FIA not to blame for drivers’ fitness problems – Berger

Gerhard Berger has rubbished the suggestion that F1’s governing body needs to intervene to protect the health of the drivers in extreme heat.

Multiple drivers really struggled throughout the Qatar GP, involving vomiting in their helmets, extreme dehydration and heat exposure. George Russell said many of his rivals admitted they were “close to passing out”.

In reaction, the FIA accepted some of the responsibility, admitting that despite being “elite athletes”, they should “not be expected to compete under conditions that could jeopardise their health or safety”.

At the forthcoming FIA medical commission meeting, various ideas will be discussed – including race scheduling, “guidance for competitors”, and better cockpit ventilation.

F1 legend Gerhard Berger, however, who won 10 grands prix amid a long Formula 1 career in the 80s and 90s, has little sympathy.

“It was the same for us,” the former Ferrari and McLaren driver told Servus TV.

“This time, the boys seem to have pushed themselves to the limit, but it’s simply a question of fitness. If you’re in great shape, you won’t get sick.”

Formula 1 drivers today are generally fitter overall than in the 80s and 90s, and Austrian Berger – now 64 – admits that his McLaren teammate Ayrton Senna was fitter than him.

“It’s a fitness problem and a circulatory issue,” he said when asked about the reaction of today’s drivers to the extreme heat in Qatar last weekend.

“If you ask a Verstappen or a Hamilton, they don’t get sick even in those temperatures. Because it’s a factor that you must have on the radar if you want to win.

“For myself, I was often at the limit too, especially in the first half of my career. And I had to manage my limit. In a hot race in Adelaide I had to reduce my speed in the last few laps to avoid getting into a situation like we saw now. And I lost places as a result, of course,” said Berger.

“I often felt sick because I didn’t have the fitness.”