Formula 1 races can be up to 2 hours long and it’s vitally important for the drivers to stay fully hydrated throughout. Hydration comes from taking on lots of liquid, but that liquid has to go somewhere. So just how do F1 drivers pee?
Well the truth is a far cry from the glitz and glamour of the F1 world. If they gotta go, then they gotta go.
This article exposes how F1 drivers answer the call of nature during a race, and how racers from other endurance motorsports deal with the same problem.
hydration and fluid management
Keeping hydrated throughout a Formula 1 race which can be up to 2 hours long is vitally important for drivers. Correct hydration ensures they are concentrated, focus and don’t run the risk of any muscle cramps whilst their body is subjected to the high G-forces.
Making sure they’re correctly hydrated during the race starts well before the race actually begins. Each driver will have a nutritionist and personal trainer whose job is to ensure the driver is in perfect shape come the start of a race. They’ll make sure the F1 driver is drinking plenty of fluid from the moment they wake up on race day.
David Coulthard said he used to drink upwards of 5 litres from when he first got out of bed to the moment he got in the car before the start of an F1 race.
The pre-race hydration is accompanied by plenty of trips to the toilet to make sure the driver’s bladder is as empty as possible before the race.
how do F1 drivers drink during a race?
Each F1 car has a drinks system fitted to it. In the cockpit of the car, usually down by the driver’s legs or behind their seat, there’s a flexible bag that can be filled with a drink of the driver’s choice. This won’t normally just be water, instead it’ll be a flavoured isotonic drink full of electrolytes and salts to help replenish the fluids and minerals the driver loses through sweat.
The drinks bag is usually filled up with a funnel and a long tube, like in the image below.
Each driver is likely to have a different drink in their car. Vitaly Petrov once said that he filled his with Green Tea as the drinks got heated up so much by the engine, and tea tasted much nicer than a Lucozade when warm.
F1 drivers drink by pressing a ‘DRINK’ button on their steering wheel. This will activate a small pump (much like a windscreen washer pump) that will suck the drink from its bag, up a long tube through the cockpit and in to the driver’s helmet. The drink will squirt directly in to the driver’s mouth, and they can drink as much as they need during the race.
Need a drink? #F1 cars carry around 1 litre of fluid for the driver. It sits in a tank behind or under the seat (red bull had theirs in the nose just year!).— Craig Scarborough (@ScarbsTech) May 6, 2022
A pump operated by a steering wheel button squirts the drink into the drivers open mouth.#miamigp pic.twitter.com/Sz9LJm2GOO
Hopefully the team doesn’t forget to connect the drinks system up before the race, as Ferrari did to Kimi once.
how much do F1 drivers drink during a race?
The amount F1 drivers drink during a race varies from driver to driver. Lewis Hamilton usually drinks around 0.5 litres per race, Valtteri Bottas normally drinks around 1 litre but other drivers such as Lando Norris don’t drink anything at all.
To keep weight down the maximum capacity of the drinks bag is usually around 1.5 litres.
the urination problem
If the driver and their trainer gets their hydration plan just right, in theory the driver shouldn’t need to heed the call of nature during the 2 hour race.
Even at some of the colder races, the heat of the F1 car’s engine plus the high G-forces experienced by the driver combined with their continual physical exertion means they’ll sweat. At the races in the hot and humid climates, they’ll sweat a lot.
If they sweat enough it’s unlikely they’ll need to pee as most of the fluids they take on will be lost through perspiration. Sometimes they can lose over 2kg in sweat in one race.
If the race has a prolonged safety car period or a red flag the driver’s physical exertion is much lower and they’ll sweat less. Their bladder may start to fill up, and it’s these scenarios where they might find themselves in a sticky predicament. So just how do F1 drivers pee if they need to?
how do F1 drivers pee?
During practice sessions there’s usually time for the driver to come in to the pits and run to the toilet whilst the team tweaks the car or practices pit stops.
However, if an F1 driver needs to pee during a race then they simply have to go in their race suit whilst sat in their reclined seating postion. They don’t wear nappies, diapers, catheters, SheWees or anything else to pre-empt getting caught short.
Thankfully, they’re often hydrated enough to produce nothing more than a clear odourless liquid. Good news for the laundry man.
But peeing when doing 200mph and experiencing 5G when strapped in tightly to a F1 car isn’t as easy as it sounds. I think we’ll all agree that to take a pee you need to be relaxed, and racing an F1 car is definitely not a relaxing environment.
which F1 drivers pee in their seat?
The Scottish 13-time Grand Prix winner says he’s only ever urinated in his F1 car’s seat on one occasion, during the 1997 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. A prolonged safety car period to clear up the wreckage where Olivier Panis crashed and broke his leg tipped DC over the edge, and he had to pee.
But he said doing it in the car, even under relatively sedate safety car conditions, was much harder than it seems.
Lewis Hamilton, in a 2016 Interview on the Ellen DeGeneres show, said that he’d never peed in his seat during an F1 race. Believe that if you will.
But he did reveal something about one of the all-time great drivers…
In that same interview Lewis said that some of his race mechanics who’d worked with Michael Schumacher in previous years claim Schuey relieved himself in his suit every single race. Maybe that was the key to his success, peeing.
Mark Webber says he took a pee in his race suit only once during his F1 career. That was at Malaysia in 2009 and some unexpected pre-race events meant he screwed up his hydration plan. Come lap 10 of the race and he was already busting to go.
Knowing he was in for a torrid and painful time if he tried to hold it for the rest of the race, he had to quickly come find an answer to the question how do F1 drivers pee. And it involved doing it right there and then. But it actually took some planning.
The F1 circuit in Malaysia consisted of two incredibly long straights right near the end of the lap. Trying to pee whilst going in a straight line would be much easier than whilst cornering. Come the start of the second straight he managed to relax enough to let it go. But by the time he had to brake for the next corner he wasn’t done, so he clenched up and stopped the flow.
Come the next straight he let the rest out and continued on his merry way.
other endurance racer peeing habits
F1 racers aren’t the only ones in the motorsport world who have to deal with this predicament.:
- Paris-Dakar racers can spend up to 12 hours in the car at a time. And no one can hold a pee for that long. Some of them will use external catheters that go either to a bag or straight out the side of the car so they can relieve themselves without having to sit in their own pee for hours.
- 24 hour of Le Mans winner Darren Turner says he once had to go during the race. He said the biggest mistake he made during the whole ordeal was doing it when he hit the brakes. The pee shot forwards, ran down his leg and gave him a soggy boot for the next hour.
- 24 hours of Daytona racer Randy Pobst has one of the best peeing-in-the-car stories going. It involves a 2.5 hour safety car period, a bottle of soapy water and an open driver’s door. Oh and the need to go twice. Listen to Randy tell the hilarious full story in the video below.