MARCH 27, 1995
F1's weight problems
Formula 1 drivers have astounded the F1 fraternity by all putting on large amounts of weight during the winter months. But the weight gains are not due to ice cream or French fries but rather because it is now in a drivers interest to weigh as much as possible at the pre-season weigh-in.
In the past cars were weighed with the drivers onboard and the weight of the driver was then automatically deducted to produce the weight of the car. This meant that at the start of each year every driver was weighed and the figures fed into the computer. As a result drivers tried to be as light as possible before the weigh-in, not eating and going on to the scales with lightweight overalls, boots and helmets. By having a very light recorded weight drivers gained an advantage because in later qualifying sessions - when they weighed more - the cars could actually be lighter than the weight limit and would therefore be slightly quicker.
In an effort to stop this the FIA decided to introduce a new rule which stated that the car and the driver should be weighed together and there should be a combined weight limit. The problem with this was that the FIA could not insist on drivers staying with their cars until long after the races and so, in order to weigh the cars at the end of the race, the drivers weights had to be recorded once more so that these figures could be added to the weight of the cars to see if the car/driver combination was actually legal.
This meant that it was suddenly in the drivers' interests to have a recorded weight heavier than normal which would mean that the cars could be run lighter. This was not noticed until FIA officials looked at the 1995 driver weights and compared them to those of last year and discovered some serious weight gains. Every single driver gained at least 3 lbs in weight but quite a lot gained considerably more. F1's top fatty was Karl Wendlinger, who gained a massive 22 lbs without appearing to gain anything. Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen may look skinny but each one gained 19 lbs when they were weighed. Domenico Schiatarella and Eddie Irvine both put on a sizable 14 lbs while Panis must have scoffed so much French food that he weighed in 13 lbs heavier than last year. Damon Hill, Mika Salo, Mark Blundell, Gianni Morbidelli, Rubens Barrichello, Bertrand Gachot, Luca Badoer and Gerhard Berger all gained more than 10 lbs.
The mysterious case of the missing fat was explained by Michael Schumacher, who said that his fitness training program had turned more of his body fat into muscle. This ridiculous explanation and the huge weight gains have convinced the FIA that F1 drivers are a devious lot. Suggestions that the stars might have to be weighed without any clothing have been rejected for fear that they will start loading ball bearings into any available orifice...
The most honest GP drivers, by the way, would appear to be Ukyo Katayama and Heinz-Harald Frentzen who gained only 3lbs each.
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