The G-force experienced by F1 drivers during races is a testament to the incredible physical strength required to compete at the pinnacle of motorsport.
As we go about our daily lives, we experience G-force quite often. We feel it when we are driving a car at high speeds and being pushed back into our seats, or when we hit the brakes suddenly and are pushed forward, or when we take off or land in an airplane, or even when we are riding a rollercoaster.
But in F1, drivers experience G-force that is far more intense than what we encounter in our daily lives, and they have to be in peak physical condition to be able to endure it.
So, what is G-force, and how much G's do F1 drivers experience during a race? Let's find out.
What is G-force?
G-force, or gravitational force, is a fundamental concept in physics that describes the amount of force exerted on an object due to acceleration. When an object accelerates, decelerates, or changes direction, it creates G-force.
In F1, drivers race at breakneck speeds and are exposed to extreme G-forces during races, especially when they are cornering, braking, or accelerating. The force exerted on their bodies can be several times their normal body weight.
This physical demand requires drivers to have exceptional strength and endurance to withstand the forces they experience throughout a race.
How much G-force do F1 drivers experience?
When drivers manoeuvre through high-speed corners, they are subjected to lateral or side-to-side G-forces that push them towards the side of the car.
These forces can reach up to 5g, which means drivers feel a force on their bodies that is equal to five times their normal body weight. To put that into perspective, a driver who weighs 70 kg would feel the force of 350 kg on his body.
During acceleration, drivers experience 2g, but when it comes to braking, they face tremendous G-forces as the deceleration can generate exceptional stopping power, with forces sometimes surpassing 6g.
How F1 drivers train for G-force?
Extreme G-forces can cause a huge physical toll on drivers' bodies. The immense pressure can cause blood to pool in their legs, which can lead to circulation problems and less oxygen going to their brains.
They can also feel strain in their heads and necks, breathing difficulty, and sometimes even loss of consciousness.
That's why drivers undergo rigorous physical training and endurance exercises to put them in peak physical condition. They engage in activities such as cardio exercises, strength training, and swimming to build endurance, strength, and agility.
And to be able to hold the neck against inertia during a two-hour race, drivers pay special attention to their necks, and they train the muscles daily to withstand the intense pressure - which is why you'll notice that they have thicker necks than normal people.
How? As you might have seen in their training videos, one common way drivers train their neck muscles is by using a head harness with rubber bands attached to it. The driver puts on the harness, and a personal trainer pulls the rubber bands in one direction while the driver resists the pull. They also use weights of up to 30 kg to further strengthen the neck.
To give you an idea of how strong an F1 driver's neck is, George Russell can hang 30 kg from his head, and Fernando Alonso can crack open a walnut with his neck.
F1 is an incredibly fast and dangerous sport, with drivers facing high levels of G-force during races and even higher in crashes.
At the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean had a terrifying experience when he clipped the wing of Daniil Kvyat's AlphaTauri, sending him into a barrier at nearly 200kph. His car broke apart and burst into flames, but fortunately, Grosjean only suffered second-degree burns to his hands. He experienced a force of 67g during the crash.
Another incident occurred during the 2021 British Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen collided at Turn 9, causing the Red Bull to spin before hitting the barrier. The Dutch experienced a force of 51g, but thankfully he didn't sustain any major injuries.
However, the sport has also seen some of the most tragic and heartbreaking crashes in its history. One such tragedy occurred during the Japanese Grand Prix in 2014 when Jules Bianchi lost control of his car and collided with a tractor crane carrying Adrian Sutil's car.
The collision resulted in Bianchi suffering a brutal 254g, the highest G-force in F1 history. After being placed in a medically induced coma, Bianchi's injuries eventually proved fatal, and he passed away in 2015.
How HANS device reduce the effects of G-force
Introduced back in 2003, the Head and Neck Support is a safety device designed to protect drivers in the event of a crash by stabilising the head and neck to reduce the risk of serious injuries.
Think of the HANS device as a seatbelt for the head. While the regular seatbelt holds the body in place, the HANS device secures the head and neck, minimising the violent head-snapping motion that can lead to devastating consequences.
This horseshoe-shaped carbon fibre collar fits comfortably around the driver's neck and is connected to the helmet by two tethers. Although it appears simple, this device could save lives in crashes as it prevents severe injuries such as basilar skull fractures.
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