With Nico Hulkenberg being in the unfortunate position of fine driving resulting with no reward of a seat in a top Formula One car next season, is his weight, in a time of harsh weight rules, one of the main reasons Kimi Raikkonen beat him to a Ferrari spot?
Perhaps this isn’t just valid for Hulkenberg, but the German is one of the most obvious examples of weight hindering him, and therefore, it came to my attention. With next season’s new engine rules, the maximum weight of car and driver together has been raised to 690kg from 649kg. This change was made for next year due to the new 1.6-litre turbo engines being heavier than this season’s 2.4-litre V8s.
But the problem is, teams are discovering that these engines are actually heavier than first suspected, meaning cuts on weight have to be taken elsewhere. The best option for the performance of the car, of course, is the driver — a common situation for drivers over the past decade or so.
With the seats at many of the teams in F1 vacant during this season, the selection on who fills them next year has been a big talking point. Sauber‘s Hulkenberg has been impressive for many years now and you would say deserves a shot at a team like Ferrari. But as he missed out on McLaren last year, Red Bull this and then, soon after, Ferrari as well, the question is really, why? Other than the obvious answer that the other drivers may be considered better, weight is possibly a big factor.
Being one of the tallest drivers in the paddock at 1.84m, he weighs 74kg. Take into account that 0.035secs is lost per lap per kilo and you can see my point. When you compare Hulkenberg to others, you really see how these harsh restrictions are hurting him. 9cm shorter Kimi Raikkonen is also 4kg lighter than Hulkenberg. That means Hulkenberg costs 0.14 seconds a lap in comparison, which in F1 is a lot. That time needs to then be found by taking weight out of other areas in the car — an option teams would rather not take.
The same can be said for 74kg Paul Di Resta, although I don’t believe he was really ever in the running for a Ferrai seat. Whereas we now know Hulkenberg was in very advanced contract talks until Raikkonen stormed in.
Infact, McLaren have stated that Hulkenberg was ruled out as an alternative to Sergio Perez (who weighs 10kg less) next season due to the fact his weight would cause problems.
It’s easy to say, “why don’t they just lose weight?” But it’s quite serious. F1 drivers are already thin athletes, there is only a limit to how far you can push. Former British driver David Coulthard has admitted he suffered from bulimia for several years due to his need to lose weight as a taller driver.
It’s an issue that is sadly not going to be changed any time soon, as the teams that have the lighter drivers won’t push for it and the lighter drivers themselves won’t be inclined for the rules to change, either.
But as Jenson Button said to the F1 media:
“The problem is that it will stop people looking at taller drivers in the future. You could have a very talented driver who could be missed for his height and weight, even if he is the fittest and skinniest driver ever been in a racing car.”
For those lighter drivers, it clearly benefits them and will continue to do so next season. With the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel weighing around a mere 64kg. It is hard for them all to lose weight, though, with Lewis Hamilton (71kg) admitting he will fail to meet the ideal 65kg. However, I have no doubt that for the taller drivers who are heavier and extremely talented, they will miss out on the best seats over the seasons to come if the weight limits aren’t raised.