Formula 1 Insight

Heikki gets Heavier

With almost every F1 driver apparently doing a Kubica and losing weight for the coming season, Heikki Kovalainen has dared to be different by actually gaining weight. According to a minor item on F1-Live, Heikki has added a solid 4.5kg (10lbs) through hard training over the winter. The 174cm (5'8") driver now weighs in at 65kg (143lb) and says he feels much better for it.

Heikki and MP4-24
Heikki Kovalainen and the McLaren MP4-24

That last is the clue to a possible disadvantage awaiting those who happily copied Robert Kubica's much-publicized loss of weight over the winter of 2007/2008. Muscle weight can have a lot to do with stamina and some drivers may find themselves running out of steam towards the end of races this year, especially as the cars are likely to be more demanding with the decrease in rear end grip.

Kubica's weight loss may or may not have had anything to do with his excellent form through 2008; probably more influential in gaining Robert the spotlight were the problems encountered by his team mate, Nick Heidfeld. It is doubtful, anyway, that losing a few kilos makes much difference in a driver's performance and Heikki needs to be applauded for realizing that there are more important matters involved than a slight difference in the ballast available to the engineers.

McLaren's current difficulties with the MP4-24 are unlikely to be solved by having a little more ballast to play with - the problem is aerodynamic and concerns either the diffuser or the rear wing. His team mate, Lewis Hamilton, weighs 64kg so it wasn't weight that made the difference between them in 2008!

Heikki has been realistic in attending to the one area, stamina, where he feels he may have had a weakness last year and I, for one, think that we will see a much more determined and competitive Kovalainen this season. Good on yer, Heikki!


Pink Peril
I think he might be on the right track there. The car will be lighter at the end of the race anyway, with the fuel burn, so any increase in drivers weight will negate that if he has the stamina to continue.

I didn't particularly notice Heikki flagging at the end of the races last year, but presumably he would know more about that than I. If he felt it was an issue, then I'm happy to go with that.

Date Added: 16/03/2009

I thought Heikki was strangely lacklustre in the races last year; there were times when he qualified well but show no real spark in the races. That may well have been a strength/stamina issue that required that he build body strength.

It's not unheard of in F1 - most Japanese drivers have problems in that area as they tend to be quite lightly built.
Date Added: 16/03/2009

Yes, I have wondered whether the quest for drivers to be ever lighter might be counterproductive if it means reducing muscle mass to such an extent as to no longer have the strength and stamina to last a race distance.

It's not karting after all - a lot more physical strength is required to drive an F1 car and the weight penalty is not so drastic.
Date Added: 17/03/2009

Actually, it surprises me that the possibility hasn't been mentioned before. Driving a full race distance in an F1 car is a severe test of stamina and strength and I doubt that the drivers had much spare weight on them to begin with.
Date Added: 17/03/2009

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