How We Train: F1 Drivers Felipe Massa And Valtteri Bottas

Two masters of the track share their fitness and nutrition secrets

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Sitting in a car may not immediately look the most demanding of athletic pursuits but competing week in, week out at the top level of motor racing is actually one of the most physically demanding job in professional sports. 

Formula 1 drivers require extraordinary fitness levels to push their body to its limits, as well as the mental fitness to maintain almost superhuman levels of psychological focus and concentration.

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We spoke to Felipe Massa And Valtteri Bottas from Williams Martini Racing, to find out how they get and stay in peak condition:

ESQUIRE: What is the ultimate aim with your fitness regime? Endurance? Strength?

Felipe Massa: More endurance than strength. I need endurance for the long races as they push two hours and I need to be fit for that entire time.

What is the toughest physical challenge of your job?

VB: The long race distance, especially in hot countries where it is very physical. It is a real skill sport so you need to be 100% mentally focussed.

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FM: Neck and cardio. You have some races that are quite difficult for your heart, and some for your muscles, such as you neck and shoulders. So it is important to have those in good shape for all the different tracks.

Do you feel like there are misconceptions about drivers' fitness because you drive a car?

VB: It is easy to think that I'm just driving a car round and ask why I need to be so fit for that. It is hard to properly explain but when you're in the cock pit with all the g-forces, it is extremely tiring on the body. I guarantee even a fit person, who hasn't driven racing cars before, would try and drive the speed we are doing, wouldn't last for very many laps.

Which is your go-to exercise that you'd recommend to others?

Valtteri Bottas: I recommend swimming. It is very difficult to injure yourself, so you can do it a lot and try different techniques. I also like running, you can do it anywhere in the world as long as you have your kit with you. 

What do you typically eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

FM: I try not to eat fried things but go for white meat like fish or chicken instead. I think it is important to have a good breakfast and lunch, rather than eating lots in the evening.

VB: I keep lunches light because I don't like that getting an afternoon dip. I normally eat lots of vegetables, a nice salad and a good source of protein from either fish or chicken throughout the day.

Do you have any advice for men who are struggling for motivation when it comes to fitness?

FM: Have a clear motivation, For me if I am not fit, this could affect my result, so knowing that motivates me.

VB: Whether it is either gaining muscle or losing weight, set a clear goal and work towards that.

How do you think the physical stress of F1 compares to other sports?

VB: The forces we feel as a driver are very unique, so it is difficult to compare F1 to any other sport, other than motorsports.

FM: We are competing at a very high endurance level, maybe not compared to Iron Man or marathons. But it is a top level – like in football, basketball, tennis where games last for hours.

What's your go to healthy snack?

FM: A protein bar.

VB: Either an apple or nuts.

How hard do you train in the off season? Do you still need to be 'good'?

FM: When I finish the championship, I'll have maybe two weeks of 'easy' training. But then after that it's back to training really hard to be in good shape for testing.

VB: The off season is the time we train the most. We normally have a bit of a break after the last race. Then Christmas, New Year and all of January involves lots of training as that is when you need to build up the base of your fitness. Then in season it is maintaining that, with the main mission of staying healthy.

The 2016 Barcelona Grand Prix is on May 15th. Esquire is partnering with F1 team Williams Martini Racing throughout the 2016 season.

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