Insight: Why is weight a potential stumbling block for Nico Hulkenberg’s F1 career progress?
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Oct 2013   |  12:15 pm GMT  |  210 comments

Nico Hulkenberg’s standout drive at the weekend in Korea, where he finished fourth and his strong recent form have made him a candidate for a number of seats for next season. The driver market is quite fluid at the moment and there are opportunities.

But we keep hearing that driver weight is an issue and a potential stumbling block for tall, heavy drivers like Hulkenberg. We flagged this up on JA on F1 several months ago, but now that the serious talking has begun, it’s front of mind.

So here is an insight into why weight is suddenly such a high priority, with input from JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan.

The start point is that whatever the minimum weight limit in the regulations, running a car over that weight is an absolute no-no. You are giving away lap time unneccesarily and undermining all the hard work on development. Every additional 10kg of weight on an F1 car is worth on average 3/10ths of a second per lap over a season. This is a problem some of the teams at the back of the grid have faced as they try to get up to state of art car construction.

It is considered not very professional for established teams to be overweight. There are many reasons: one is that engineers like to run instruments and measuring equipment on the car, to study air flows and other parameters. If the car is overweight they can’t do this and miss out on the data gathering.

The weight of an F1 driver has therefore always been an issue to some extent. A car is built under the weight limit and then team place ballast (small dense pieces of material) in the floor of the car to get the weight as low as possible. A tall, heavy driver raises the centre of gravity and means less ballast.

Vettel weighs 64kg, Gutierrez is 61kg, Massa just 59kg, Button is 70kg, Di Resta 74, Webber 75, Sutil 78kg, for example.

So why is it so critical for 2014?
Driver weight has become more important since the arrival of KERS (hybrid) in F1, because it introduced a new component weighing upwards of 20kg that wasn’t there before.

With the 2014 engines there is much more powerful ERS system (hybrid) as well as other paraphernalia associated with turbos and coolers, all of which adds weight and needs to be packaged. This puts a premium on weight saving in other areas and also on cockpit space, so ideally teams would like to package it around a small light driver. The teams are up against it to get to the weight limit with a driver of around 64kg (Vettel’s weight) for next year. To put Hulkenberg in the car is to invite in another 10kg, which is a major headache. He is 13kg heavier than team mate Gutierrez, for example, which is worth 4/10ths of a second in lap time.

Hulkenberg’s expressed his view on this at the weekend, “In terms of my weight and height, there’s no point in discussing it because it’s god-given, I can’t change it. If a team wants me, they’ll have to work around it.”

So why don’t they change the regulations on weight limit for 2014?
This has been a talking point at Technical Working Group meetings for the last few years as 2014 approached. The limit has been raised several times as teams flagged up difficulties in getting a car built to the weight. But more recently teams who have achieved the minimum weight for 2014 are less willing to give up their advantage. Likewise teams with light drivers are not willing to give up their advantage. Why should they be penalised if another team wants to hire Hulkenberg?

McLaren is a possibility for Hulkenberg, but Martin Whitmarsh said at the weekend, “We have to find a solution, but I doubt we will find one in the next few weeks or months. But sadly, the way it has worked out means the heavier drivers will be less attractive. It has happened by accident.

“We have raised the minimum weight but the new powertrains are heavier than people expected and now have a situation where heavier drivers could be a disadvantage.”

So what happens to heavier drivers, like Hulkenberg?

The sport has walked into this situation, collectively and now that things are set for 2014 you are unlikely to get a consensus to make any changes. Hulkenberg will appeal because of his obvious quality, but he will appeal only to a team that knows it can get under the weight limit.

A driver who is small and light and who has a lot of experience in developing cars is attractive at the moment and that is why Massa still has some interest in the paddock.

As Jenson Button observed, “I don’t think any team will have ballast next year.

“I’ve been a kilo heavy maybe. It’s doesn’t hurt you over a lap because you can set the car up around yourself but you lose a lot of tools to adjust the car. You can’t move the weight distribution because you’re so limited.

“Next year we don’t know how bad it’s going to be, but I think it’s going to be very tricky. Every year you start the year with ballast but the car puts on weight because you add parts to it. It does hurt the heavier drivers and it’s very unfair to say lose weight because some of us can’t lose more weight.”

Hulkenberg’s most likely destination – provided they can shore up their financial problems – is Lotus, who have tracked hims for most of the year as a replacement for Raikkonen.

Team principal Eric Boullier wants to prioritise the driver and let the engineers sort out the weight of the car, “I prefer to have talent and let my engineers work on saving weight in the car,” Boullier said. “It is true that 10kg on paper is roughly three tenths of a second, but the target is to at least be on the weight limit. And then, you don’t have this issue anymore.”

That is a major challenge for engineers, but it’s also going to be a challenge for Hulkenberg. Whoever hires him is going to ask him to lose at least 3/4 kg over the winter, if possible. Perhaps he should give Sir Bradley Wiggins a call, he managed it before his 2012 Tour de France win.

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You can't do anything about height, but why don't they jus weigh the drivers every morning over a weekend and make the cars with light driver carry extra ballast to match the chubbier ones!


The F1 principals whose teams are running into 2014 design issues are the ones making a meal of driver weights.


How would you know?


I feel that the driver weight issue is politically driven as a means to increase the weight limit of the 2014 car. Those driving for an increase (like McLaren) would naturally be the ones who have hit 2014 packaging cliffs. McLaren further stands out in their outspokenness over the Hulks weight when it is noted that the lad is in serious talks with Lotus (not McLaren) and Romain Grosjean who weighs exactly the same 70Kg as Hulkenberrg is already in Lotus employ for 2014 and beyond.

There is really nothing special about Hulkenbergs weight, most drivers weigh about the same as he does.

You can find driver weights here:


This whole thing about height is neither here nor there. Nico Hulkenberg is not nearly the heaviest F1 driver at 70Kg (same weight Lewis Hamilton claimed this week).

Here are some drivers that weigh more than the Hulk:

Romain Grosjean

Jenson Button

Mark Webber

Paul Di Resta

There might be one or two more, but there are several others of the same weight as Hulkenberg.


I can't believe you used the word "chubby" in reference to F1 drivers.


You're right. They are actually big boned, or as one comic likes to say it, "fluffy".

But seriously, may I ask why F1 should be different than horse racing? Weight/size/strength ratio should be to a driver's advantage. Why should a lighter/smaller/stronger driver have to carry the extra weight because Montoya was out the night before at an all you can eat Sushi bar?

This advantage should not be surrendered.


These issues could open the door to women. Sadly, there's just one competitive right now.


Why does everyone think of fat?

If you are taller, your bones are longer and thus need more muscle to support you. Because of all the forces a F1 driver has to sustain he need muscle.... This has nothing to do about fat, or eating too much. All F1 drivers are in perfect shape. Making them lose weight means make them lose muscle, which is not a good thing if you ask me.


Sebee, do you leave here?



I said it a while back and I'll say it again: Horse jockeys are the future in F1 - they just need to find one that can drive fast...and see over the steering wheel.


I'm surprised we don't have a midget F1 driver yet Craig! Must be the cold hard truth of marketability for sponsors. But Marussia should try perhaps?


I think you are missing the point that lighter drivers now and would always have an advantage, not as under the 2014 rules tho.

The lighter you are the more ballast wieght your team gets to USE to lower the center of gravity and balance the car in setup. That to me is a pretty good advantage, and it's fair. But drivers like Hulk getting pentalised for their natural size seems wrong.

I want to see great drivers in great cars, not great drivers being passed up because of an wrong estimate in how heavy the cars will be next year, I think that's the issue not actually driver wieght.


There should be a sensible limit however. The lightest driver in the field could complain they have to carry any ballast at all!

You don't want F1 to be seen as promoting mild anorexia! "Oh Mr Hulk, yep you're perfectly healthy, fit, good weight for your size, but it would be great if you get a wee bit thinner!... In fact can you go thinner than that?!... A bit more.... please..."

Of course it's an advantage to be light, like in horse racing but silly rules shouldn't have to preclude from being a normal healthy athlete rather than some skewed gaunt one.


Even with a car with ballast, there is still a penalty for heavier drivers, as the lower centre of gravity reduces the weight transfer to the outside tyres in a corner. This is important as aerodynamic downforce doesn't shift location in the same way. I remember doing some very back of the envelope calculations that concluded that in a 180 km/h corner for Vettel, Webber would be limited to 179.7 km/h. I was making rough but reasonable assumptions on the tyre coefficient of friction and the downforce and CoG height.

Stronger drivers get one advantage that I'm aware of - high speed braking due to the required pedal pressures to approach brake locking pressures are hard to achieve.


When we are talking about the height we have to consider that there are many drivers that have similar length of the upper body like the taller guy next to him but the difference in most cases comes from the leg ( femur bone) length difference. When doing set up we make sure to take the measure of the driver from the seat bottom ( inside naturally ) o the top of the helmet as that is the real height of your driver from the tarmac, not necessarily the height of different drivers when they stand next each other. Weight is altogether different story. Heavy driver is a dead weight in one place that one may not move around and if he is on the limit it even worst. The bottom line he got a disadvantage as per the necessity to shuffle weights in relation to the track layout.


Very nice explanation, thanks!


Good to learn from your experience. Does it make any difference to how you set a kart up. Steering geometry is the main variable that comes to mind (toe, camber, castor).

In a kart since it doesn't have the aero dependence, the centre of gravity effect depends on the friction coefficient of the tyres as it varies with weight. I suspect driver talent would be a much bigger differentiator than driver weight in ballast adjusted karts. But I'm guessing. And unless you have perfect telemetry data, my claim is impossible prove or disprove.




Well it is a bit off subject but on the other hand since 100% modern F1 drivers came out of karting as training platform it is somehow related. There are many more parameters on modern top notch chassis to adjust then what you just mentioned, let alone the engine. We have available relevant telemetry data to observe.( Telemetry is actually incorrect word or meaning, the correct one would be data gathering and recording ). We are talking as many as 10;15 or more channels of recorded and stored data for processing, superimposing over the track layout. So yes, it is measurable and could be easily validated each and every element and the variables that are affecting the target lap times. There is some sort of aero dependence as well. On short circuit and long circuit racing even more so, as we are able creating and modulating values of negative pressure under the Super Kart floor. Mind you modern karts are wind tunnel tested thus helping creating and manufacturing bodywork components today that are much more aero efficient then in the past.


I seriously wonder were all this weight has come from? 10 years ago I was hearing of cars having over 60kg of ballast on board, meaning they were being built weighing less than 500kg, so how on earth has a 1.6 V6 with it's ERS systems attached ended up over 100kg heavier than a 3.0 V10?

It also shows why having the teams so heavily involved in governance isn't always a good thing, far too much self interest that ends up harming the sport.


I don't know all the figures, but I remember an Australian company, Bishop Rotary Valves, was working with Mercedes to make a rotary valve engine for the 2005 season - it should have been much earlier but that's another story. The engine weight of the prototype before Ferrari got it banned was 76 kg and it would have been 150 mm shorter than existing F1 engines too.

From 2006 with the V8s, a lot of materials were banned in the engines, and I believe there are limits in other areas too on materials usage.

The cars are larger now with bigger fuel tanks and the KERS units to be packaged. The greater length requires greater torsional resistance to maintain handling, and the increased crash testing requirements require a strong car too. So the tub gets heavier.

I would imagine that making the gearbox last five races has potentially added weight as well.

Another possible area is in heat management. The weight penalty of more water in the cooling system might be worthwhile if the hurt to the aerodynamics is less.


Also the maximum allowance of 5 engines per season would require more sturdier engine construction thus adding weight too. Regarding the story of the rotary engine it has its own shortcomings. The only company that after NSU gave up and it was dissolved or merged with Audi is Mazda which continuously developed rotary engines ever since. They never achieved fuel economy and were always on the limits of the carbon emissions. So I do not believe that there is any benefit in development of rotary engines due to very serious issues. If F1 wants to project itself as a greener sport then what it is today rotary engine would be a move in the wrong direction.


Agh, I misread. OK. I see. That was an old idea design from 1919 which already then Itala engine had those valves as induction and exhaust system, opposing most common spring/pneumatic operated in/exh. valves in 4 stroke engines.. Some steam engines had them as well.


Rotary valves, the rest is conventional, not a wankel engine!


Rotary valve is not same as a Wankel rotary engine. Instead of going up and down the valves rotate, else normal pistons.

The NSU Ro80 was years ahead. I know several people who still have one, well they exchanged the Wankel with a Audi 100 engine.

Another company trying Wankel engines was Citroen, but they bought all their cars back. Just one or two survived at collectors.

The Wankel made a nice flight engine however - mainly for models.


In addition to the 95kg engine, KERS and its' battery, also the safety regulations have become much stricter. Making cars safer makes them also heavier.

In '61 the minimum weight was 450 kg, year by year it rose up to 585 kg in '81. In '83 after the ground-effect ban, the weight limit went down, and in '87 at lowest it was only 500 kg! After that the safety regulations have become stricter and stricter, making the cars heavier.


They need to carry much larger amount of battery packs in order to utilize the kinetic energy recovering system which is far more complex and powerful next season.


The weight limit for the energy unit (ICE, MGUH, MGUK) is defined to a minimum. Even the ES has to be between 20-25kg. It was quite astonishing how light weight the cars were becoming with exotic materials and improvements in QA/QC so design tollerences could be small.


If I remember correctly the set weight was going to be about 150kg, with the old V10's in the 90kg range, thats still 40-50kg added somewhere.


What also makes that 31kg drop even more impressive is the ever tightening reliability regulations over that time period! The engines had to last longer and longer yet they produced more power and weighed less!


2013 Car minimum: 640kg dry

2014 Car minimum: 685kg dry (100kg max fuel)

2013 ICE minimum: 95kg

2014 Power unit minimum: 145kg (ES has to be between 20 and 25kg.)

So we have an overall total increase in the minimum of 45kg and an overall increase in the power unit minimum of 50kg. The increase in the fuel weight will be around 50kg as well.

The old V10s dropped a lot of weight over the years. The BMW engine weighed in at 117kg in 2000. In 2005 it weighed 86kgs, a whopping 31kg drop in 5 years!

An excellent paper on the BMW engine evolution:


looking at his pre f1 resuls, i find it so difficult to believe that hulkenburg's weight is an issue.

mclaren are only using that to cover face. hulkenburg was a better option and they opted for perez's millions. button's heavier than and barrichello and beat him to the 2009 championships.

i only find it easy to believe theories backed up with evidence.

if there was any truth in hulkenburg's weight ferrari wouldn't have considered him for 2014 nor would any other team.

this is all about journalists creating a fictional story.


Or readers not quite understanding the story...


now hulkenberg has a seat lined up in a bigger team. does that mean his weight and height is a minor issue? now you understand how ficticious journalist can be.


am not sure about readers not understanding the story because there is nothing complicated there and also i haven't come accros anyone intelligent enough to read other's minds.

what is certainly complicated is how the journalist work out how much 10kg advantage is to a driver. not even the engineers can work that out accurately. i would like to see some evidence.

i know it is all bs because ferrari considered signing hulkenberg and is lotus. lotus have clearely stated that hulkenberg's height or weight is not an issue for them. this is more evidence that this is a fictional story. may be good for a lough but certanly fictional.


I though there might be people out there who understand that there are numerous challenges in f1 and hulkenburgs weight is a minor one. only a few are fooled by the fictional journalists.


Hulkenberg is in the waiting room because there's rumour Alonso is going to McLaren for 2015, or even 2014. It is not weight related. Honda had made it clear they want a very stable outfit to succeed. Maybe Brawn and Alonso are considered in that equation. Let's see...


auraf1, with all due respect, the influence of fuel loads on performance have no similarities with driver mass.

some drivers drive lighter cars better than they can heavier cars while others are better at driving heavier cars than some.

the journalist are certainly making up stories about with a few facts here and there. i am not fooled by this constant talk of what the future holds. raikkanon is the best driver to constantly tell journalist that no one knows what the future holds yet some who don't understand keep asking him about the future.

i remmeber journalist making up so many stories about how the track will fall appart on the first indian f1 race because the circuit was finished too close to the race day and so on with seeps of oil etc. well they race took place without a hint of a problem. they all said hamilton will struggle at mercedes and we all know how much he has struggled.

will hulkenburg get a better seat for 2014 albeit his weight problem?

let's use this as a test. if he gets a better seat and performs well, the journalist are making things up and if he doesn't, the journalist are not making things up.

no engineering task is easy if it's to be competitive so i am not surprised some engineers were quoted as saying it is difficult to design a car around a bigger driver. the objective to obtain the ultimate design but when all the factors are considered, the drivers get paid a lot more than the engineers becuse the drivers ability to drive the car is valued more than those of the engineers to make the car go faster. why does hulkenberg drive his car faster than his teammates? is it because of his weight advantage?

fictional i say!


And yet McLaren have clearly stated its an issue. As have Hulkenberg, Webber and Button. I'm not sure they are journalists making up a fictitious story are they? And even Lotus have said yes its a problem but we will put the time and money and onus on the engineers to make the car lighter, which is commendable but hardly speaks to your claim that the story is fictitious. I don't need to be a mind reader to see those claims above, I just need to read the actual story.

Adrian Newey has pointed out the difficulties of car packaging he is put to with Mark Webber compared to Sebastian. He's pointed out that taller drivers don't allow him to balance the car in the same way and his ideal driver would be a 4'10" woman who weighs as little as possible as they'd give him the most engineering leeway.

This has been a problem for several years but 2014 will make it more of a problem as the ballast will be less at the start of the year and designs will for both cost and packaging reasons favour a smaller driver in any team over the season.

Besides engineers work out the lap time differences on fuel loads all the time what makes you think they can't calculate it based on the driver?


Hulkenberg might ask Kubica, he had to lose some kilos back in 2009.


Poor Kubica, joke suggested a nose job if more weight loss is required, for the poor thing looked so thin. Miss him. He was exciting.

On the flip side, sports are like this. There are so many talented basketball players who won't be able to play for they are not tall enough.


Thanks for the article, James. Very informative. Just curios how much do kimi, Alonso and Ham weight?


Alonso used to be 68 Kg. Hamilton 66 Kg. Probably since KERS introduction they have reduced that a bit.


Fernando weights around 67kg, Lewis around 68 and Kimi around 70.



Vettel is 10KG lighter than Webber!

There you go.

That' explains a 10th or two.


Yeah, given the approximations in the story, you could consider ballast considerations, CoG and overall car balance and configurability means around 2/10ths on average extra lap time. You could derive from this that when MW is within 2/10ths in Quali, for example, he is 'outperforming' his teammate. When that is not the case SV is beating MW on this same adjusted scale. Of course, actual results will always count more than theoretical results. But you could even argue a race result of being within 1 second per 5 laps over a race distance as a virtual 'outperformance' (say over 60 laps, within 12 seconds), but that doesn't translate into actual wins usually. An intersting academic, but still moot, point on race results.


Sebee: or his chin. 😉


Yep weve known this but i reckon 2/10ths.

Webbers height also raises his COG putting more pressure on the tyres in turns and helps to explain why he is harder on tyres.


Yeah David, but...Vettel carries the ballast implanted in the perfect spot. Webber carries it all in his hips. 🙂


LOL RBR run both cars at the minimum weight, its just SV has to carry ballast so the cars go to the grid the same weight.


Montoya is listed at 72kg online. I know I'm coming back to him, but he was the last one singled out for weight regularly if I remember correctly. Either website is wrong or JPM really got himself in shape.


Just give him some overalls covered in butter, he'll be fine 🙂


He's a lot more than that now! Interesting to see him fit into an Indycar again next season.


I think he's a bit more than that now..


5kg of Lewis's weight is diamonds.



That would make him exceptionally good qualifier though.


and another 10 kg in tongue!


Lol...wait, were you serious?


"Sir Bradley Wiggins"!

Hah. I'd forgotten about the UK's obsession with handing out knighthoods to anyone who can ride a bike, or shepherd a ball over a line, or drive a car, better than someone else!

Adrian Newey Jnr

But yet people like Brawn, Dennis and Surtees don't seem to qualify.

George O'Sullivan

If Hulkenberg had a really heavy wallet they would overlook the hurdle and place the challenge to the engineer's. This guy should be in a top team already, all a bit short sighted as this driver has been impressing the world in recent drives, it's a sad crossroads in F1.


Thanks for the laugh 🙂 All the lighter drivers could place the heavy wallets of the pay drivers, for example, directly behind their necks to make sure the centre of gravity would remain equally high.

Why is it so difficult to place the ballast higher in the car? I'm sorry if this is a really stupid question, I'm not an expert on technical detail.


The target is to keep weight as low down in the car as possible to keep center of gravity as low as possible. I'm not 100% on the technical facts on the physics of it , but I belive it helps the way the car handles and it will handle better the lower it becomes. So any mass above a certain hight needs to be kept to the absolute minimum weight required to get the job done, this unfortunately includes the driver.


Just use tanks for ballast. Adjust them by filling them with water. If one's brakes are prone to over-heating, squirt the ballast water on the brakes.

Your welcome. Ken Tyrrell.


you want the center of gravity height as low as possible, because while cornering you need to accelerate the mass to the center of the corner (a=v^2/r). therefore it creates a force (F=m*a). because the force acts on the cog and it needs to be balanced out by the friction of the tires your force creates a torque (T=F*cog). this torque is balanced by the torque of the vertical tire forces (T=Fv*w ;w is width of the track). therefore creating a force on the outer tire which is bigger than the force of the inner tire. the difference of the forces is bigger with a higher cog. as the coefficient is approximately a square root function the sum of the horizontal tire forces is lower with a higher cog.

sorry that I can't provide sketches because I'm writing this from my mobile.


Yes, I understand it's beneficial to have the centre of gravity as low as possible, but if all cars had the same disadvantage of carrying weight/ballast at the level where the driver is seated that would equal out any difference in driver weight, no? It could be decided, e.g. that the weight to be carried at the height of the driver be 75kg for all cars. That would do away with any incentive for the drivers to lose weight too, unless they weighed over this artificially imposed weight limit.


It is the phenomenon of the triangle and the leverage. In theory taller driver would excerpt more pressure on tires while cornering, or (if possible) the body roll would be greater. When you need more grip its good to be taller when you need less grip it's worst. Taller driver also may affect engine intake air flow and over all aerodynamic efficiency, thus need to be seated lower. Today it is not so easy to achieve that as they carry battery packs in the floor, as low as possible.


Raikkonen also weighs 70kg.


Is it just me but forcing tall drivers to loose weight does not look to great from a health point of view. What kind of message is that sending to young kids in the karting and lower formulas?

I don't see how raising the weight limit would take the advantage way from lighter drivers and teams that have designed a light car. It would just give them more ballast to move around in the car and the teams to fit more gadgets.


I don't see why the FIA cannot put in place a second minimum weight requirement: Driver + seat = >80kg.

The extra ballast cannot be placed anywhere advantageous to a lighter driver and will somewhat neutralise any weight differences between drivers of different size and build.


If one wants to be a gymnast, being too tall is no good. Don't think asking the floor mat to be bigger and uneven bars to be farther apart should be the answer.

If you are short, competing in 50m swim is against odds. Asking to limit races to longer distances is not the answer.

If you are tall, doing platform diving is fighting against nature. Asking to raise the platform height is not the answer.

The message to kids and all people - doing things where you have a natural advantage should be considered when making choices.

Little Vettel gave up basketball and singing, for he didn't have the height nor the voice despite of passion for those things. Seems he made the right choice.


With regards to people making choices....well if we had even a fraction of total population exploiting such limits, maybe we could have a discussion. This is as relevant for kids choices as for elephant being concerned with the size of his ears because of the aerodynamic effect while he travel to have a drink in a morning 🙂


You are right so far as we are all subject to genetics. However, you are missing the point that without the minimum weight set so low as to be difficult to achieve, driver weight would become a very minor issue (within bounds). A taller swimmer will be faster (on average) than an equally talented and trained shorter swimmer, that can't be changed - it is part of what directly contributes to their performance. The factors that normally would dicate the best driver are NOT height and weight, but rather coordination, reaction time, eyesight and a list of other factors. Weight is an artificual issue brought about by regulations that make it very difficult for engineers to achieved a target weight if a driver weighs more than, say, 70 kg.

Think of it this way, if the rules stipulated a minimum weight 10 kg LESS from where we are now, then drivers that weigh 60 kg would suddenly be in demand... You can "engineer" any weight crisis you want. It is artificial.


The ability to move more ballast around is still much less of an advantage than having a car+driver combination that is a couple of kg heavier.

You really need to get down to the minimum weight. Having less ballast is not as critical as the overall weight. That's the message I got from this article (hope I didn't misunderstand).


Being unable to use as much ballast is a disadvantage, but being over the weight limit is a bigger time loss for the heavier driver than for varying ballast levels.

Captain LeChuck


Does this not pose a risk of putting drivers in danger of eating disorders such as bulimia?

I wonder what David Coulthard makes of this situation.


I've worked with sports performance groups before. The damage the drivers are doing to their health now is closing in on crisis levels. Jenson Button recently gained some weight as the drivers need muscle mass to handle a car, they are also on a diet closer to that of a supermodel than a prime athlete. Button trains like a triathlete but he eats below the caloric intake required for his recovery. I can see the damage on Webbers face. He's looked gaunt and it wouldn't surprise me if his lack of form is at least minimally attributable to his compromised diet.

For the taller drivers they are now at far lower body fat levels than their shorter rivals and can only really chew up muscle mass and other essential tissues. When an F1 driver has reached lower body fat percentages than some Olympic sprinters you know it's gotten truly silly.


How did Button manage to gain a few kilo's of muscles recently! btw, Button on a supermodel diet is ridiculous! A triathlete ( Button does half-ironmans ) is burning a huge amount of calories compared to a hardly muscled fragile supermodel. Top level sport ( or modelling ) is indeed not that healthy, driving somewhat slower is also more safe. Eating below your caloric intake for a longer period or doing endurance sports without some body-fat reserve will make a top delivering sportsman collapse.

Its a thin line, but there is a balance between performance and weight.


Button himself commented that he gained several kilos of muscle because he altered his diet and regime. When you are overtrained and undernourished it's very easy to gain muscular weight. Lots of athletes do it every year. When there's a weight class you find all sorts of unhealthy methods to make weight - look at wrestlers and boxers who drop water weight with diuretics in order to make a class.

Yes it is ridiculous - Button is still attempting Triathlons but as he himself said, he's now restricted to eating such a low level of carbohydrates that he physically can't reduce any lower. A low carbohydrate diet may be fine for supermodel determined to remain 'thin' - but for a driver piloting a very fast car, and when Button reached sub 5% body fat (which admittedly he was quite proud of announcing at first) he really doesn't have a great deal of bodyfat to operate on. In endurance situations his body can either break down fats or muscle tissue. Either way, while the low-carb diets are not anywhere near as harmful for you as some nutritionists bang on about - we are not talking about the average person wanting to lose weight. We're talking about athletes in very low single digit body fat percentages, performing endurance style training, with impaired mental acuity being told to lose EVEN MORE weight for next year.

BTW there are women triathletes eating over 1000 calories a day more than Jenson Button. It wouldn't surprise me if Jenson's model girlfriend eats more than him at the moment.

Honestly I expect people paid millions a year to do an unbelievable dream job will be willing to make a lot of sacrifices - and I'm not suggesting we mollycoddle them (though the emphasis on safety for drivers should extend to their physical long term health as well as impact protection). My point, like a lot of the taller drivers themselves are making, is that we've gotten to another position in the sport where talent comes second again.

The teams walked into this minimum weight issue and it's once again right down to the wire we are talking about it seriously. At first it was 'oh aren't the drivers so much fitter athletes these days than the smoking, drinking, party animals we saw back in the day'. Which is true. But when we get to a point where drivers like Button, Hulkenberg, Webber and any future stars who dare to drive a car and be over 5'6" are told to starve themselves to keep their seats - we're heading for a sad indictment similar to the furore over pay drivers taking more and more seats.

Hamilton used to be over the 2014 weight ideals, but drivers like him who are short are in a lucky position. Imagine if Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton were all 6ft plus and they weren't getting offered drives over the next few years on that basis? If the next generation of superstars are not tiny jockey sized individuals it's ridiculous - and all it takes is to agree a higher minimum weight limit - but once again the teams with smaller drivers (and the smaller drivers themselves) are seeing an advantage and refusing to play along.

Imagine if a fantastic driver like Hulkenberg was left 2/10ths down on a lesser talent at the end of 2014 every lap simply because he can't shed any more weight. Is that really talent? That he wasn't born 6 inches shorter? If the argument was like basketball where physically taller players are naturally more inclined to be better adapted - that I'd understand. That's fine. But this isn't that shorter drivers are naturally more inclined towards motor racing - it's a totally artificial weight limit that was screwed up because the new power trains are too heavy.


Thanks for this insight. If a driver gains a tenth or two by dieting big-time and losing weight accordingly then that's all very well, but if he loses 0.2-0.3s of performance because of the knock-on effects of not adequately getting the replenishment they need then the diet is no good.

In a way I'm amazed the teams haven't thought of this but at the same time there might be other forces at work here (though feel free to correct me if the hypothesis I'm about to describe is bunk). Five years ago (and all the way back to 1994) under refuelling F1 was a sprint between the pitstops so drivers needed to be at their peak performance the whole way through. These days with no refuelling and the emphasis on protecting the tyres, I guess the importance of being at that peak performance physically is no longer as pressing. Certainly I'd imagine they're no longer straining every sinew as they were back in 2007 and 2008. However, I s'pose the counterargument to this is that the fundamental chemical processes would be affected regardless of the era we're running under, which again begs the question why the argument you've made hasn't been more widely discussed in this debate.


It's certainly possible, I don't know the thinking of the teams, but for all of its technical and engineering advancement, the human squishy element never seems to be pushed as much in F1. Perhaps the fact that drivers say they are performing at less than 95% is having a bearing in the new era. The drivers did have to take a step up in nutrition and hydration when F1 started visiting more and more humid countries and often in the wrong season for the weather - so they definitely took a step up. But it's fairly shocking when even team employed nutritionists are now composing diets for athletes that are about deficit diets that designed solely to help drivers lose weight. It's like the plague that has afflicted Jockeys with rampant bulimia, anorexia and even prescribed drug abuse to keep a career based on not gaining a pound.

I'm not a pro athlete but I'm fairly fit and young and my body can handle a certain amount of tough conditions but I'm also just a little taller than Hulkenberg and outweigh him by 18kg which is mostly muscle mass and obviously some fat. Although I could lose weight on his restricted diet I would not be functioning at peak and would be losing concentration and energy and probably have mood swings due to blood glucose changes. While your body will adapt to a certain extent if they are telling these already extremely lean drivers to start destroying a few extra kilos of muscle mass they are going to be entering the clinically malnourished stage. Forget about the long term health impact for a moment - do you want a driver who is so weak, tired, irritable, lacking focus and judgement through essentially borderline starvation diets at the helm of a formula 1 car?

Yes these are superhumans when it comes to reaction times and car handling and they can still perform under duress better than most of us but every athlete from any discipline can tell you how even making a weight regardless of the cost will degrade their performance.


I never considered diet as an effect on form but if you take your example of Webber, we know he is 10kg heavier than Vettel, so there is a couple of tenths and then loom at diet, if he hasn't got a) enough muscle bulk the wrestle the car and press the break as heard, and b) possibly from long term weight control measures, his chemical connections in his body and brain may not be functioning at the same level of performance as his team mate who is 10 years younger and 10kg lighter, with less of the dietary restrictions as he is one of tbd few who don't look sickly under weight.


I'm not suggesting at any dietary level Webber is going to easily beat Vettel, but look at reaction speed tests on chronically malnourished individuals - even the best marksmen in the military miss more when they don't have adequate carbohydrates (yes it's possible to overeat and impact performance too but that's not the issue here). Even 5 years ago when I worked with some trainers who advise racing teams including several F1 teams - the amount the drivers were advised to eat was consistent with cross country skiers - I.e A LOT. The focus was on consistent energy, muscle mass and performance endurance - now it's on making weight grades with zero emphasis on peak performance. We've turned them into show ponies.

Michael Schumacher pioneered a workout system which included muscle building as he felt being physically strong equalled a strong driver. And he remains in better physical shape than many drivers 20 years his junior - but his instincts would be wrong now.


At 74kg Bulkenberg is around the same weight as Webber and Di Resta and probably several others. Perhaps his wallet needs to be lightened further to 'make him more attractive' to the teams. Daft, innit.


It depends on the skills of the teams. Red Bull has a lot of smart material science guys, as do Ferrari. They were able to make the dropping noses work while passing the load tests. I believe McLaren may not quite be at the same level from comments I've read, and it could be that the Mercedes engine is over the minimum weight limit for the engine.


Webber (certainly) and Di Resta (likely) will not be driving in F1 next year.


The article is a little misleading. It almost reads like one driver is at a 3/10 disadvantage because he is 10 kilos heavier. That's not the case, the ballast would be worked around and the car would be set-up slightly different. They would still likely run the car at minimum weight no matter the driver.

Eric Boullier has it right. Lotus is stating that Hulk's weight is not a big issue.

Schnell! schnell!

I think what Boullier is saying is that Lotus is negotiating with Hulkenberg.....


No but as the cars get heavier with additions and updates the ballast has to be reduced. So there is less room to run at minimum weight and you end up with drivers running above the weight of their teammate who is shorter and lighter. They all obviously run minimum weight (it's the rule!) but I think the drivers are complaining that they give the teams less room to choose ballast and updates which may be heavier than the car starts the year at. As Button said he's running a kilo overweight because of his build but next year he'll start with very little ballast and have nowhere to go as the months roll on. I think boullier is saying he'll just demand his engineers spend more time and money on making additions and updates weigh less while some teams would rather not spend that essential time and money making up for a taller driver and just start hiring smaller drivers as it works out cheaper and more flexible.

Sure you can say talent should win out but when have we ever seen F1 teams think long term and for the good of the sport when a bottom line is at stake?


The problem seems to be that next year's engines, at least the Mercedes, does not meet the minimum power unit weight and so the car will not run much or any ballast. Boullier may not have the same problem with the Renault.


I heard that Ferrari has the same problem with their engine.


You are correct. However, the issue is that teams are not confident they are able to get to the minimum weight next season with the new engines and KERS. If you go over the limit, you start to pay a hefty price in lap time for each extra kg.


The situation you describe applies to this year, where cars can comfortably hit the weight limit, and then it's just a question of balancing the car. Next year, under the new regulations and with the extra weight of the power unit, building a car under the weight limit may be more difficult to achieve, even with minimum ballast.


I think if this combination gets to reality it would be Heavy, big money and bussienes involve:

Mclaren + Honda + Ross Brawn + Fernando Alonso + Nico Hulkenberg, plus the big money of:

Honda + Santander + a mobile phone company (Movistar? -Spain- Aló -Mejico, of Carlos Slim?.

It would be a Mclaren come back directly to de first class!!!.

And I think Nico´s quality deserves 10 more kilos in a team like that one.

Alonso is a bit feed up of Domelicali´s conservative approach vs. aggressive promises!!!

He just wants to win in a win mode team.


Alo needs to transform Ferrari into a winning team, the way Lau or Sch did. Did You watch Rush. It's all there.


He came for that but they don't let him. Domenicalli stops that process, and Alo is running time!!!

I will see the movie.


McLaren recognizes its interest in Alonso, which is public allready.

McLaren - Ross Brawn contact is on, either.

Alonso´s recent great comments about Hulk, sounds enough to me.

And Alonso´s position in Ferrari got clear the day they signed Kimi (when Alonso recommended Hulk…).

So, this is a normal end of this Alonso - Ferrari story, and a big opportunity to regret and solve a big collective 2007 mistake, which is great in a human point of view (for Alonso and McLaren).

My question is: Why not “with” Hamilton included in this great McLaren move?

This is maybe too much… or definitely too much!!!.

Alonso´s career at the moment needs more WDCs, but in another point of view, economic, it reminds me of Anelca´s football player multimillion and redundant great contracts, more and more every day.

Not exactly a silly boy…

I remember a recent hamilton´s comment (this week):

Alonso and I deserves more than this!!!

Oh, Oh, Oh...


James, isn't Felipe Massa the lightest driver? I think he is under 60kg.


if the weight was an issue massa should be the best driver,

ask mcnish if he was the best.

it is a fictional story.


is it just me that finds his name Hulk funny as well ..

get my coat


Yep, onomatopoeic, or at least psychologically onomatopoeic if you get my drift.


This weight thing is not moral, i sense a rule change comming maybe not for 2014, more likely the year after

In the short term I assume teams who are likely to satisfy the 2014 limit will block raising it because they will believe they have an advantage


It's hard to draw the line. If the line is drawn to fit NH, what about some other very talented driver weighing 10Kg more than him? Should the sport raises the line every time a heavier talent comes along?

There are plenty of racing options that are not finicky about weight, like Nascar. Joke said that my beloved Montoya left F1 so that he could eat more burgers 🙂 But he's such a tiny thing...


74 kg is quite light for a tall person, I'd hardly think that Hulk is remotely close to overweight.

No real line needs to be drawn. If the minimum weights can be achieved with any reasonable weight driver on board, than it is OK. The lighter drivers will always have a small advantage by being able to work with more ballast.

What is reasonable weight you ask? Well, I think that can be simply determined by considering what the population range of weights for fit persons within a couple of standard deviations above the mean. It is obvious that 74 kg is too light.


"Gutierrez is the lightest at 61kg"

I am pretty sure Massa is less than 60 Kg.


Its a good point made above about the V10 era and how much lighter, yet bulkier in appearance the cars were. Clearly the quest to analyse and capture every little bit of data has led to these now bloated cars that just look skinny.

I applaud Boullier's approach and I really hope they sign Hulk. Massa has had his chance and is honestly riding on just one decent season 5 years ago. It would be a traversty if he gets signed just because Bernie wants a Brazilian on the grid.


So in spite of being 14kgs heavier than Gutierrez, he's faster than him. Doesnt it make him all the more exceptional?

Just proves the point that Nico can lose some weight, but you cant teach a small driver to drive fast.


The weight is not that much of an issue this season because even car+Hulkenberg is below the minimum weight limit, and thus requires extra weight to be put to the car (the ballast). Hence, Gutierrez + car is just as heavy as Hulkenberg + car and neither one has an advantage as far as the overall weight is concerned. You run into problems if you're not able to get the driver + car combination under the weight limit, and this is a possible scenario for next year, at least for heavier drivers. Then you start to pay the price for the extra weight.


You're wrong there mate. In your example, the heavier driver will get less ballast to play around with and thus not only will he have a higher c.o.g, the weight of himself and the ballast will be spread around less evenly than a lighter driver with lots of ballast.


I am fully aware of the advantage one gets with having more ballast to play with, that's why I said "no advantage as far as overall weight is concerned". The gain you get with being able to set up the car with more ballast is much smaller than one would have if the overall weight was lower. Gutierrez does not have the overall weight advantage like JackL above appeared to think and that's all I wanted to point out.


Hulkenberg still massively out-drives the lightest driver (Gutierrez) who is in the exact same car, even if he is a rookie.

Would it be correct to say that a driver's weight mainly affects qualifying and is less of an issue in the race?


I think its fair to say that the issue will be more apparent in 2014 as the power train is so much heavier than expected. We can't really judge it on 2013 rules. Also the issue is likely to get worse as the season (and upgrades) come out. To be even more exact the issue will only be really noticeable on the better cars as they have more advanced weight control techniques the slower cars are already over weight.

It may be that the Sauber is equally heavy for both drivers. What you could end up with in 2014 is a taller, heavier driver going backwards over the season through zero fault if their own simply because teams aren't willing to spend the time and capital catering for their needs.


Hi Wade,

In regards to your question, and initially not answer it, at the moment the differences are small as the greater ballast Gutierrez runs reduces the weight transfer to the outside tyre (there is no difference in car weight). This is significant in F1 as the downforce does not have the same weight transfer and so the reduced weight transfer makes better use of the available downforce. The effect is smaller than the penalty for excess weight.

The small loss in corner speed will apply most when the cars are at their lightest as in qualifying and the end of the race. Throughout the race the greater weight transfer for the heavier driver will contribute to greater tyre wear on whatever is the hardest working tyre. In that sense the penalty would be greatest at the end of a race.

If a car is over the weight limit as is forecast for some teams next year then the lap time hurt is always there. Unlike the driver working the car harder and using tyres and fuel at a greater rate, it is effectively free performance that is being lost.


Car + Hulkenberg and car + Gutierrez are exactly the same weight this season, so Hulkenberg is not in a disadvantage this season as far as overall weight is concerned. He has less ballast to move around, but that has a much smaller effect than having an overall heavier driver + car combination would have.


It is more important the faster the cars go, and of course, outright pace is more noticeable in qualifying than during the race. However, this year, Perez' car carries extra ballast, only giving him the advantage of a lower centre of gravity, not a lighter car overall.

Next year, a heavier driver could mean a heavier car, and that's not only slower, it also needs more fuel, which is another issue because of the fuel limit.


It sounds like Kobayashi could be back in Formula 1 then.


Interesting to note that Webber is about 3/10th of a second heavier than Vettel . . . now lets wait for the fanboys


Webber's car isn't over the weight limit, so the 3/10ths calculation doesn't apply.

Mansell versus Senna is a different matter though as then the driver weight was excluded.


C.o.G and poorer weight distribution...


Hi Anil,

Your comment isn't relevant to my reply to DomJones. The 0.3 s/ 10 kg is directly from the fuel effect. Dom was trying to imply that Webber is faster than Vettel, but he has not data that backs him up. The cenre of gravity will be a performance disadvantage for Webber.

There isn't any evidence that fore-aft weight distribution in the Red Bulls is any different. The weight distribution is constrained by the rules and primarily driven by the tyre characteristics. Pirelli was directed to make tyres to meet a certain weight distribution and the rules prevent the team from being outside that window.

A higher CoG will have weight transfer effects at the start, which makes the clutch's job fractionally harder.

A lower CoG in a car with downforce will help make more effective use of that downforce and aid cornering speeds. In road cars that doesn't apply and it is the tyre's coefficient of friction versus load that will determine whether a lower CoG will increase cornering speeds.

Reducing the height between the CoG and the roll centre will reduce roll and this can help the suspension geometry make efficient use of the tyres, but it doesn't change the total weight transfer to the outside tyres.


Fine Martin but its always 2/10ths. RBR continually tell us the cars are equal.

If we are to believe RBR ;)....

There is no way any 2 drivers are always separated by 2/10ths at every track all year unless there is a fundamental unchangeable constant and the fact remains it is height & weight of the drivers. Anyone telling me Vettel is better is laughable. Is Vettel so good that its always 2/10ths all year at every track. Of course it's not. Name any other driver pairing on the grid in history where the margins between teammates were so consistent.


The centre of gravity has some effect as I wrote in post #2 - I've never seen a team quantify the numbers. The difference could still apply, but DomJones' comment is still misusing the available information to make the 3/10th claim. The form of his comment suggests he'd struggle to explain why the CoG has an effect on cornering speed.


Not a fan, but this needs to be corrected. Webber is not giving 3/10's of a second to Vettel in lap times. The driver+car combination for all of the drivers on the grid is exactly the same at present, they are all at the minimum weight. Hence, no one is giving advantage to someone else as far as the overall weight is concerned.

The issue here is that the teams are not confident they can make the cars light enough next season, and then each kg that the driver brings extra will cost in lap time. Today, no car on the grid carries any extra weight.


But he does give away some lap time to Vettel with handling of the car because he has less ballast available to try to get the centre of gravity lower in the car. Probably not 3/10's though 🙂


hulk is giving 4/10 away to gutierrez and still comfortably beating him. granted gutierrez isn't a great driver but it shows hulk is a mighty driver.

sign hulk lotus, he has enough talent to make up for his weight problem. surely you can't sign massa having just watched his and the hulks performance in korea.


Hulkenberg is not giving 4/10's of a second away to Gutierrez this season. The article is a bit misleading in that regard. The car + Hulkenberg combination is just as heavy as car + Gutierrez combination is, hence neither driver is at an advantage as far as the overall weight is concerned. The issue may be different next season if the teams are not able to make the cars light enough. Then heavier drivers will be at a disadvantage with each extra kg costing lap time. That is not the situation this season.


Did you even read the article? He's not giving 4/10th to Gutierrez, because this year, they can construct a car that's just at the weight limit even for Hulkenberg. What he's giving up is the ability to balance the car more favourably. The fact that he's still driving faster than Gutierrez probably means that he's a better driver, but not that his superior driving skills are worth 4/10th per lap.

I agree that Lotus should sign Hulkenberg, if the financial aspects are right.


For the 2009 or 2010 season (I cant remember which), Jenson Button was forced to lose some weight and he said he found it really difficult to maintain the muscle strength he previously had. Despite there being obvious benefits to raising the weight limit there is one major factor that has quite an influence... In a crash there is more momentum. I believe that is one of the reasons success ballast is a no-no in some race series. Makes sense.

Still, if all this means Hulk is going to struggle to find a competitive drive for the next couple of years then this is NOT the direction we want F1 to go...


"Still, if all this means Hulk is going to struggle to find a competitive drive for the next couple of years then this is NOT the direction we want F1 to go…"

sadly as fans we don't have a say in the direction of F1


The extra momentum in a crash is insignificant. Even assuming that a heavier car can go as fast as a lighter car, the extra momentum due to 5 kgs of extra weight is under 1%. Because a heavier car, with the same engine, will go slower (the theoretical top speed may almost be the same, but few crashes happen near to speed) the difference is even less.

The minimum weight, on the other hand, was originally introduced partly for safety reasons - without it, teams would make the cars as light as they possibly could, potentially compromising the structural integrity.


Are there any grounds for discrimination here?

Just throwing it out there


Discrimination is nature of life. We can mitigate it, but cannot eliminate it. In the movie "Enemy at the gate", the communist guy believed in equality to the letter, but he realized that the girl he loved didn't love him. He couldn't make himself or someone else love everyone the same. F1 may discriminate against big guys, many sports discriminate against little guys.

Science discriminates against low IQ, being the nicest guy won't cut it; Movies discriminate against the charmless, being the best in acting isn't enough for stardom; Music discriminates against the out-of-trend, being the best musician doesn't guarantee decent living; dancing discriminates against ugly bodies no matter how talented a person might be; Even this forum, it's limited to those who can comprehend English. Shall we say it discriminates against all other languages? Give me a break.



Agree with you that there will always be implicit discrimination in any walk or field.

However, what we need to do find ways to make sure its not easy to do at all.

This just feels like another barrier. Afterall, Eric Boullier has said he will take the best and let the engineers work around it.

We shouldnt wait for 1 in 11 team principals to do this. It should be the way or even better remove the need to make that consideration at all.



"Why should they be penalised if another team wants to hire Hulkenberg?" -- I don't see how raising a minimum weight limit will penalize other teams. At best, this "penalty" can be only seen of losing their advantage over a team that Hulkenberg has. I would like to know which teams are blocking the move for increasing minimum weight. At least we will know not to support those teams (and also we will know how poor in sportsmanship they have) .

I think it is pretty silly and naive if teams want to beat other teams through weight-rule rather than actual performance. If F1 is pinnacle of motorsport (as we are told every time), teams should behave better and be open for every capable driver so that the best performing car+driver combo win. I would say increase the weight by 100kg or 200kg if that is what is needed. Why should great engineering teams + drivers worry about other drivers/teams if they are truly great?


I totally agree - increase the minimum weight by 150kg, so that all the cars have to carry substantial ballast - with a big enough minimum weight increase it would be enough ballast to just about counteract a 10kg driver weight difference.

Horse racing is a sport that suffers badly from not being able to use a wider talent pool than its current phenotype. It's a sport with a very rotten underbelly, and if F1 goes that way... Well, let's just say the domination by the Newwy/Vettel talent combo may be predictable, but at least they seem fit, healthy and happy chaps.


I agree. A mere 15-20 kg increase in the minimum weight restriction would solve these problems.

Daniel Coutanche

Hello James, why don't they just weigh the car and not the driver / car combined?


Or even better, have a minimum weight for the driver + the seat. That way teams would only be able to include ballast in the seat and not all over the car.


The car isn't gonna drive itself...

When 2 drivers get in a car that weighs the same, obviously the driver who is lighter would gain an advantage

Infact it would benefit the lighter drivers evn more in some cases.

(for there's quite difference between the hulk's weight and estaban's...but since they consider car+driver , the difference in weight is wiped out with ballast... If they consider only the weight of d car then hulk's car would always be heavier than that of estaban's by their weight difference)


"Perhaps he should give Sir Bradley Wiggins a call, he managed it before his 2012 Tour de France win"

Perhaps then Bernie should also give John Fahey a call?

Formula 1 isn't really about "fairness", of course, it's about who can drive the car around the track in the shortest time - and if being lightweight helps, just like having strong neck and arm muscles helps, then that's part of who you are, just like being blessed with quick reflexes, etc. The only thing that regulations can do is to shift the balance between the different driver attributes - power steering is allowed, for example, so that F1 is less a test of physical force. I think the argument could be made for raising weight limits, but in the end, F1 is about engineering challenges, and I am sure Lotus can manage. Grosjean is only a few kgs lighter than Hulkenberg, so Lotus will have to accommodate him anyway, and I suspect that after a season or two, the weight limit is no longer an issue.

I just hope we don't end up with F1 drivers abusing diuretics like jockeys, or worse.


HI, your comment of "This is a problem some of the teams at the back of the grid have faced as they try to get up to state of art car construction"... would this imply raising the minimum weight limit be a simple way of reducing costs in formula 1?


I am not sure it is good for Formula One's image to just have jockey sized drivers - although I can understand why it might appeal to Bernie ...


For a jockey, five foot six is considered extremely large and they average around five two. The average F1 driver is about five foot nine. That's the height of Vettel, Hamilton, Kimi, and several others, and five nine is also the height of the average adult male in the UK. F1 drivers are not as tiny as people are making them out to be.


Well i have stood next to lewis - about a year ago - and i was surprised how small he was. I am 5 foot eleven. Maybe he's put on a spurt lately?


Am I being too simplistic by saying, why not have a minimum driver weight, say at 80kg (or whatever arbitrary number you choose). What I'm thinking is that you separate the minimum car weight from the minimum driver weight. In real terms what this would mean is that you weigh the car against the minimum car weight having removed the driver and let's call it a driver ballast. And then you weigh the driver and the additional ballast to bring his weight up to the 80kg weight in my example.

What I am suggesting is that the great minds in F1 come up with a specific location for driver ballast say, directly behind the drivers rear with a range in height that the it must be placed (to allow teams to play with centre of gravity as they see fit)specifically for the additional driver ballast.

At the end of the race, you weigh the driver, have the team remove the driver ballast under observation by the FIA from the specified location and weigh that as well. Driver weight and ballast weight must equal the minimum driver weight requirement. Subsequently, the car is weight after removal of the driver+driver ballast against the minimum weight requirement for the car. Simple, no?

This solution removes the silly discussion around driver weight as it levels the playing field and circumvents a potential moral issue of grossly underweight humans driving these machines and those kids in the lower ranks ending up with eating disorders trying to mimic their heros and levels the playing field for everyone.

Nah, probably not an option, makes too much sense and is too complicated I guess. Heck, may even start a weight ballast war to try to find a dense thin enough material to act as the driver ballast to ensure the lowest CoG for the car. LOL!

Aside from the cost of said exotic dense material, it should not be too difficult for a team to figure this out as they already have ballast engineers working for them I presume.

Guys like me still wouldn't qualify with the 80kg limit, but it would eradicate or get close to eradicating any team advantage for having a light driver. They would likely still retain the CoG advantage but this would be minimal if you can figure out the ideal location for placing the driver ballast along a vertical line behind the driver.


His weight may be a 3/10 loss but his speed is surely more than a 4/10 gain!


Hi James

I think its pretty stupid honestly!

If u take Lotus for example

Hulkenburg's weight may cost them 4/10th's a lap but hiring someone like Massa who is 10kg's lighter may save them 4/10th's a lap due to his weight advantage but he will probly lose them 5 or 6/10th's a lap due to his lack of speed??

So really it seems teams are being penny wise and pound foolish.

it sounds ridiculous that teams would rather want a Sh*t driver over a potential superstar because of 10kg's

I think what teams need to do is work do some deep analysis into how much common sense they have left.

So talent does'nt matter anymore?

All u need to be is rich and small and u can be an F1 driver!

How fanastic!!!

Why dont they just built cars that drive themselves while they at it.

I'm sure that would save them at least 65kg.


Or you could have the drivers driving the cars via remote control, from their homes in Monaco. They can be as heavy as they want to be then! 🙂


Maybe Hulk should calm down a bit and he might shrink. 🙂

Seriously Jenson has started to look really gaunt compared to his earlier days. So too Webber. Not a healthy trend.


As an engineer, technically of course, less weight from a driver is obviously better. However, I think we all overlooked a large unknown here. The human factor, it is what all F1 fans and sports fans alike come to watch.

Massa is a lightest man around, so ideally, he should be winning more races than Alonso who is heavier. We all have seen glimpse of his talent when he is in the right mood. However, that rarely happens.

If you're motivated, you won't use your extra 10-15kgs as excuse for loosing out. You'll work harder and try clever ways to work better. And in the end, that's what we all want to see. Eric Boullier is correct in getting motivated people to get the job done.

I think Eric Boullier should get a proper accountant or finance sponsorship specialist. So that they can have consistent income to fight at top level. I think that's the only thing they lack at the moment.


The regulations need to take into account weight differences.The FIA should say if the heaviest driver ways 74kg and the lightest driver weighs 59kg. Then the average weight if an F1 driver is 66.5kg hence each car weighting less must increase its weight ballast equivalent to the difference. Each car driver over will naturally carry some disadvantage. 7.5kg is not too big a disadvantage - noting also that size will still be a concern .

Driver weights are taken at the end of each race and the average can be adjusted for the next race-- this ensures no one goes to Maccas one race and then to Jenny Craig before the next..:) I believe this is a very reasonable and workable balance- but sure the lighter teams won't greet it with open arms...

I cannot believe a guy 6ft 3inch only weighs 74kgs. At 5"9" I weighed that much at 18 - but I could probably pickup the rear end of an F1 car and often played 2 games of premiere league soccer in an afternoon-- please don't ask my specs now lol :).


Re: Maclaren.

Interesting that Martin W finds a problem with Hulk at 74kg given that he's got Button (70kg) on the other side of the garage.

Its not as if they've built the car to Massa and need to find 15kg to get down to the weight limit.

Bjornar Simonsen

How good must Hülkenberg be if he weighs that much more than his team mate? Seems he would still be worth it because what he brings is much more than 3/10s compared to the other available drivers atm.


So it looks like F1 will start to hire F1 drivers from Ethiopia!!!

It makes me sick to watch fashion shows where the idealized women are a pack of bones wearing skin as a makeup, and now, F1 is adopting the same example

Rules should be developed with a fit athlete in mind, as they will cope witha lot of G forces in their body

To me, and to common sense I would imagine, a women's body ideal is similar to many covers in a Playboy magazine (not all), as a man's athlete ideal body is similar to Hulkenberg, 1.85m and 78kg of muscle

F1 making up schizofrenia rules, only proves the sports disorder at organizing themselves.


F1 rules have nothing to do with that. There has always been a minimum weight for (car + driver) in the rules. In fact, this minimum weight have been increased in the last years.

F1 rules do not impose a maximum weight for drivers. Try reading the post again bearing that in mind. The problem is that the driver's weight provides no strategic flexibility in terms of mass distribution in the design. So, it is a competitive restriction, not a normative restriction.


Well you must be a new Sherlock!!!

Obviously there's always been a minimum weight throughout the years, that's not the point.

The difference was that a taller/heavier driver wasn't such an issue, as the minimum weight took in account the available technology plus an average weight person +/-70kg and the rules where created on that base. So a total weight in a car+driver of 60kg was almost the exact same as another car+driver of 70kg. The difference was one car had more ballast than the other

Now, in a year where the overall package weights much more than this year's, mainly due to bigger battery pack for longer use of ERS, FIA only increased the car+driver weight in 48kg!!! This means that a car+normal weigth driver (70kg) will be clearly disadvantaged from a smaller/skinnier driver both in laptime (his overall package will be heavier) as in setup (won't have much ballast to play around).

If you think this is fair, then I assume you won't have many friends in life.

In a time where FIA seeks cost control, the only option for teams to meet such requirements is to spend millions in finding even lighter materials than those available right now, millions they already spent in making the transition to the new power units. Either that or hiring an Ethiopian driver (; It no sense at all

To bring fairness to the sport, and to save teams millions, the only thing they had to do was to increase the total weight by 10-15kg in 2014, and in 2015, when teams where on top of the new technologies, reduce it again.


Actually, for many years minimum weight was car only. So, in days gone by, heavier/taller drivers were even more penalized...


A non-issue, non? He's lighter than Webber, who's been light enough for Red Bull, and he's faster.


One needs to see these racers in real life to realize how small they are. I saw Motogp's Dani Pedrosa a couple of months back at Indy, and that guy is as big as a hand puppet !


I've stood next to Jenson and he's 6ft tall.He's really nice and was very friendly


Real shame if badly crafted rules cause talented taller drivers to be sidelined in favour of less talented but lighter ones. The fact that a team might seriously consider Massa over Hulk shows what a farce it is.

We want to see the best, bravest and most skilled drivers competing not the ones who happen to fit a certain physique. Where does it end? Will F1 drivers become like jockeys?


At times, I don't get F1 people. They can be so eyes wide shut.... What a fuzz on the Hulks weight, 5kg over std. Assume this does have some downside, given his race form who cares over an entire season of top notch driving. Compare that to light weight Massa, it doesn't seem to be given him much advantage, no? Just go for talent, they'll make you forget the 5kg extra very quickly indeed.

Jonathan Powell

I agree and Hulkenberg is heavier than Gutierrez and was obviously quicker than him on sunday plus other occasions aswell!

Obviously Vettel is lighter than Webber but like you said if it was just about weight than Massa would be dominating like Vettel!


If McDonald's, Burger King or Wimpy etc became F1 sponsers im sure Bernie would find a way to increase the weight limit!


No, each second race would be with gravity cars 😉

Seifenkiste, german for gravity car


OK, I'm biased for I'm a small person. The world of sports is filled with big people. A little bit of advantage for the little people, and folks start to cry foul!

Simon Errington

This is very interesting - I have often wondered whether the best drivers are actually the best drivers. When you see former F1 drivers go to other categories where the weight is less important (DTM springs to mind) and they struggle, it makes you think are they really exceptionel or just good and light. F1 cars should carry ballast up to the weight of the heaviest driver (within reason).

This has always been an issue for me when karting at my local track with work colleagues - I usually end up being beaten by the skinny 5 foot 6 inch bloke weighing under 70kg when I'm 6 foot and 90kg.

Talent alone isn't necessarily the be all and end all.

Maybe it should be renamed the F1 Lightweight World Drivers Championship!!

By the way I always think Webber looks ill as he is so underweight. Perhaps he will fill out now!


Any talk to changing the minimum weight requirements for individual car components (engine, etc)? Seems to me that this is part of the issue that results in high caliber drivers like Hulk that may not get (or have a hard time) a particular drive because of weight.


How did Mansell do in the 80s?


Or Gerhard Berger


Or Wurz


so according to this vettel gains 3/10s on webber. who has the time/resource to find out how many times vettel out-qualified webber by less than 3/10s? maybe vettel's qualifying won't look as brilliant as it does.


This keeps getting repeated and it is not correct.

Adding 10KG overall to total car weight increases lap time by 3/10ths.

All cars are built under the minimum limit and heavier drivers have less ballast available to move around the car.

From a 2010 article on Schumacher's weight:

"Seven kilograms makes only about a tenth difference"

Applying this to Webber, 10 / 7 * 0.1 = 0.143 seconds.

In 2010 this would have had him out qualifying Vettel if there was seat ballast to nullify driver weight advantages in the following races:

Australia - Vettel by 0.116

Europe - Vettel by 0.075

Great Britain - Vettel by 0.143 (tied, first to set

lap would have pole)

Japan - Vettel by 0.068

Korea - Vettel by 0.074

Brazil - Vettel by 0.118

Car weight increases since 2010 and the fixed weight distribution + no other driver giving up information about weight/lap time make using this information for other years inaccurate.


No, you completely mis-read the article. It says nothing of the sort.


The Red Bull team in 2010 said it costs Webber around 1-2 tenths a lap but that's it.


It does not cost Webber anything, as his car+driver weighs exactly the same as Vettels.


The teams blocking the min weight increase seem rather shortsighted... It might be an advantage for them now, but it won't be when the pool of available quality drivers has shrunk because the tall/big drivers all drop out before they get to F1. It's in the teams' long term interest to have as many good drivers available as possible, which keeps salaries down so they can spend money on car development.

Worth remembering also that humans in most cultures are getting bigger/taller.

On the other hand, it might open up opportunities for more women, as they tend to be lighter/shorter than men.


the real problem for the taller drivers [ not tall this day and age 6ft is hardly more than average ] is in the centre of gravity is higher even if they can get their weight down enough ; so why not take that away by determining a minimum eye level for drivers often seems to me that the small drivers are too low in the car for a sensible level of visibility ; if that were done the objections to raising the minimum weight would probably disappear


If the rules made the driver weight irrelevant by ballasting the cars of lighter drivers, there would still be a slight penalty because the light drivers would have ballast carried lower in the chassis. There must be a way for the rule-makers to come up with a car weight plus driver weight plus ballast weight formula which will come to the same number for everyone.


James -

This is complete madness.

I cannot believe there is even a debate. It's 2013, you can't force people to be unhealthily thin so they can stay employed. There are some amazing law suits in the offing, never mind the ethics of it all.

So of course the minimum weight needs to be increased.

The teams with lighter drivers can choose where they put their ballast - hey presto - there's (some of) your advantage back.

I thought these were smart, reasonable people in F1. This debate is a terrible advert for the sport and needs to be nipped in the bud.


Jeez, short-track ice skaters tend to be quite small and have to stay thin too, for it's physics.

F1 discriminates against two things - speed & weight. As slow drivers will have issues stay employed, a heavier driver is disadvantaged. Money, of course, is the third thing

Don't get me wrong, I like NH a lot (Kubica even more)



Yes, ice skaters tend to be small. Jockeys need to be small too, loads of people need to be small in order to be a success in their sport. Others need to be big. That's fine.

The difference is, they all aren't sat in man-made machines that weigh ten times their own weight that can be regulated so as to remove any bias of nature and create a more even playing field.

I am shocked that there are even 3 people that have replied to my post disagreeing. This is obvious stuff guys!

Say we have someone that is another Senna but he weighs 12 stone (hardly a big guy, right?), so never gets a drive in F1 and we all miss out on that talent because of this, would that be ok?

Let me put this in context. Obviously, big guys are already disadvantaged because they have to get through karts etc. we all know that. The problem here is that we're talking about a guy who is ALREADY small, right? 11.5 stone / 160 lbs / 73 kilos is not big.

So what we're entertaining here, and what you guys are agreeing with, is the idea that you have to be TINY to remain competitive in F1, so tiny that a great driver might not get a drive because he weighs 11.5 stone. We have a World Champion on the grid who's career might not have happened given these rules.

Do you guys that have replied genuinely not see that this is a stupid, undesirable situation that is easily remedied by going: 'OK, so minimum weight up by 20kilos'? (That just took me 0.233 seconds to fix and I am a simpleton compared to the minds in F1)

If you can't see that, I am dumb-founded.


Madness? This is a competitive sport. Extending your thinking, there should be a mandatory gender participation ratio imposed on the teams??? It's 2013, after all!


Yes, it's madness.

Why do you think there's a minimum weight in the first place? To prevent precisely this situation.

That's my point, it's all been thought-out already, there's just been a miscalculation that needs to be fixed.

What has gender got to do with anything I've written? You are extending my thinking somewhere completely irrelevant. I'm not some PC nut job, banging an equality drum.

This is simple stuff, no?

Great driver, who is there on merit, being told his career is in jeopardy because some guys with a massive conflict of interest won't sanction a few kilo increase in minimum weight?

It's OBVIOUS to anyone with any intelligence, isn't it?


Smart, yes, very...

Reasonable... what!?!? you sure you been following F1?

😉 😛


Surely a simple solution would be that driver and seat combined must weigh 80kg and the car without driver and seat must weigh x kg.


Sounds pretty damn sensible to me. Simple, elegant and (so far as I can think it through) it would create a pretty much even playing field and wouldn't be horrendously costly to implement. Which, of course, means it's an idea that F1 is unlikely to adopt, with the way things seem to be going.


Yeah I agree.

Wasn't there talk a few years back about introducing a minimum driver +seat weight?


So Formula1 is at same point as ski jumping was? People had to starve to gain the optimum weight/ski_surface ratio?

Why not do the same solution: Each pound more the driver has than the VETTEL-REFERENCE-WEIGHT the DRS wing hole can be 1millimetre more opened. So if the heavier driver is this good that he can do curves as good as a more lightweighted one he gains the advantage for an easy overtaking which he really diserves.

Loosing weight: Do we really want to see drivers at 320km/h who can't concentrate because of too low reserves in the starved down body?


My wife found this story very interesting, as it was about men feeling under pressure about their weight and this is something that really only women have faced to date. It is quite discriminatory really, especially if the Hulk fails to land a drive.


It wont be due to weight if that happens. But James rightly so chooses the topics for his discussions, to please the masses in their ignorance 🙂


OMG, can't believe the stuff reading here...

Before end of the century (that is 95-00), the min weight was for car only. That mean, any KG extra a driver had was a penalty...

Nobody complained then! (at least not like this... the internet is wonderful 😛 ;)).

Btw, from what i see there is as much pressure to care about weight both for women and men, both for health and attractiveness reasons (and this is coming from someone who cares very little about looks :P).

Now, just imagine that in fact one the engine manufacturers is in fact overweight (that is, over the 145kg limit for power unit). Why should the eng manufacturers who developed a power unit inside the weight limit be penalized??

Maybe that is due to an optimistic engineering decision/prevision, and they might have advantages (eg, greater reliability and/or more power), so you need to be careful changing it so close to the deadline.

If you think about it this way, it is at least as much unfair to increase the limit than not to increase it.

Truth is, in F1 weight always ruled... and it was the creed of Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman:

"Add lightness"

Have fun


Going to be a light christmas dinner at the Hulk household then. Bet Webber will enjoy himself since he will be free of all the hassle.


"Hulkenberg will appeal because of his obvious quality, but he will appeal only to a team that knows it can get under the weight limit."

The thing is, is this as much of a problem it's being made out to be? It's certainly an issue for the teams stuck at the back end of the grid, but the way I see this particular situation is thus:

Hulkenberg is a bloody good driver; he should be in one of the top teams.

Those are the very teams that are most likely to be able to build a car sufficiently under the weight limit to be able to accommodate him. It's certainly true that his additional weight will reduce the flexibility the team will have with ballast compared with a lighter driver, but I'd imagine that the top teams that might be wanting to hire a new driver (i.e. Lotus or McLaren) are more than capable of accommodating his additional size.

While we're at it, why don't we introduce F1 to the notion of Success Ballast? That would even things out right smart...


The story that Jensen fasts before races is ludicurious. He shouldnt do that whilst operation high performance machinary at such speeds...


I think Massa is the guy for Lotus or Mclaren next year! He has all the requirements!


Is this not a form of discrimination? Being effectively penalised for being born with a bigger frame? This entire rule should be written regardless, it's categorically unfair.


If heavier drivers are at disadvantage then F1 will be missing so many great talents.

Hey why not have weight classes? Then we can debate "the best pound-for-pound driver." haha


All this talk over racing drivers being too heavy at 70+kgs makes me feel fat - I'm 78kgs, and I'm fairly fit with a slim build, and not exactly tall either! So now I'm not only too old to follow my dream of being an F1 driver, I'm too big too! 🙂

Heck, even my not-quite-teenage son is over 40kgs and he's skinny as!

Frankly, talk of drivers being so light is scary from a health point of view, surely the teams have a duty of care to their drivers to ensure they have a sensible food intake? Would the team be liable if there was some accident and it could be proven it was caused by this?


Are the weights quoted for the various drivers - 74kg for Hulk for example - just for the driver themselves, or are they "race weights" including helmet, HANS device, fireproofs etc.?


I have 2 points. 1. The FIA dictated the new engines for 2014 and provided a base weight for the engine. If they and of ocurse the engine manufactueres, have not met this figure fine, but why penalise the sportsman who make a living out of driving. Increase the min weight of the car by the additional amount the engines are over the originally predicted weight. 2. How safe is this if teams will now have to cut corners to save weight. Is this not a possible safety concern?


I'm sorry but F1 is nuts for this to even be an issue.

Why don't we just forget the driver and go with a robot... one thats obviously not too heavy or had too much personality...



These are interesting times indeed. There is something called a "Technical Review". It's a very efficient way of looking deep into the project at hand (from the technology package, design, to practicality, safety, costing etc). Done properly, the benefits are amazing. The current state of F1 is amazing. Cost saving efforts vs new radical regulations. And now...another you have the Hulk seating with a situation! And you will wonder how this wasn't picked up from the onset.



This is a complete joke. We're already losing talent to decent but not top-grade GP2 drivers (VDG, Chilton, Gutierrez etc.) with financial backing and we now risk losing real championship-winning ability.

Surely there's an easy solution to this. How about seat and driver combined have to be a certain kg. Build the deficit into the specific driver's seat as ballast. This shouldn't interfere too much with centre of gravity and should ensure the nobody gains or loses in this regard.


There are drivers heavier than Hulk, so the issue other teams have with him is certainly not weight.


a lighter driver has an advantage,always has,always will,end of,no point saying otherwise,its just how it is.


Chance for light Kovalainen to come back?

Experienced on a top, has tested victory, experienced at the end rows developing/testing, is in good form..

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