There has been a lot of discussion over drivers’ weight this season. This is due to the increased weight of the power units, and the limited maximum weight of a complete car, including driver. Racing is all about power to weight ratio. This is having the maximum amount of power possible, while maintaining the lightest possible vehicle.
When engineers design a car, they can choose many options to reduce weight. Carbon fiber is an excellent example of this. Body pieces made out of carbon fiber are much lighter than their metal, plastic, or fiberglass counterparts. If an engineer needs to reduce weight, he can simple redesign a smaller part, switch materials, combine systems, etc.
This weight reduction tactic is not as easy when it comes to the drivers. The engineers can’t just lop a chunk off a driver to save a few kilograms. Unfortunately, due to the massive amount of rule changes and strict regulations for this season, drivers are being told to meet unrealistic weight requirements.
Professional racing drivers have always been physically fit individuals of relatively smaller stature in order to minimize weight while maintain performance of driver and car. However this season, drivers are becoming emaciated and even driving races with no drink water in the car, such as Sutil in Bahrain.
This is clearly a safety concern. The extreme amounts of physical exertion and performance required from a Formula One driver during a race is incredible. If a driver is unable to meet these physical demands due to malnutrition or dehydration, there could easily be an on track incident that costs the life of another driver. This is the same logic behind there being laws against driving your car while intoxicated or using the phone.
There are many options the FIA has available to them. They could impose minimum/maximum BMI measurements that a driver and teams must meet. But in addition to this there must be reasonable weight allowances for drivers. Having a rule limiting the minimum weight of driver with equalizing ballast and its location in the cockpit would be one. Allowing the field to be even in technical performance standards, while allowing for the natural human diversity.
Another point to think about is that this may be limiting future drivers. The next Schumacher, Prost, Vettel, Stewart, Lauda, Senna, etc. might never drive in Formula One because they are half a kilogram too heavy and refuse to become anorexic. In a sport that is claiming to be focused on the concerns of a modern time with “greening” of the race cars through regulations; they have done a disservice to the human element of drivers. The FIA needs to care just as much about people, as they do fuel consumption.