Drivers off-season

How Do Drivers Spend Off-season? Their Hands Are Full!

The off-season is a time for drivers to relax and have some much-needed downtime before the start of the upcoming racing season. That is considered to be. In fact it marks a time when fans are looking forward to a races and all the race cars are ready for their engines to start. While professional drivers face the new call. They are mentally and physically preparing for a new chapter in their lives. During that “free time,” racers may work out at the gym or hang with friends, yet a lot depends on it, since the race season requires full commitment. Therefore, the off-season is a magical time when every minute must be utilized in the most efficient possible way to charge the human battery to maximum capacity. What do drivers do in the off-season?

F1 drivers, rally drivers and other professional racers have the luxury of taking a few days off. However, many racers make use of this time by preparing physically, mentally and emotionally for the upcoming races. In addition to their training, they can also fit in some leisure activities or holidays depending on availability. Although there is a main plan that all professional racers follow during the off-season.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya

A professional driver’s off-season activities plan.

On average drivers have 2-3 months free before the racing season. F1 drivers have the most time, while the winter break before rallies in the WRC is about 1,5 months.

#1. Training and Work Out.

During the off-season, drivers must stay in peak condition so they are ready to race at the start of the race. Yes, F1 and rally drivers train everyday. But it’s extremely unlikely you’ll find any driver who has worked out all off-season. In fact, racers start hiding in the gym in the first days of January to get back into shape after the holidays. They reduce the extra pounds, increase endurance, and strengthen the muscles. Workouts include physical endurance, body, cardio, cognitive and simulator training.

Physical training

This point is about fitness levels. Drivers have different body types, but they all need to be at their peak to overcome the maximal forces in racing. To control the

Most professional racers employ their own physiotherapists to ensure they maintain their fitness levels all year. Therefore, their body training program is part of their individual plan.

Generally, drivers exercise their arms, legs, and core, as these muscles are essential to their racing career and require rigorous training to maintain. Having strong arms and legs makes the process of steering the car much easier for a driver to manage. Bicep, tricep, and forearm exercises will be crucial during off-season preparations.

woman kneeling beside man
Photo by Jonathan Borba

Work out

Additionally, strong neck is a must for each racer due to the G-forces he is subjected to in different racing disciplines. Especially in Formula 1. Thus, drivers must be able to shift up to 40 kg with their neck muscles. In the off-season, resistance bands and weighted helmets improve neck strength. For professional racers, pulling the other way to keep their heads level is an essential exercise.

Rally drivers must also have strong arms as they work a lot with a steering wheel. There is no need for huge arms, rather arms should be strong like from steel.

Also in rally racing drivers work a lot with brakes to overcome the different surfaces. Therefore, stretched leg muscles guarantee adequate blood circulation in the legs to stop them from cramping up during a race.

The core muscles are strengthened by doing various sit-ups and planks. Cardio training is an additional workout that includes running, cycling, swimming, or even skiing. It depends on the driver’s preferences. Most of them choose to run.

Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly focus on physical endurance and neck strength. Lewis Hamilton is trying to combine business with pleasure. He prefers extreme sports like snowboarding, rock climbing, and surfing. Thus F1 drivers train their reaction speed and physical endurance under the original conditions. Hamilton runs long distances every day during the off-season.

Cognitive Training

Rally drivers as well as NASCAR racers spend the second half of their time in the off-season in the gym. They focuse n working with muscle power and directly training the neck, legs and hands.

One of the most significant parts of preparation is this type of exercise. Cognitive training is necessary for each driver who races at speeds of over 200 mph, as there is very little room for error. Thus, all reflexes, decision-making, and attention spans must be at the highest level.

Cognitive training includes many different exercises from catching tennis balls that are thrown at walls by their trainers, to practicing on reflex machines.

So you can see that every driver in each racing discipline practices cognitive training: whether it is DTM, Formula 1, WRC or NASCAR and Indycar. However, speed reaction is more significant in Formula 1 and WRC, since the first is about high speed, and the second is about working with steering wheel and brakes fast.

Fernando Alonso uses exercise equipment or reflex machines to train reaction speed. As certain buttons light up, the driver must press them as quickly as possible. While Kalle Rovanperä, the youngest ever rally champion, catches tennis balls before starting the rally stage.

Simulator training and video games.

Without simulation, professional racing training is incomplete. Off-season workouts include mind training to stay mentally sharp by playing racing video games.

The simulator is therefore an essential tool for Formula 1 participants. The team’s simulator system, located at their headquarters, is where F1 drivers spend most of their practice time. Hyper-realistic, the system provides incredible insight into a driver’s performance. Moreover, the racing circuits in these simulators are photo-scanned and true-to-life.  Other racing series use simpler equipment.

Specially designed racing simulators help drivers get back up to speed and practice driving techniques. Simulators are as expensive as brand-new sports cars, but they are worth the investment. Using such practices decreases the cost of any accidents as well as the possibility of injuries to drivers. The simulator allows the driver to race on any track in any weather condition, allowing them to prepare for all scenarios.


Some drivers even have simulators set up in their homes. Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, and Max Verstappen have all practiced virtual racing.

However, virtual Grand Prix events like the 24 hours of Le Mans at the beginning of January provide valuable practice. Max Verstappen’s last participation in the virtual event failed due to technical problems.

The main con of home simulators, no matter how much they cost, is that there is still less detail about tire wear and various other nuances.

Besides, playing video games assists rally crews in getting back to the rally route and pace notes. As a result, it keeps racing skills sharp during the off-season.

#2. Preparation to the Cars

You may say, what could be easier than just jumping into the real car and getting racing rehab after the holidays? Well, it isn’t so simple with it. For instance, if each driver were able to take a test drive of the new car, perhaps there wouldn’t be a need to do all the above procedures. Another reason to call the off-season a magic time, as no one knows how the car will be driven.

Private testing was banned in F1 in 2009, with testing only allowed in FIA-observed sessions. This is to ensure all the correct procedures are being followed. Teams are also allowed some promotional track days to show off the cars, but they don’t generate as much useful data.

There is more flexibility in the WRC racing rules, but there is no opportunity to fully test a newly built car before pre-season testing. The first meeting with the car takes place during seat fitting. And the first race experience drivers get before the season starts. As you already realized, they must already be able to demonstrate an excellent level of driving.

ROC 2023

#3. Public Appearances and Events in off-season

During the off-season, professional racers often make public appearances at events or meet and greets with fans. This might involve playing simulators with other drivers or attending promotional days for teams. F1 drivers also take part in interviews for press and TV networks which helps to keep them in the public eye when they’re not officially racing. It’s also a great way to build good relationships with sponsors and gain more exposure as an individual driver.

Participating in other racing disciplines is also included in the above. Therefore, we can sometimes see F1 and rally drivers in other races, such as the Race of Champions. We watched Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Mick Schumacher, Thierry Neuville, Sebastien Loeb racing at ROC 2023.

Another option is to take part in the Dakar rally, but this option is only for the brave. Fernando Alonso therefore participated in the event in 2020. After a while he admitted that it was the toughest race in the world. Also, Sebastien Loeb has participated in Dakar almost every year, while 2023 was not an expedition.

The drivers also do race car presentations with their teams in the off-season. The event takes place about a month before the season begins.

#4. Sponsorship Deals and Promotions

Some professional drivers often use the off-season as an opportunity to build their personal brand through sponsorship deals and promotions. They might sign with new brands or develop products of their own such as fashion lines, books, or gaming apps. Some F1 drivers also invest in various businesses to further expand their portfolio. Through these activities, they can make additional income while waiting for the new season to start.

Thus, Fernando Alonso founded KIMOA, a Spanish clothing and accessories retailer in 2017. His brand is still a success, earning him additional income in his pocket.

#5. Relaxing Vacations or Hobby Pursuits

As soon as the above goals are met, racers have time to relax or pursue hobbies. Thus professional drivers may choose to take a vacation and recharge their batteries away from the track, while they explore popular destinations in Europe or around the world.

Even at this point, they are creating something really interesting. They might invest in hobbies such as golfing, biking, fishing, or mountain climbing and spend time in nature. These activities provide an escape for these professionals, who were used to living at high speed during the off-season before entering race mode.

For example, Max Verstappen launched his Esports team in 2022, as did Lando Norris in 2020. Lewis Hamilton founded X44 Vida Carbon Racing in the Extreme E series. Sebastien Loeb, the nine-time world rally champion, participates in this team and has been successful.

Final Thoughts

Top drivers in Formula 1 and WRC use psychotherapy to stay in top shape and keep a clear mind before the racing season begins. Thus, Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and even George Russell received help from professional psychotherapists.

As you can see, there are reasons to say professional drivers have their hands full in the off-season. These brave guys have the money and all of the possibilities to travel all over the world, to start a business or just to have fun. However, the problem is they have only a few months for that.

Besides there are sponsorship duties. In addition, they have to coordinate all of these activities and achieve one major goal – preparing for the upcoming season. They have to be ready as soon as their newly-built race car starts the engine. Otherwise next off-season their hands will be empty.