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How do F1 drivers deal with jet lag during the season?

Jet lag and travel fatigue is common after long haul flights, so how does Formula 1 manage throughout the year?

Michael Schumacher

Photo by: Sutton Images

F1 is a truly global motorsport championship, as a season typically covers five continents within a 10-month period.

This means the paddock is constantly on the move and F1 drivers need to get comfortable with a new time zone at short notice.

Australia is a particularly difficult one as Melbourne - host of the Australian Grand Prix - is 11 hours ahead of the United Kingdom, which is where over 50% of F1 teams are headquartered.

F1 also visits countries like Japan and Mexico who have a time difference of five plus hours to the UK, meaning teams and drivers have certain ways to combat the effects of jet lag.

So, what are these methods and how bad can the jet lag be?

Why do F1 teams need to consider jet lag?

The 2024 F1 season will feature a record-breaking 24 grands prix, so teams will constantly switch between time zones in order to get from one destination to the next.

Some of these circuits also have a significantly different time zone to the other, like Shanghai is 12 hours ahead of Miami yet the two races are separated by just a couple of weeks on the calendar. So, when a person undertakes such heavy travelling like that, it will cause jet lag which is extreme tiredness felt after a long flight.

It is common for everybody in the paddock because F1 has a gruelling schedule and runs to such tight timings. A grand prix weekend, for example, typically goes from Thursday to Sunday meaning teams and drivers do not spend long in one location - especially when the races are on consecutive weekends.

This leaves drivers with minimal time to recover from jet lag, which is not ideal because the impact it could have on athletes is huge, as extreme tiredness can lead to a lack of concentration - an essential skill when driving a racing car at high speeds.

Jet lag can therefore have a negative impact on performance which means it is essential for teams to overcome the possibility of that.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin F1 Team, on a track run

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin F1 Team, on a track run

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

However, it is not just the drivers that need to overcome jet lag - it’s the same for the whole garage. Imagine how difficult it would be to complete a highly pressurised pitstop in less than two seconds while the crew are all suffering from jet lag.

Every member of an F1 team needs to be at peak condition during the race weekend, which is why squads must consider ways in which to overcome jet lag.

How do F1 drivers overcome jet lag?

F1 drivers utilise different methods to combat jet lag because being able to adapt quickly can have hugely beneficial results.

Nico Rosberg is the perfect example of that because the former Mercedes driver sought specialist help to overcome jet lag in his 2016 F1 championship-winning campaign and his methods are widely used among teams and drivers today.

Rosberg told F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast in 2018: “If you go to Australia, you start five days before, [shifting your sleep by] one-and-a-half hours, and by the time you get to the last day, you’re seven-and-a-half hours in.

“I would get up at one o’clock in the morning on the last day, or vice versa, whatever, some crazy time of the day. My wife would look at me and say, ‘are you completely nuts now? Have you lost your mind?’

“At 3:30, 4am, I would be out there in Monaco running. Then [I would] take the flight, land and again, when you get there, one-and-a-half hour steps – don’t completely straight away adjust to the time.”

The 2016 world champion described it as “a revolution for my life” as Rosberg finally beat rival Lewis Hamilton to the drivers’ title.

On social media, Carlos Sainz once shared his own jet lag plan when travelling to Australia. It entailed staying awake for the first leg of his journey which was a seven-hour flight to Dubai, because it was late morning in Melbourne yet overnight in Europe. To stop himself from falling asleep Sainz ensured there was a lot of light, while he stayed entertained through films and conversation.

At the stopover in Dubai, again, Sainz tried to get as much exposure to light as he could to stay awake before avoiding sleep in his second flight as well. By doing this, Sainz could go to sleep when it was night time in Melbourne and that would adjust his body clock to race timings.

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The exposure to light is a crucial step F1 drivers take to adjust their body clocks because it suppresses the production of melatonin, which is a hormone produced by the brain to help somebody sleep.

However, F1 drivers may need to be protected from light as well. So, drivers will even wear sunglasses indoors sometimes because wearing sunglasses at the right point in a day can help to adjust the body clock.

Exercise shortly after waking up, or a light session just before sleep, can also really help in adjusting the body clock, so many drivers will go for a game of golf because its exposure to natural light and it not being too intense is highly beneficial.

Caffeine is another reliable tool to help with jet lag. This is because it is a stimulant that helps a person feel more awake, as it blocks the adenosine receptor which is a substance that promotes sleepiness.

However, F1 teams are still careful in its use of caffeine because too much in one day can cause unwanted side effects like restlessness and an irregular heartbeat. So, caffeine is taken little and often rather than lots at once while it is only consumed during a certain time period due to its long-acting life.

Does F1 do anything to help its teams and drivers cope with jet lag?

The 2024 season has seen F1 approach its calendar differently, as there is now a greater focus on regionalisation. This approach has brought forward the Japanese GP by five months, while Qatar is now the penultimate round in a back-to-back with Abu Dhabi, whereas in 2023 Las Vegas was a weekend before the final race.

Melbourne is one of those venues never part of a double-header because sufficient rest on either side of the grand prix really is needed to reset the body clock, due to how different Australia’s time zone is to several other countries.

So, although F1’s primary reason for regionalising the 2024 calendar was to be more sustainable as part of its efforts to be carbon neutral by 2030, it should also help with the jet lag.

That is especially true because there was much controversy surrounding the scheduling of the inaugural Las Vegas GP.

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, 3rd position, during the post race press conference

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, 3rd position, during the post race press conference

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Despite the American city being 11 hours behind Abu Dhabi, the paddock was still forced to adjust to the time zones very quickly because both events were simply days apart.

It caused much backlash as Max Verstappen said at the time that it is “very tiring” and “doesn’t really make a lot of sense”.

However, F1 has not managed to regionalise the whole calendar as street circuits like Miami and Montreal are still surrounded by grands prix in either Asia or Europe, meaning there are arguably more ways in which the series could help personnel deal with the effects of jet lag.

But, F1 does still enforce a track curfew on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights which potentially helps. This curfew states the time period that teams are not allowed to work on their cars, so that it can help reduce working hours for crew members and ensure they all get enough rest.

However, there are still some exceptions to the curfew because a team can break it twice in a season without incurring a punishment and that is in case of unforeseen circumstances like logistical delays or heavy damage to cars.

Race 

Time difference from last race 

Date 

Bahrain Grand Prix 

N/A

29 February – 2 March 

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 

0 hours 

7-9 March 

Australian Grand Prix 

+8 hours 

22-24 March 

Japanese Grand Prix 

-2 hours 

5-7 April 

Chinese Grand Prix 

-1 hour 

19-21 April 

Miami Grand Prix 

-12 hours 

3-5 May 

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix 

+5 hours 

17-19 May 

Monaco Grand Prix 

24-26 May 

Canadian Grand Prix 

-5 hours 

7-9 June 

Spanish Grand Prix 

+5 hours 

21-23 June 

Austrian Grand Prix 

28-30 June 

British Grand Prix 

-1 hour 

5-7 July 

Hungarian Grand Prix 

+1 hour 

19-21 July 

Belgian Grand Prix 

26-28 July 

Dutch Grand Prix 

23-25 August 

Italian Grand Prix 

30 August – 1 September 

Azerbaijan Grand Prix 

+3 hours 

13-15 September 

Singapore Grand Prix 

+4 hours 

20-22 September 

United States Grand Prix 

-13 hours 

18-20 October 

Mexico Grand Prix 

-1 hour 

25-27 October 

Brazilian Grand Prix 

+3 hours 

1-3 November 

Las Vegas Grand Prix 

-4 hours 

21-23 November 

Qatar Grand Prix 

+10 hours 

29 November – 1 December 

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 

+1 hour 

6-8 December 

Do F1 drivers always travel back home after a race?

With the amount of time between races differing throughout the calendar, F1 drivers sometimes elect not to travel home between rounds. It usually depends on the situation - for example, Nico Hulkenberg stayed in the middle east with his family between the back-to-back Bahrain and Saudi Arabian GPs rather than returning to Europe.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, the 2023 drivers line up on the grid

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, the 2023 drivers line up on the grid

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Sometimes if races are back-to-back drivers might still return home, but that will only be when the two grands prix are in or nearby to Europe. So, that European leg of the F1 calendar from May to September might allow drivers to return home in between races, even if it is for just 24-48 hours.

Meanwhile, F1 drivers will definitely go home if there is a week or two until the next race, like what happened between the 2024 Saudi Arabian and Australian GPs.

Drivers might also be required to visit their team’s factory in between races, so that has a big say as to whether they return home or stay in the location of the grands prix. It is important to consider that drivers do a lot of work away from the circuit, so even if they are not racing, they might still be required to go into the factory or attend a marketing event which further shows how F1 is just constantly on the road.

Watch: F1 2024 Australian Grand Prix Preview - Everything You Need To Know

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