Some people have all the fun. Michael Schumacher dons a fireproof suit
and a high-tech helmet when he goes to work. His office is the cramped quarters
of a Formula One racer cockpit. He drives around a course for two hours about
16 times a year, and takes home millions.
It's not all that easy becoming a race car driver. First of all, race car
drivers must be in top physical condition. You might not expect that, considering
drivers sit in a car all day, but race car drivers are among the world's best
A two-hour race requires a great deal of endurance. The driver experiences
strong gravitational forces while going around corners. Drivers can lose up
to 15 percent of their body weight in a race due to dehydration.
"You're in a car for two hours with temperatures in the cockpits up to
about 110 degrees with a five-layer fire-retardant suit and underwear and
headgear. It can be very physically draining," noted Formula 1600 racer Marybeth
Harrison in a radio interview.
"In Indy cars, they can shift up to 2,000 times per race. So if you think
you're having to move your hands and feet, and braking, it all requires leg
muscles. And with turning the steering wheel, it's arms and upper back."
What's the issue with strong gravitational forces? Everyone on Earth feels
the downwards pull of one unit of gravity, described as one G. In space, where
there is no gravity, astronauts feel zero G. Fighter pilots experience five
to nine G in sharp corners. The race car driver faces forces of five G in
the corners. Drivers need to be healthy and very fit to take that kind of
stress to their bodies.
Race car drivers drive race cars professionally. Besides that, they must
also do a fair bit of handshaking and public relations work. Much of the racing
business depends on sponsors, who want their products and brand names to be
associated with winning teams. The driver has to be able to attract and represent
Drivers also do commercial endorsements. That's when advertisers use a
winner or a celebrity face to help sell their products.
Some drivers racing in lower-level street car competitions work at the
same local track most of the time. Other drivers travel a great deal during
the year. They may race at many different tracks if they are driving in a
series of races, called a circuit. The IndyCar and NASCAR series are examples
of race circuits.
These drivers work seven days a week, taking part in press conferences,
competing in races and preparing for more races. Long hours are the rule.
Forget about having the weekend off.
During the winter, when the racing season is over, drivers often head south
where the weather is better. They're not relaxing: they're at testing facilities.
They may test out tires, engines, and cars. Basically, these tests involve
driving around a track really fast.
As you can see, racing is a sport that takes the driver away from their
home and family a lot of the time.
Drivers usually work for people who own a car and operate a team of racing
professionals. The team includes mechanics, technicians, drivers, businesspeople
and the pit crew. Lots of high-tech equipment is needed to keep the team racing.
Some drivers own their own cars and operate their own teams, although this
is not as common.
While races are held all over North America, there is a higher concentration
in the warmer places like Florida. That's because practicing, testing and
training can go on year-round.