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G-Force and Formula One: Explained

G-force. A term that crops up often in Formula One. But what is it? And how does it affect our drivers when they are behind the wheel?

The first thing to note is that it is not just drivers who experience G-force. We all do, daily. When an object speeds up, slows down or switches direction, G-forces are created.

Ever noticed that sensation when braking while driving, being in an airplane during take-off and landing, or that feeling you get when going up and down on a rollercoaster? That is G-force.

Our bodies are designed to withstand these everyday forces, but from a driver's perspective, those feelings will be heightened in an F1 car, most notably when cornering, braking, or accelerating.

In the instance of a corner, drivers are exposed to lateral G-forces which push them towards the side of the car. These are also known as side-to-side G-forces.

The number of Gs refers to the weight of force that a driver will feel.

Take Turn One at Suzuka. A sweeping, flowing, high-speed right-handed flick taken at more than 260kmh (161mph). A Formula One car will generate over 5G at the apex of the corner - the highest lateral G on the entire 2024 calendar - meaning in that moment the driver will feel a force five times their body weight.

To put that into perspective, George Russell weighs 70 kilograms. Every time he flies through Turn One at the Japanese Grand Prix, he will experience a force of about 350kg on his body - the equivalent of a grand piano!

Corners such as Eau Rouge at Spa, and the Maggots-Becketts complex at Silverstone also place an immense level of inertia on our drivers, subjecting their bodies to up 5G of force at full racing speed.

How Does a Driver Prepare for G-Forces?

With such high-levels of G in play, and the risk of yet higher loads from crashing and other incidents, it is absolutely pivotal that a driver is physically prepared to face what may be thrown their way in a racing environment.

The biggest force is felt on the neck, and that means neck strength becomes a key part of a driver's workout routine in between races.

To make sure the neck muscles are ready to face anything that comes their way during a Formula One season, drivers will often strap 30kg weights around their heads and dangle it off the edge of a table to resist the force. Here's George to demonstrate what that looks like.

Furthermore, gym sessions may be carried out while wearing a specially-weighted helmet, designed to replicate the conditions faced when launching a Formula One car into a 265kmh (165mph) corner while wearing a 7kg helmet.

Again, here's George to demonstrate

F1 safety plays its part as well, with the seatbelt and HANS (Head and Neck Safety) device designed to keep the driver locked in a more stable position within the car.

Any driver will tell you there's something quite hypnotic about G-force. The thrill and sensation of hooking up a series of corners at full speed, flicking a race car from apex to apex while under immense physical pressure can't be matched.

For those watching trackside or around the world on TV, there is nothing quite like watching a Formula One race car in full flow. And now you know how it feels for a driver, too.

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