What is a cooldown room in F1 and why is it important?
At the highest level of motorsport, F1 presents a physical challenge like no other. After almost 90 minutes of hard and fast racing, the riders are immediately thrown into the media work, which will continue for at least an hour after the race. The top 3 have an extra step – the podium celebrations.
While other riders use this time to freshen up and take a break, the podium sitters conduct a short series of interviews and then take to the stage for the main ceremony. To give these athletes a breather in between, F1 has mandated the use of a cool down room.
What is a cooling room for?
The cool down room is a designated area where F1 drivers recover after a race. It is an integral part of driver safety and performance as these athletes experience extremely intense physical and mental stress during a race.
This area literally helps riders cool down, rehydrate and recover from those sporting demands. Without a cool down room, drivers would be at risk of heat exhaustion, dehydration and other health problems.
Key features of a cold room
The most obvious characteristic of a cold room is that it is typically an air-conditioned area. Features like cooling fans, drinking stations, and most importantly, chairs. Now the space is also expanded to include a large screen showing drivers the key turning points of their race. These reflections usually make for the best conversations between the top 3 and are quickly becoming a fan favorite too.
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Other nuances of the space include potted plants, chilled bottled water, and areas to store their belongings. It facilitates a calm and relaxing environment for drivers to rest. Ideally, temperatures should be set between 64-70 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity level of 50%. This is optimal for reducing the rider’s body temperature and preventing dehydration.
Iconic Cooldown Room moments in F1 history
While essential for drivers’ health, the cool-down rooms are also a source of entertainment. High tension environments, the adrenaline of finishing a race – everything cooks up perfectly for some remarkable moments.
From Nico Rosberg hugging his rival Lewis Hamilton and congratulating him on his title in 2014 to Hamilton slapping Rosberg in the face with the P2 cap a year later, nothing is off the books.
At the 2016 Mexican GP, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen engaged in an unfair and intense battle with Sebastian Vettel on track. After Vettel wagged his finger at his Red Bull successor during the out-lap, Verstappen headed into the cool-down room ready to claim the P3 trophy.
As he waited, the Dutchman faced the embarrassing announcement that he had been handed a 5-second penalty for pushing Vettel off the track. Verstappen took off his helmet and waved goodbye to Roberg & Hamilton and stormed out of the cool down room.
However, this wasn’t the first time a Ferrari driver had knocked Verstappen off the podium. The following year, at the United States GP, Verstappen was nonetheless beaten with a 5-second penalty after a brave maneuver against Kimi Raikkonen while having his proud moment in the cool room. As Kimi Raikkonen stomped into the room, the Red Bull man couldn’t help but laugh on his way out.
Another iconic moment would be Sebastian Vettel’s outrage at Daniil Kvyat after the 2016 Chinese GP. That gave Kvyat a nickname he couldn’t quite shake off – the torpedo.
Cooling room turned into mesmerizing moments
More recently, screening highlights has spiced up driver reactions. This leads to roasts and even live reactions to actions by the people in the room itself.
After the 2022 French GP, after a grueling battle to the finish line, Hamilton ignored the chairs and lay on the ground; which only made sense after the extreme back pain he’d picked up from the porpoise.
Arguably the most iconic moment was Max Verstappen’s championship race in Japan. After a confusing result, Verstappen chilled in the cooldown room as he was crowned champion. Then, for a champion first, Verstappen was escorted to a special part of the room with a velvet couch and sat down for 5 seconds before running back to his friends laughing. “I’m feeling a little bit lonely!”
All in all, cool down rooms have inevitably become a crucial part of sport – for both health and entertainment purposes.