“Extra weight obviously would be a disadvantage in car performance terms, but you can’t be under the [minimum weight limit],” one said. “It’s also why lighter-weight drivers tend to be a more appealing choice to teams. A lighter driver gives the team more opportunity to distribute ballast in and around the car to alter or improve a lower center of gravity, e.g. to improve car balance/performance. … It’s a balancing act with car weight, ballast (depending if and how much) and driver weight.”
Formula 1 drivers are weighed to keep the playing field even — and to keep them healthy.
According to One Stop Racing, the reasons for the weigh-in are twofold. For starters, lighter cars have an advantage on the track, and thus taller and heavier drivers were often at a disadvantage. But F1 applied a minimum weight total for the driver and their ballast so that heavier drivers wouldn’t risk their health to lose weight.
“I think the regulation is good, especially for the taller drivers. It makes life a bit easier,” driver Valtteri Bottas told the Associated Press in March 2019. “Many drivers had to be below our natural weight, and it is very easy to get ill or sick. This is the first winter for many years that I didn’t get any flu or any sickness.”
F1 introduced a minimum driver weight in 2019.
As Motorsport.com explained in 2018, F1 decided to establish a minimum weight of 80 kilograms — about 176 pounds — for drivers and their seat ballast. The total weight for cars and their drivers rose to 740 kilograms, up from 734 kilograms in 2018, 728 kilograms in 2017, and 702 kilograms before that.
The 80-kilogram minimum for drivers and their seats meant that a 70-kilogram driver would need 10 kilograms of seat ballast below them, the site explained.
“It’s been a common topic over many years; actually, it’s not a fresh point,” Paddy Lowe, then the technical chief for the Williams Racing team, told Motorsport.com at the time. “If you go back many years, actually, the driver weight was not in the car weight at all. And then it became added somewhere in the mid-‘90s to the total weight. But it’s still left, as some perceive — including many of the drivers — a problem around their management of weight. Sometimes that can affect them personally in quite a big way.”
He went on: “I think particularly with younger drivers it can even lead to health problems, because of this constant drive to lower the weight, to possibly unhealthy levels. Personally, I think it’d be a good thing for the sport, something that many drivers have been asking for for many years, to take that element away, within reason.”