Driving modern F1 cars like piloting an airplane

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso believes the complexity of driving a modern Formula One car is similar to being an airplane pilot.

Much has been made of the challenges of a modern F1 car from inside the cockpit, with drivers now expected to do a lot more than just race. Alonso thinks the role of the driver has shifted away from racing hard to making sure the whole package is working at the optimum level.

"You have to control everything in the best way possible or most efficient way, that's your challenge," Alonso said. "Like airplane pilots, probably, they just have to control that everything is working fine. A small little plane, they have a lot more to do probably, because there's not so much automatic to do. It's now difficult to push the limit because if you push at the limit something will go into a less efficient mode and that will affect the total lap time. You just need to make sure everything is at 100% – not yourself."

There was such concern about the perception that drivers were just going through the motions inside the cockpit that a clampdown on radio communications was enforced midway through last season, meaning drivers could no longer ask for advice on how to drive their cars. However, Alonso thinks the mental challenge now far outweighs the physical challenge of driving.

When asked if he agreed with the assessment modern F1 was 80% mental, he replied: "Probably, yes. There's a lot of communications going on with the team, a lot of steering wheel changes. You have to make sure everything is running efficiently. Even the lap time – if you lose half a second for five laps because you are not pushing, maybe it is not even a bad idea because your tires will be in perfect condition for the next coming laps and you will gain one second a lap.

This kind of driving is a little bit strange."

After that final comment, a journalist asked if it was a frustrating kind of driving, to which Alonso simply said: " A lot, yeah." espn.co.uk

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