Is Formula One (F1) a Sport?

is formula one f1 a sport

Last updated on July 7th, 2022 at 11:17 am

F1 (Formula 1) is a sport. The name “formula” refers to rules that all racers adhere to when driving during a race. While F1 is a popular motorsport today, there is a constant debate if it is a sport among spectators.


So, what is the definition of a sport? Why do some people think it is not a sport? What are reasons Formula One is a sport, and how do the drivers train to race?


Here is the complete breakdown below of why F1 is a sport and more!


Sport Definition

sport definition

An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. – Lexico


The above definition from Lexcio about sports perfectly illustrates that F1 racing is a sport. F1 drivers need to have incredible physical exertion to handle the car and work with their team to win races. Not only that, but every Grand Prix Race has a different track layout, which adds to the watching value.


Why People Think Formula 1 is Not a Sport

why people think formula 1 is not a sport

Even with the sports definition from Lexico, many people say that Formula 1 is not a sport. Here are some of the most common arguments people make saying that it is not a sport.


The Formula One Racing Car is More Important than the Driver

According to Auto Sport, Formula 1 racing acceleration occurs in the two-second range from 0-60 mph. Not only do the cars take off quickly, but the aerodynamics of the car allows the vehicle to reach high speeds of over 220 MPH on the race track. The highest speed record in F1 came from Valtteri Bottas, who hit 231.4 miles per hour during the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix.


With those speeds and detailed designs of the car, many people point to that being why F1 is not a sport. Since the car is the one that is going over 200 MPH, people say that the drivers are simply sitting in the car and turning the steering wheel during races, not the ones doing the hard work via reaching the top speed.


History of Manipulation

history of manipulation

Formula 1, like other sports, has had accounts of some shady deals and finishes in their history. During the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring, the final lap had Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello slow down to allow the teammate to overtake them to win the race and receive more points. The fans at the race booed the riders, and the FIA built new rules to discourage this type of manipulation in races.


There have been other instances where F1 fans have questioned the legitimacy of races, which is why some people don’t see it as a sport. Instead, it looks like a competition with pre-determined finishes due to money, which takes away the true spirit of sportsmanship.


Motor Racing is More Skill than a Sport

NASCAR, Go Karting, and F1 sometimes get grouped by people saying that a tremendous skill goes into this competition, but it is more skill than a sport. While it does take an incredible amount of skill to race in F1, people like to say that it is the same as being good at cards, like Poker. While it takes a lot of hard work to master, it is more of a specific skill set someone has with reflexes or understanding turns and the course than a sport.


Cars are Only Going Around in Laps

cars are only going around in laps

One argument that people knock F1 for is driving around in multiple laps, like NASCAR, which doesn’t seem that difficult. However, that argument tends to fall apart quickly because track and field events run around a track multiple times, so it doesn’t matter how to compete in the sport.



It is Not in the Olympic Games

Since F1 is not in the Olympics, people like to point to that because it is not a sport. Just like how NASCAR is not in the Olympics, neither is F1.


However, there are plenty of other sports not in the Olympics. For example, Cricket is not in the Olympics, but that is very much a sport by today’s standards.


What are the Reasons Why Formula 1 is a Sport?

What are the Reasons Why Formula 1 is a Sport

Not only does the definition from Lexico categorize F1 as a sport, but there are other reasons why it is one. Driving a Formula 1 car is entirely different from a standard road car, so special training and talent are necessary for these drivers to compete at the highest race level. Here are some reasons why Formula One is a sport for the drivers and pit crew team members.


Racing Drivers Go Through Intense Exercises

According to Race in Paper, F1 drivers experience multiple g forces while driving and turning during races. For example, braking during a race can have around five g’s of force against the human body, while taking a fast turn can result in a few g’s as well. Racers must consistently go through multiple g’s during qualifying and big races during a 2-hour race and must be physically fit to handle that pressure.


To help prepare for racing in high-speed environments, drivers undergo rigorous physical training to prepare their bodies for this pressure. One type of training that might surprise casual fans is that drivers have to train their neck muscles to maintain the intense g forces during turns. Having a strong neck can keep the head straight on a turn, which can help the driver make precise turns to keep racing during the competition.


In addition to neck training, drivers also need to build up their strength for the rest of their bodies. Along with weight training, drivers also need to practice their reflexes to keep their hand-eye coordination top-notch.


High Heart Rate + Sweat + Body Weight Loss

High Heart Rate + Sweat + Body Weight Loss

During the two-hour race in F1, drivers’ heart rates tend to be over 170 beats per minute. In addition to that, drivers are constantly sweating due to the heat inside the car and g forces against them. Drivers tend to lose 11 pounds on average during each race due to those factors.


Since drivers know that they will lose weight after a race, they must train their bodies for this occurrence. Drivers must regain their strength after a race, so getting their body weight back to pre-race levels is critical. To get back to pre-race weight, drivers must work out and eat correctly.


Mental Fitness Must be Sharp

F1 teams need to have strong mental fitness during Grand Prix weekend races. The drivers need to be able to concentrate during high-intense races against the competition. The team needs to be able to adapt to weather conditions and any other variables that come with the competition.


Mental fitness is essential in sports because you are not only competing against an opponent, but you are also pushing your body and mind to the limit. For example, when you start becoming tired during a race, you need both physical and mental strength to overcome that to win. Drivers and teams have numerous mental fitness programs to keep their minds sharp on race day.


Pit Crews Need to Be Physically Strong

Pit Crews Need to Be Physically Strong

The pit crew on a team is sometimes overlooked as a physically demanding job in the sport. However, pit crews need strength to jack up the car to look under it during a race, change tires, move out of the old tires from the vehicle, and clean the windshield. F1 cars weigh 2k pounds with the fuel, car, seat, and driver, so moving the vehicle around quickly to make adjustments requires tremendous strength.



In a motorsport competition, there are instances where crashes occur during a race. Drivers prepare for impacts during their training to prepare their bodies just in case of a car crash. Like how American Football players build up their body strength by taking hits from other players, so do F1 drivers.


One of the Most Popular Sports to Watch

One of the Most Popular Sports to Watch

According to Statista, F1 racing is one of the most popular sports to watch, with 445 million viewers tuning in to it in 2021. Popular races in Monaco, Baku, Barcelona, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore raise the level of interest since these are luxurious destinations and help drive the appeal of the races to audiences.


Conclusion: Is F1 a Sport?

In summary, F1 is a sport for various reasons. F1 drivers must train their bodies to handle g forces from turns and keep their bodies strong to maintain balance and endurance during a race. The F1 drivers need to be physically strong, but the mental side of racing also must be top-notch. These racers compete against the best of the best to become the world champion, so it takes skill, luck, and strength to win races.


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