The world of an F1 driver appears pretty glamourous – jetting all over the world, getting paid megabucks to whizz around the track at hundreds of miles an hour every fortnight.
Seems a pretty sweet gig. But they’re still human, and as such possess the same gadget cravings as us folk revving our engine in Sainsbury’s car park as we attempt to show our driving nous over the elderly lady in the Nissan Micra.
With that in mind, we caught up with Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton’s chief rival (and team mate at Mercedes-Benz) to find out how technology helps him race faster – and which gadgets he’s found he could live without…
So in terms of your journey in F1, this is your tenth year…
Yeah it is. Pretty old now!
Given F1 is meant the be the pinnacle of technology in motorsport, how has it changed since you first joined the Williams team back in 2006?
Well, we had [technology] at the time, but now it’s more what kind of technology that’s changed a lot. The efficiency of energy usage [in the engines], hybrid energy, it’s so much more efficient. That’s the biggest change.
How about the amount of data you get from the cars?
It’s all the same. For example, now we have much more information on the tyre – we have the interior temperature, the exterior, sensors in other places… all that stuff we never used to have.
There’s just a bit more technology. We’re more advanced, but only because we didn’t think of doing it at the time. It’s not like it wasn’t possible, it’s just getting the ideas, being creative.
What about the role of the simulator for you? How much do you rely on them for preparation?
The problem is it’s still a computer. Lately I’ve reduced the amount of simulator work I’ve been doing because it’s not so useful.
Well, it’s useful for certain things, like giving development direction for the car, trying out new things on the car, there it’s useful, but it’s still limited. It is useful for learning new tracks – for example for Mexico this year it’s been great.
How much harder are the new hybrid cars to drive compared to the old V8s?
It’s the same. Exactly the same. That’s because the tyres are still the same, which is the dominant thing. When the tyres change majorly, that’s when your driving changes the same way.
The cars themselves, the power is similar, the downforce is the same. There’s more torque so you accelerate a little bit less, but there’s no torque holes [turbo lag] like there used to be, it’s very smooth and gradual, so it’s quite similar.
Are you looking forward to the possibility of faster cars in 2017?
The cars are already fast, so if you want to make them faster, fine –they are fast as they are. But faster is always better.
Should refuelling return?
That’s a question [firstly] for the people doing strategy because they will be able to understand ‘will that make racing more exciting, will there be more passing?’ And I think they say ‘no, it will not’.
The other thing is the fans – a lot of fans want to see refuelling again but maybe because they don’t really know all the implications. If they understood that it might be worse for racing then maybe they wouldn’t want refuelling.
Let’s talk tech: which phone are you using at the moment?
A BlackBerry Passport.
We’ve seen mixed reactions to that phone – what is it that you like about it?
I like the keyboard especially. It’s a big advantage over all the other phones. And I do all my work on the phone - I don’t have my computer with me – it’s very useful for that.
Which feature do you use day to day?
I use BBM to communicate with the team, as everyone has a BlackBerry so that makes it easy. I like that the Hub has everything in one place, it’s easy, plus battery life is good.
Is it something you use socially? Or just with the team?
Yeah, I use it socially.
So do you have a lot of friends on BBM?
Some of them, maybe 50% – especially the ones who are working in companies, they all have it. The ones that work in banks and companies, they all have BlackBerrys.
What about the other F1 drivers?
When you’re at home, what gadgets are you using constantly?
I have my Bose sound system which has just been installed, it plays in all the different rooms, all by remote. And you can also use that with Spotify, which is cool too.
And then I’ve been using a drone recently, a small one by Hubsan, I think it costs around £100.
It has video recording, the smallest drone with that and that’s really good fun because it’s not like the big drones which will hover on their own – this one you really need to properly control it, you need to keep it [in the air].
For someone who’s going away and coming back a lot, do you have an appetite for the completely connected home to help ease you back in?
It makes sense because it makes it all easy. How annoying is it to go running for the heating over there, switch off the lights over there, and then the heating is too hot so you have to run back?
If I could control my bath from phone, and not have to get up every time to have a look, that would be great!
Do you use any fitness technology – heart rate monitors, GPS watches etc?
Lately I’ve removed everything and I just go by feel. At one point I had all my watches and everything was documented, all the graphs etc, and I would always train according to my zones.
But for the last couple of years I do everything by feel and it works great.
What made you change?
I don’t know – it just came gradually. I really don’t know what made me change. In the morning I’ll still check my resting heart rate because that’s a really good indication for me – I know exactly that if I’m over 51 [beats per minute] it means I’m tired.
If I’m in the 40s I know I can hit it again. That’s pretty important.
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