What Qualities Do You Need to Be a Good Formula One Driver?

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What Qualities Do You Need to Be a Good Formula One Driver?


Whilst it is certainly true that anyone you can physically fit into the car can drive one, the reality is that Formula One drivers are a special breed. Although they vary in physical size and shape, they all have the following important qualities that allow them to compete at the top level.

Physical Strength and Dexterity

Formula One cars are demanding to drive at the limit. The massive G-forces experienced during cornering and under braking, as well as the incredible heat inside the cockpits, mean that drivers have to be very strong, particularly their neck muscles.


Racing drivers are well aware that at 200 mph they cannot hesitate for a split second if they are to avoid crashing. Formula One stars have to maintain complete concentration for almost two hours, which pushes their minds to the limit. They have to look out for changing track conditions, they have to feel the changing characteristics of their cars and they have to look out for warning flags, pit signals and their rivals.

Quick Reaction Times

When you learn to drive a road car one of the first lessons any driving instructor teaches you is to keep a safe distance from the car in front. This distance allows you enough reaction time to get out of trouble if an accident occurs or somebody brakes heavily. Formula One drivers have to throw that rule straight out of the window every time they climb into their cars. In the fight for victory they have to drive right behind their rivals’ cars at huge speed, and if it’s raining with next to no visibility. If a problem occurs ahead of them – like a spinning car or a piece of debris on the track – they have to rely on their super-quick reaction times to get them out of trouble.


Being a good Formula One driver is not just about performing at the top of your game over one lap like in qualifying; it’s about performing at the top of your game for every single lap of a Grand Prix distance. Most races last about an hour and a half or more and during that time there’s no let up – except perhaps a few seconds to catch your breath during a pit stop or on the pit straight.

Drivers have to cope with the pressure of racing, avoid accidents, keep up to date with team strategy, and be able to endure the bumps, bangs, and the heat over this entire distance. This pressure is so intense that most drivers lose about 3kg of bodyweight through sweat in a normal Grand Prix.


Being able to perform consistently at the top of their game without making costly mistakes. If you make a mistake pulling out of a junction in your road car at best you stall the car or, worse, cause an accident. Racing drivers can’t afford to make such mistakes and they have to get every single aspect of their job right when they’re driving at the limit.

Although modern grand prix cars have semi-automatic gearboxes and computer controls to make stalling a car more difficult, drivers still have to ensure that every time they turn the wheel or step on a pedal, they do so at exactly the right moment. They can’t afford to brake 10 metres too late or hit the accelerator pedal when they were meant to hit the brakes. The result may not just be a harmless spin; it could be a crash that puts them out of the race or even costs them the World Championship. Just as the driver expects the team to never get it wrong when they prepare his car, the team has the same expectations of the driver. If the driver makes a mistake that puts him out of the race he can expect a tough time when he gets back to the pits.


Formula One racing is not a sport for the shy or the timid. To race wheel-to-wheel with somebody at almost 200 mph takes incredible bravery – especially when you understand that one mistake could result in a crash that could injure or even kill them.


Source by Edward Smith

Photo by hans westbeek

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