Valtteri Bottas believes F1 caused him to develop disordered eating habits
- Valtteri Bottas went to extremes earlier in his career to keep his body weight down.
- He believes he has developed an undiagnosed eating disorder.
- Driver and weight limits are strict but have been improved.
Valtteri Bottas seems happier than ever in Formula 1, and it turns out he’s a lot healthier too.
In a recent interview with Maria Veitola in his native Finland, Bottas revealed that early in his career he tried so hard to stay within the sport’s weight limits that he believes he developed an eating disorder.
“I’ve gotten used to the pain physically and mentally,” Bottas said to Veitola. “It got out of hand and became an addiction. It wasn’t officially diagnosed as an eating disorder, but it was definitely there.”
Bottas says he only eats steamed broccoli between long workouts and hides his dietary habits from his team.
“It wasn’t very healthy,” Bottas said. “I wanted to be the best and I thought I had to do that. If the team says I have to weigh 68 kilos and of course I weigh 73 kilos, then they will do anything to make it happen.”
Height and weight restrictions in Formula 1 are strict but have improved
Carrying extra weight naturally slows the car down, so teams want their drivers to be as light as possible. That means drivers are forced to land at or below the 161-pound minimum (if they fall below that, ballast is added to the cockpit to meet the minimum).
Bottas isn’t as tall as some riders – he’s listed as 5ft-8 while Alex Albon measures 6ft-2 – but he appears to have a more natural mass than other riders.
Luckily for Bottas, F1 recently changed the minimum driver weight to 80kg (176lbs), including their clothing. The rider’s equipment and gear during a race weighs approximately seven kilos (15 pounds). This means that the actual minimum weight of the drivers is 73 kilos, which is more in line with Bottas’ natural weight.
Bottas mentioned his second year in Formula 1, 2014, as particularly difficult.
This season the weight of the cars increased by more than the minimum driver weight, forcing heavier drivers to lose even more weight to make up the difference. That year, Red Bull forced driver Daniel Ricciardo to lose two kilos (4.5 pounds) from his race weight.
At the time, Ricciardo was 5ft 10 and weighed 143 pounds (65 kilos).
Riders were under a lot of pressure to keep their weight down as their jobs were at stake. 6ft Niko Hulkenberg, who weighed 75kg, was reportedly not considered for a vacancy at McLaren because of his height.
“Heavier drivers will be less attractive,” McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh told Sky Sports in 2013. “It happened by accident. We’ve raised the minimum weight but the new powertrains are heavier than expected and now have a situation where heavier riders could be a disadvantage.”
Former McLaren and Red Bull racer David Coulthard explained what he went through as a teenager trying to reach F1, including what sounded like bulimia, in his 2007 autobiography.
“It was an integral part of being a plus-sized karting teenager and gaining weight,” Coulthard wrote. “I would eat my dinner, weigh myself, and if I was too heavy I would go swimming and exercise and try to control my weight through nausea.”
Bottas previously noted that changes to the rules in 2019 helped. Earlier this season he said they helped his immune system because he wasn’t losing that much weight.
“I think the regulation is good, especially for the taller drivers,” said Bottas in 2019. “It makes life a little easier. Many riders have had to be below their natural weight and it’s very easy to get sick or sick is the first winter in many years that I haven’t caught the flu or illness.”
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