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Why so many Formula 1 drivers play squash

While squash fans the world over are familiar with the exploits of some of the world’s best players, less well known is how important a role squash plays in another sport.

Formula 1 correspondent and presenter Lawrence Barretto, who has been watching the squash action at the Canary Wharf Classic this week, sat down with SQUASHTV to give insights into the popularity of squash within the motorsport.

“In terms of fitness, there is no better training programme [than squash],” Barretto explains.

“Carlos [Sainz, driver for Ferrari] adds it to his preseason programme because it gets the heart rate up – or at least it does when I make him run around a lot! It gets his heart rate up and it gets him in the zone for making those split-second decisions which you need to do when you’re a racing driver. But also, for hand-eye coordination, it’s great.

“After 40 minutes on a court you’re feeling dead at the end of it and I think that’s a really good workout – I can’t really think of any other sports that can do that.”

While Sainz, whose father Carlos Sainz sr. was a two-time Spanish national squash champion, may be one of the most dedicated squash players on the Formula 1 circuit, he’s far from the only driver to take advantage of the fitness and reflex training the sport offers.

When asked which driver is the most talented squash player, Barretto jokes: “I think if you asked them, they would all say they are the best, but I think that Carlos is definitely one of the best on tour. Charles Leclerc plays a lot, he plays a fair bit. Pierre Gasly fancies himself a little bit, Esteban Ocon plays a bit as well. Even Lewis Hamilton actually plays a bit as well.”

Above – seven-time F1 World Drivers’ Championship winner Lewis Hamilton incorporating squash into his training.

As part of Sainz’s training ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix last year, he took on Rijnsburg-based World No.5 Paul Coll of New Zealand, something Barretto said was a great experience for both athletes: “It was so good to meet Paul [Coll] last year at the Dutch Grand Prix. It was nice for him to pop down and spend the weekend with Carlos and get an insight behind the scenes there. We actually spent some time on court and he definitely gave Carlos a run around as well. 

I think you can really see the difference between elite athletes, with Carlos at the peak of his career in Formula 1 and Paul at the peak of his career in squash. They’ve got very different skill sets so it’s quite cool to see them both as competitive as each other, but obviously on different levels on the squash court!”

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