Button and Hamilton warn that drivers risk dehydration trying to drop weight
Lewis Hamilton stormed to victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend but the Mercedes driver and his former teammate Jenson Button warned of the health implications some drivers face while attempting to cut weight and maximise performance.
The British pair revealed to The Independent prior to qualifying in Malaysia that some drivers are not eating or drinking in an attempt to cut their weight and shave milliseconds off lap times.
"At the moment I'm pretty sure it's hardcore what some people are doing," Hamilton said.
"You can go into qualifying a little bit dehydrated. I heard someone was doing that, exhausting themselves. And then the next day they can drink some more because the race is different," he added.
Hamilton went on to accept that losing weight during the winter off-season was just another 'challenge' but said: "It's OK, as long as you don't get to an unsafe area. If someone said I had to get down to Massa's weight for example, then it would be silly. But at the moment we're OK, the car is a decent weight, and we're able to stay reasonably well within the weight limit. But I can't imagine how it is for the really heavy drivers. There's a minimum they can get to without cutting an arm off."
Both Button and Hamilton weigh around the 70kg mark but have to wear an array of safety equipment, including a helmet, fireproof underwear, boots and a neck support system, which can have an adverse effect on performance when first and second place are separated by just 0.035 seconds as it was this weekend.
According to The Independent, on the 5.543km Sepang International Circuit every extra 10kg can add three- or four-tenths of a second to the lap time.
One of the lightest drivers on the track is Felipe Massa - who weighs in at just 63kg – and at the other end of the scale is Adrian Sutil at 80kg.
Button, who is somewhere in the middle of his two opponents, admitted that he spent five days undertaking humidity training in Phuket with triathlon athletes in order to keep his weight in check.
"I was training with four pro athletes and it has been bloody hard but really good," he said.
"But some guys are struggling. Adrian Sutil is, and I'm sure that the heavier drivers are dehydrating themselves because that's what I was going to do – go in the sauna, have a steam, and not drink or eat until after qualifying. You would have breakfast but no carbohydrates and only stuff that goes right through you quickly. I was going to do it and did it all year until now, but it's a shame for the guys who have to do it."