Drivers refute implied ‘diva’ suggestions from Martin Brundle and Gerhard Berger

Michelle Foster
Williams driver Alex Albon speaking with George Russell.

Alex Albon says drivers weren't "divas", it was "bad" in Qatar.

Suffering in the heat and humidity in Qatar, Alex Albon says F1 drivers weren’t being “divas” in their complaints, it was “painful” and “bad”.

Last time out in Qatar the drivers raced in 40°C temperatures with humidity over 60 percent, and it led to heat-related illness for many of them.

Logan Sargeant retired from the race with severe dehydration, Esteban Ocon threw up in his helmet and Lance Stroll was “passing out” in the car.

Former F1 drivers questioned the fitness of today’s drivers

But even with race winner Max Verstappen declaring it was “way too hot to race” and Lando Norris calling it “dangerous”, some former drivers were critical of them saying if they were fitter, they wouldn’t have had a problem.

Gerhard Berger questioned the fitness of those who fell ill, saying “if you’re really fit, you won’t get sick“, while Christian Danner quipped to ServusTV that it was the result of chasing “six-pack abs” instead of proper preparation.

Martin Brundle also weighed in, saying “races like Qatar and very rainy days which make F1 drivers look the heroes and athletes they are, absolutely don’t buy into the weak view we shouldn’t put them through this kind of challenge”.

Albon, one of those who had to seek medical attention after the race, didn’t appreciate what he saw as “diva” comments for his complaints about the conditions.

“It’s not fitness-related at that point, it’s pure heat exhaustion,” he said as per The Race. “Everyone’s passing out on the floor trying to strip off their clothes after the race, so it’s not really a fitness point.

“I would be one of the better people at it because of my ethnicity and being used to the humidity. It was painful. We are driving around quickly, the speeds that we’re doing around Qatar are huge.

“It’s one of those things, we can’t communicate it because we’re the only people that drive it so when we say it’s bad I hope people just take our word for it and know that we’re not being divas.”

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Following Qatar, the FIA announced they would look into the heat situation and that a “number of measures will be discussed at the upcoming medical commission meeting in Paris.

“Measures may include guidance for competitors, research into modifications for more efficient airflow in the cockpit, and recommendations for changes to the calendar to align with acceptable climatic conditions, amongst others.”

George Russell also weighed in on the past drivers’ comments, saying things in Formula 1 have changed a lot with more electronics and thicker fireproofs making life in the cockpit even hotter than it was 20 years ago.

“Well, what I can say is that I train substantially for the heat. I train with three layers of clothes ahead of these hot races. I do a huge amount of saunas to adapt to the heat,” Russell said of the ex-drivers’ criticism.

“These guys who are commenting on this, we’re driving cars 20 seconds a lap faster than they were, going through corners and pulling 5G in every single aspect.

“Of course, we need to be gladiators, but when it comes to the heat, there’s only so much the body can take.

“Anyone can say what they like but also the race cars in the ’90s and ’80s didn’t have all the electronic boxes round the cockpit heating the cockpit up.

“They didn’t have the power steering system which was running at 50, 60 degrees, radiating heat. We have hydraulic lines running all around the cockpit which is at 120 degrees, the cockpit was closing in on 60°C through that race and we have a thicker fireproof underwear than they ever wore.

“Since the Grosjean crash [Bahrain 2020, ed.], the fireproofs are sustainably thicker, it’s like wearing a fleece. People can say what they like. Things are different now, the same way they were different 40 years ago [to what came before].”

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