F1 driver Valtteri Bottas believes the sport's weight limits caused him to develop unhealthy eating habits early in his career
- Valtteri Bottas went to extremes to keep his body weight down earlier in his career.
- He believes he developed an undiagnosed eating disorder.
Valtteri Bottas appears to be happier than ever in Formula One, and it turns out he is also a lot healthier.
In a recent interview with Maria Veitola in his native Finland, Bottas revealed that earlier in his career, he pushed himself so hard to stay within the sport's weight limits that he believes he developed an eating disorder.
"I trained myself to pain, physically and mentally," Bottas told Veitola. "It got out of hand, and it became an addiction. No eating disorder was officially diagnosed, but it was definitely there."
Bottas says he would only eat steamed broccoli between long workouts and hid his diet choices from his team.
"It wasn't very healthy," Bottas said. "I wanted to be the best, and I thought I had to do that. If the team says that I have to weigh 68 kilos (150 pounds) and I naturally weigh 73 kilos (161 pounds), then they will do everything for that."
The size and weight limits in F1 are strict but have improved
Carrying extra weight, of course, slows the car down, so teams want their drivers as light as possible. That means the drivers are pushed to land at or below the 161-pound minimum (if they go under, ballasts are added to the cockpit to reach the minimum).
Bottas is not as tall as some drivers — he is listed as 5-foot-8 while Alex Albon is 6-foot-2 — but he seemingly has more natural bulk than other drivers.
Luckily for Bottas, F1 recently changed the minimum weight for drivers to 80 kg (176 pounds), including what they wear. The gear and equipment on the driver during a race weigh approximately seven kilos (15 pounds). That means the drivers' actual minimum weight is 73 kilos (161 pounds), more in line with Bottas' natural weight.
Bottas mentioned his second year in F1, 2014, as especially difficult.
For that season, the weight of the cars increased more than the minimum driver weight, forcing heavier drivers to lose even more weight to make up for the difference. It was that year that Red Bull forced driver Daniel Ricciardo to drop his racing weight by two kilos (4.5 pounds).
At the time, Ricciardo was 5-foot-10 and weighed 143 pounds (65 kilos).
There was a lot of pressure on drivers to keep their weight as low as possible as their jobs were on the line. The 6-foot-tall Niko Hulkenberg, who weighed 165 pounds (75 kg), was reportedly not considered for an open seat at McLaren because of his size.
"Heavier drivers will be less attractive," then-McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh told Sky Sports in 2013. "It has happened by accident. We have raised the minimum weight, but the new powertrains are heavier than people expected, and now have a situation where heavier drivers could be a disadvantage."
Former McLaren and Red Bull racer David Coulthard explained in his 2007 autobiography what he put himself through as a teenager trying to reach F1, including what sounded like bulimia.
"It was an essential part of being an oversized teenager in karting, making weight," Coulthard wrote. "I would have my dinner, weigh myself, and if I was too heavy, I'd go swimming and exercise and try and control my weight by being sick."
Bottas previously noted that changes to the rules in 2019 helped. Early in that season, he said that they helped his immune system because he was not cutting as much weight.
"I think the regulation is good, especially for the taller drivers," Bottas said in 2019. "It makes life a bit easier. Many drivers had to be below our natural weight, and it is very easy to get ill or sick. This is the first winter for many years that I didn't get any flu or any sickness."
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