Sergio Perez's trainer, Xavi Martos, shares the fitness secrets behind the Mexican's amazing start of the season.

Before the start of the season, much of the talk in the press was about the levels of fitness drivers would be required to have. With more powerful and demanding cars, suddenly it was a matter of drivers fine-tuning their training to be fully prepared for the beasts they would have to tame.

That the drivers could adapt so well to this new era of Formula One is testament to the great work collectively done by their physios and trainers in the cold winter months separating last year’s Abu Dhabi season finale and the first race in Melbourne. With careful planning and hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears (we are told) in the gym, the heroes behind the wheel have been able to tackle the challenge successfully. Four races into the new campaign, we sit down with Xavi Martos, Sergio Perez’s trainer, to discuss their approach to the 2017 season.

“Checo’s preparations for this new season have been at least 35% more intense than in the past,” says the likeable Spaniard. “It was a conscious choice as we adapted our work to the new cars we were expecting for the season.”

With a prestigious curriculum including Catalan giants Barcelona FC and other Formula One drivers, Xavi is one of the most experienced physios in the F1 world. One of the friendliest and most approachable individuals in the paddock, he is nonetheless fully focused on the job at hand and one of the contributing factors to Checo’s incredible rise through the ranks since his arrival at Sahara Force India.

“Strength training, in particular isometric strength, went up to three hours a week, with a further six hours of auxotonic (concentric-eccentric) strength work alongside endurance work,” he explains. “When it came to muscle groups specific to driving, such as neck, trapeze, lumbar areas, oblique abdominals, arms, hands, pecs, glutes and quads in particular, we worked on alternate days; we also increased our rate of cardiovascular training, combining work at different intensities and volumes.”

It’s not all a matter of bulking up, though – the specific requirements of being a driver require a much wider range of skills to be sharpened up.

“Especially in pre-season, another very important aspect of our training programme has been that regarding reflexes, visual exercises and cognitive skills. To achieve this, we introduced a lot of new exercises to provide variety and new stimulations, such as training in karts and introducing elements of surprise during those sessions.”

As with every other high-performance athlete, recovery is a crucial part of training – one that enabled Checo to sustain higher rates of work without losing precious time to injuries.

“You are doubling the training sessions and cranking up intensity and volume: you need to plan into your programme recovery therapies at least three times a week, to go with flexibility training to avoid overloading your body.”

But training is not the only key to a driver’s successful preparation for a new season, Xavi claims. There is much more than only on-track action can provide.

“For all the specific training the driver may have had, however, the new cars will require a specific adaptation, both muscular and coordinative, that can be generated only when driving the real thing. This is an often understated part of pre-season testing but we have seen it during the sessions in Barcelona, this winter – no matter how fit and well prepared a driver is, only practice and lots of mileage in race-realistic conditions can produce the adaptation of all muscle chains to respond to the requirements.”

With four points finishes in the first four races to his name, Checo Perez seems to have adapted well to the requirements of the new season – and a lot of the credit can be attributed to the smiling Spaniard standing behind him in the garage.