The Sauber drivers have been preparing for the rigours of a 20-race Formula 1 season by attending a four-day fitness camp in above the Walensee lake in the Swiss canton of Glarus.
The training units that make up the programme are geared towards improving strength, endurance, coordination, reaction times, concentration, and teamwork, all of which are essential for driving a Formula 1 car, especially in hot climates over a two-hour race.
Activities such as cross-country skiing, mountaineering with snowshoes and night hiking, as well as ice climbing on a frozen waterfall have all been completed by Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez and reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez. In addition, the drivers have been involved in various ball games, badminton, and live shooting exercises – an activity that was a particular favourite of Kobayashi’s.
“We had a very good instructor and it was great to try and do this well. I have to admit that generally I don't like the winter very much, as I prefer warmer temperatures. However, overall it was really a very tough programme and it was good to do it. We have had a long break and the season kicks off soon – it is time to get going again and I feel fit.”
Perez, who is about to begin his first season in Formula 1, also enjoyed his time at the camp. “We did a lot of work and I'm quite happy with the shape I am in,” said the Venezuelan. “I enjoyed every exercise with my favourites being climbing in a frozen waterfall, followed by cross country skiing. To me it was also very important and a really nice experience to spend time with my new team mates and build up relationships with them.”
Gutierrez, who is also Venezuelan, has been on a similar training camp before with Sauber, also found the experience useful. “It was great to have so many new and different activities on the programme,” said the 19-year-old. “I did things I have never done before in my life and that was interesting! Certainly this is a very good way to start the season. My favourite was cross country skiing, as I enjoyed that a lot.”
Some people outside of the sport do not appreciate the fitness levels required of a modern-day Formula 1 driver, but during a race they can experience forces of over 5g and have to put up with constant vibrations and cockpit temperatures occasionally reaching 50°C. Despite these conditions, they must maintain optimum concentration for a race which can often exceed 90 minutes and react correctly to any incident within a fraction of a second. The average heart rate of a driver can peak at around 160-180 beats per minute during a race, hence the reason why the off-season is used for intensive training in order to increase their endurance.