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GP Week : Issue 198
17 GPWEEK.com // 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: There was a sensational story out of Malaysia on saturday that one of the F1 drivers, enfeebled by the effects of the strict diet required to reduce his bodyweight, had passed out at a sponsor's PR function. I didn't see the incident reported anywhere else, but given the fact that my source was the ever-reliable Martin Brundle commentating on the Sky TV feed, I am confident that we can take it as the gospel truth. While Brundle quite correctly declined to name the fainting hero, I hope he made sure to have a word about him in the ear of someone at the FIA. With drivers desperate to shed every last ounce in search of the ultimate lap time, this is a problem which has the potential to end tragically if it should be repeated in the harsh environment of an F1 car's cockpit. The blame for the horrible situation lies with the unrealistic weight limit that was set when the regulations were being framed for this year's V6-engined cars. One imagines that insufficient allowance was made for the heft of the hybrid power-plants with their big turbos and energy-harvesting systems. Although the minimum weight has been raised from 642kg last year to 690kg (with driver but no fuel on board) for 2014, several of the teams which employ tall drivers have admitted that their cars are several kilos in excess. It happens that an increase of 2kg was mandated into the rules pre-season, to allow for the heavier tyres introduced this year. While permitting that change to accommodate Pirelli, the FIA canvassed the teams about a possible further increase which would have allowed the taller, heavier drivers to race on equal terms with their less weighty colleagues (whose cars would have carried a little compensating ballast). But F1's wretched dog-in-a -manger syndrome kicked in and the move was vetoed by the teams employing the midgets. The two heaviest drivers at Sepang were Jenson Button and the brilliant Nico Hülkenberg (right), each at 76kg-plus. Early last year Jenson anticipated what would happen under the new rules: "it's very unfair to say 'lose weight," he said, "because some of us can't lose any more. You need to have skin on your bones, and a little bit of muscle to drive a Formula 1 car." Two or three kilos may not sound like much of a handicap, but the maths are undeniable: two extra kilos represent one-tenth of a second on a lap. That's quite an incentive to employ tots when you bear in mind the advantage that Felipe Massa, 25 percent lighter than Button, brings when he steps into his Williams. And yes, the teams do take such things seriously. It has even been suggested that Sauber rejected Hülkenberg for this season purely on the basis of his weight, and an important factor in the speed difference between Vettel and Webber at Red Bull last year was certainly down to the Australian's extra body mass. It's 10 years since an enlightened change in the regs included the driver as part of an F1 car's overall weight. There is to be an increase next year, to 700kg, but this may not be sufficient to put all drivers on an equal footing. It is time, now, for the governing body to take a stand, if only for the sake of safety. ThE pERIlS OF wEIghT lOSS OPINION OPINION MIKE DOODSON