The Jakarta double-header this weekend will be Formula E drivers’ biggest-ever physical and mental test in the series as they go back-to-back racing in one of motorsport’s most brutal environments.
Temperatures will nudge the 90 degree Fahrenheit mark (around 32°C) but it is the crippling humidity that hits the hardest. Last year it sat between 70-75%. That takes an incredible toll on the human body at the best of times but in a stressful environment like an E-Prix it needs managing correctly.
In 2022 drivers struggled over a single day but a double-header is set to really stretch them.
Many of those that travelled overnight from Jakarta to Le Mans suffered illness as they struggled with the mix of acute humidity and full-bore air conditioning.
Porsche’s performance coach Rich Connor reckons that preparation for the races will be a key to how drivers will perform over the weekend.
“Some heat acclimatisation training kind of presents biological adaptations to reduce the stress that they have to go through in many conditions,” Connor told The Race.
“Jakarta poses some problems, so heat acclimatisation training is what I recommend for our boys to start two weeks before the races.
“It’s good to get two hours a day that you split that up into one hour each and have extra kind of trading in heat, so a bit more stress to the body. So that can be done in the gym, but just don’t put the air conditioning on.”
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Going hand in glove with the acclimatisation is hydration, which Connor says is “key for getting electrolytes and salts in the body”.
“Water just flushes all the minerals away and actually doesn’t help, so you need to have the electrolyte drinks, which are essential.
“Also, which foods are important – because salts in food actually help when you’re in really hot conditions where you tend to eat less, because it’s so hot, and you just feel like a salad, where you actually need to get some proper food in, which is tricky when it’s so humid. But that’s so important.”
Formula E driver will also need to maximise their time after sessions with recovery programmes, something which Connor says is “vital both physically and mentally”.
The cool vests that several drivers use only go so far. A better method is complete immersion in a cold pool, something which Connor hopes he can implement for Antonio Felix da Costa and Pascal Wehrlein in Indonesia.
“Cool vests can help but much better is a cold pool,” he says.
“We’ve used them in the past, so you can put the drivers in for, say, eight-to-10 minutes and drop the temperature while they’re in there, which really penetrates deep into the muscles.
“The space is tricky in Jakarta but it would be lovely to have a pool there, that’s really a bit more beneficial than a cooling vest, even if it’s just mentally as well to keep them feeling fresh before they jump into the car.”
Not just about the drivers
Connor’s duty of care for the team goes way beyond the drivers. He develops programmes for mechanics and engineers, too.
The days of personal attention to just drivers are over in some areas of motorsport, particularly in Formula E – where there is a strict limit of passes that teams are able to have at races.
Connor also looks after the requirements of team members and that can range from individual needs of posture for sedentary engineers to hotel-based stretching.
“I talk to the guys and explain that small workouts can be done at your desk, there’s no excuse not to do this,” reckons Connor.
“Struggling with sore shoulders or neck, you could be doing some exercises at a desk to help, [it] makes sense.
“I try to give them some plans at the hotel as well. We know it’s late when they get back and they have an early start, but to give them a few minutes of flexibility work in the evening, or in the morning, can be really advantageous.”