PETALING JAYA: Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello trains in a heated swimming pool. Teammate Michael Schumacher goes somewhere sunny. Minardi rookie Justin Wilson works out at a hotel gym before jogging outside.
They are all learning to handle the heat and humidity that they will face in the Malaysian F1 GP this weekend.
“I have been preparing myself by training in a warm water swimming pool in Brazil just after the Australian GP,” said Barrichello in an e-mail reply to The Star. “The hot water, heated at 30°C under an air temperature of 33°C (the temperature in Brazil) helps to reinforce my body tolerance to the Malaysian conditions.”
He has also started on a different menu, prepared by his Italian trainer, which is based on mineral salts, fruits, vegetables and a lot of fluids designed to hydrate his body.
Preparations for Malaysia started some 10 days ago, when Barrichello travelled to Brazil from Australia.
Being Brazilian, he also feels that he is more prepared to face the Malaysian weather because the conditions in the two countries are similar.
Five-time world champion Schumacher said he just would go to a hot and humid area to get himself ready for Malaysia.
“And then I just train normally, but in these conditions it is obviously different, though. You just try to treat it as a normal circumstance, it is not something that you do something really different,” he said.
On preparations for his car, Schumacher said the biggest problem was the heat and the main thing was to cool the car.
“Just before the start for example, the cars are packed with ice as long as possible. (At the start) you see all the ice is falling out of the cars,” he added.
Acclimatisation for the hot Malaysian weather is crucial for drivers and their teams, as track temperatures can rise up to 40°C while in the cockpit, it hits about 55°C – sweltering conditions considering that they are in their fireproof racing suits for almost two hours on race day.
Dehydration and exhaustion are key elements that they have to avoid.
The Sauber Petronas drivers, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Nick Heidfeld travelled directly to Malaysia after the Australian Grand Prix with a stopover in a health training camp with team trainer Josef Laberer.
“Fitness is the key to speed and survival. Josef has prepared a serious programme for the two of us. There will be a lot of exercises in the morning in order to improve our physical fitness and resistance to the heat, sun and hot weather,” said Frentzen.
He added that for the cars, the aerodynamics had been adapted to be efficient besides working at the cooling and maximising the downforces.
Heidfeld also said that fitness was crucial, especially if an accident happened.
“Quick recovery may also well depend upon the level of fitness. Our necks have to become strong enough. General fitness is so important. I have to try to build my muscles up.”
For power and energy, Heidfeld said he trained on a daily basis and used a lot of different exercises including jogging on a beach and sea besides swimming.
For Jaguar drivers Mark Webber and rookie Antonio Pizzonia, acclimatisation preparations have been carried out in Port Douglas, which is near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
“This involved high altitude work and intense cardio-vascular exercises aimed at optimising breathing in low altitude. The mental preparation is no different from race-to-race,” said Webber, adding that they allowed themselves about a week to acclimatise.
Ensuring maximum performance from their cars, Pizzonia said, meant working closely with tyre partner Michelin to ensure optimum performance from the tyres.
“ It is also very important to optimise the cooling of the car, and in some cases, you will see teams cutting extra areas into the body to allow the heat from the engine to escape better,” he added.
Minardi’s Wilson said he had begun working out at the hotel gym since arriving on Sunday night.
“I’ll be jogging outside today, so I’m slowly acclimatising to the heat,” he said, adding that he has given himself under a week to get used to the weather.