driver only sits on his backside, pushes pedals and twirls a steering wheel. It looks simple enough but the fact that a car is cornering as if on rails at 150mph actually adds to the physical battering being delivered to the man almost lying in the cockpit. The necessary fitness level is of the highest order.
‘The focal point was a cockpit rigged with weights to simulate some of the G-forces felt when cornering. The crash helmet has 7.5kg weights attached to either side; the steering wheel pulls against 15kg.
‘Attempting to steer while following a lap of Melbourne on the screen requires the effort needed to control a car with flat tyres and no power steering. Every movement of the head in one direction is hauled back by a greater force from the opposite side.
‘One lap is more than enough. Hamilton will complete 58 on 29 March, a relentless succession of bends and very few straights calling for total concentration for an hour and three-quarters. We don’t know the half of it.’
Hamilton told the reporters: ‘I really wish I could show you exactly what it’s like driving the car. This rig doesn’t replicate the forces acting on your body and legs [drivers can experience up to 6-G].
‘You are trying to be smooth but the whole time your body is taking force. You are controlling the car with your body, with your arse; you can feel the car trying to step out. The cornering forces are throwing your legs from left to right while you are trying to keep everything stable.
‘The problem is, you’re not simply on and off the pedals: you’re modulating the brake and accelerator over the bumps, you’re constantly fighting the steering.’
He added (after watching the journalists collapse in a heap after five minutes): ‘Before I got to formula one I was very fit. But when I tried to do five laps for the first time in an F1 car – and do them consistently – I was stuffed. It was ridiculous. I thought, ‘I’m never going to be able to do a 78-lap race.’ But the more training you do for specific muscles, the more you get used to it.’
It sounds exhausting just reading about it!
Alex Kapadia, Operations Executive