By Stefan Kristensen
October 16, 2021

Formula 1 and G-Forces: All the Fun Facts

Driving a Formula 1 car is a challenging task, both mentally and physically. Not only do drivers need to be capable of split-second reaction times to nail the perfect racing line and avoid accidents, but they also need to be capable of withstanding the intense g-forces generated by high-speed cornering.

Throughout Formula 1 history, advancements in technology and safety measures have continually pushed the boundaries of speed and performance. They are becoming capable of much greater speeds, both on the straights and in the corners. As a result, modern-day F1 drivers have to deal with much higher g-forces than they did in decades past; during cornering, drivers regularly experience forces between 4 and 6 g. As F1 cars evolved, so too did the understanding of how to manage the forces exerted on drivers during high-speed maneuvers.

In this article, we'll be sharing with you all the fun facts about g-forces in F1 racing, including how F1 cars are capable of pulling so many gs and what happens to the drivers when they experience multiple gs.

What Is G-Force?

G-force is, simply put, gravity. G-force is measured in units referred to as gs (which are always written in lowercase and italicized to differentiate them from G, the gravitational constant, and g, the abbreviation for grams).

There are two types of g-forces that you can experience, although only one of these types really matters for F1 drivers. The first is vertical gs, which is the type of g-force that pulls down on you and keeps everything stuck to the earth.

At all times, you experience 1 g of vertical g-force, although actions like jumping actually increase the vertical gs you experience for a fraction of a second. However, this fraction is so short that your body doesn't receive any damage, even though you can potentially experience as many as 100 gs from jumping from a height of 3 feet.

The other kind of gs, and the kind that matters the most to F1 drivers, is lateral gs. Lateral gs occur when you move forward, backward, or from side to side. As such, F1 drivers experience lateral gs almost constantly during a race, from accelerating, braking, and turning.

G-forces are interesting; on the one hand, it's possible to survive and remain conscious after a brief moment of 100 gs or more, but on the other hand, if you try to withstand more than 4 gs or so for even a few seconds, you run a serious risk of blacking out.

In fact, trying to withstand more than 16 gs for more than a minute or so will pretty much guarantee that you'll experience severe injuries or even death.  

How Do G-Forces Affect the Human Body in F1?

Ok, so we know that g-forces are incredibly taxing on the human body, especially when they're sustained for more than a few seconds. But what exactly is it about g-forces that have such a drastic effect on our bodies?

There are a few reasons why g-forces affect us so much, but the most prominent one is that g-forces disrupt our blood flow. Even in normal circumstances, blood pressure isn't even throughout the human body; thanks to the pull of gravity, blood pressure is always slightly higher in your legs and slightly lower in your head.

Normally, your body is able to compensate for these small differences in blood pressure, but if you're put into a high g-force situation, things tend to stop working as they should. Lateral g-forces can pull blood away from your head and into your extremities, resulting in impaired vision and eventual unconsciousness.

Impact Of G-Forces During F1 Crashes

The effects are even more extreme in the event of a crash when the body is subject to massive amounts of g-force thanks to the sudden deceleration. If you're moving very fast and then you suddenly stop moving within a fraction of a second, it places an enormous amount of force on your various soft tissues.

Essentially, if you come to a sudden stop in a car crash, your internal organs get squished up against your insides. This can be particularly dangerous in the case of your brain, which can get rattled around inside your skull during a crash. Such accidents can easily cause brain damage.

This is one of the reasons why the F1 governing body has mandated the use of HANS devices since 2003. A HANS (Head And Neck Support) device is basically a brace that sits on a driver's shoulders and features a strap that keeps the driver's helmet secured to the brace. 

HANS devices work by preventing drivers' heads and necks from moving farther than they would otherwise be able to. In a crash, this helps prevent whiplash, brain injuries, and basilar skull fractures.

To prepare for the immense physical demands of Formula 1 racing, drivers undergo rigorous training regimes focused on enhancing strength, endurance, and flexibility. Neck and shoulder muscles, crucial for stabilizing the head under high lateral gs, receive particular attention. Exercises such as neck harness work, resistance training, and simulation drills help drivers condition their bodies to withstand the stresses encountered on the track.

How Do F1 Cars Corner So Hard?

Formula 1 cars are objectively pretty fast overall, but they're actually fairly slow in a straight line when compared to other types of race cars. A dragster will absolutely decimate an F1 car in terms of straight-line acceleration, and even a Le Mans prototype or a rally car would have no problems at all beating an F1 car in the quarter-mile.

The reason for this is that F1 cars are basically designed to prioritize cornering speed above all else. While other cars might be faster on the straights, literally nothing can beat an F1 car in the corners. 

The ability of F1 cars to take corners at such high speeds is pretty much entirely due to their aerodynamics. Take a look at any F1 car from within the last decade, and you'll see that they all have crazy front and rear wings with all sorts of elements intended to create downforce and direct airflow away from the wheels.

It's the downforce generated by F1 cars that allows them to go around corners as fast as they do. In addition, F1 cars generate more downforce the faster they go, so by increasing their cornering speeds, F1 cars actually handle better around corners.

Starting with the 2022 F1 season, ground effects will be incorporated into the new F1 car designs. Cars that use ground effects are designed so that there is an area of low air pressure directly under the car, which helps it stick to the road during low- and high-speed cornering. 

With all the existing aerodynamic technology and the newly introduced ground effects that F1 cars are now using, drivers may have to contend with even greater g-forces as the F1 cars continue to be developed in the future. 


In conclusion, driving a Formula 1 car demands not only exceptional skill and split-second decision-making but also the physical resilience to withstand the intense G-forces experienced during high-speed maneuvers. As Formula 1 technology continues to advance, modern-day drivers face higher G-forces than ever before, pushing the limits of human performance on the track. From the meticulous training regimens aimed at strengthening neck and shoulder muscles to the innovative safety measures mandated by the F1 governing body, every aspect of driver preparation and protection is crucial in mitigating the risks associated with G-forces in Formula 1 racing. As we look to the future of the sport, where ground effects and aerodynamic advancements promise even greater cornering speeds, the physical demands on drivers are expected to escalate, underscoring the importance of continued innovation in driver safety and performance.

Written by Stefan Kristensen
I have been passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many technical features, strategic plays, humans and their stories that all together drives this amazing sport to make it as interesting as it is.
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