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F1 racewear – keeping drivers protected over the decades - Motorsport Technology

tagsCarbon Felt Ground Protector

Since its inception, motorsports has made drivers wear racing-specific clothing. Over the years, the challenges and dangers of driving have changed the racing suits worn from head to toe. For most of its history, the biggest danger was fire. The chassis was crumpled in a crash, the damaged fuel tank leaked fuel and increased the risk that the driver might be trapped by the burning wreckage, which exacerbated the fire.

Therefore, for a long time, fire protection has been the top priority of racing suits. Although recent incidents in Sakhir have shown that a fire is still a danger, there are many other factors that need to be taken into account in the clothing of current racers.

The racing suit is a compromise. It needs to be comfortable to give the driver full confidence when driving the car. It also needs to provide protection in the event of an accident. When

, Halo and his Nomex protective clothing are closely related to his survival.

When we talk about comfort, there are several factors. The driver needs to be able to feel the steering and pedals, and they should not be constrained by heavy clothing that does not stretch like the driver's body. However, there is also the problem of thermal stress, and the driver will quickly lose performance if overheated. Driving an F1 car in high ambient temperatures for nearly two hours, withstanding a force of 5g and applying a brake pedal force of 130kg is a tough exercise.

For safety reasons, as mentioned above, fire is the biggest danger, so the helmet and the neck of the HANS device have requirements for collision protection.

Since the 1960s, the current Driver Race clothing has never changed, including Driver Race clothing, fire-resistant underwear, gloves, boots and helmets. But compared with every decade before, the current racing suits are much superior in protection and comfort. FIA regulations strengthen the safety of this equipment, which includes 8860 covering helmets and 8856 clothing.

The FIA ​​safety department regularly checks regulations, technological developments, and the results of accidents, any of which may cause updates. At present, these two regulations have been updated in 2018, and the number is added as a suffix in each regulation. Most commonly, these rules are first applied to F1 and then descend through other elite categories and junior competitions.

Although F1 racing suits that comply with the regulations are only applicable to F1 cars, they are still restricted by Regulation No. 8856-2018, which is the basic requirement of racing suits.

First consider safety. The protective clothing is made of Nomex fire-resistant material developed by DuPont. This material replaces the same fire-resistant materials that existed before, but these materials are often fire-resistant treated cotton. Although they have fire protection in the new and old, they will lose their performance due to wear, washing or contamination of fuel, oil, etc. Therefore, Nomex, which is inherently fire-resistant, has become the actual material for fire-resistant competition suits. Over the years, this material has been developed, so it has become thinner and lighter, which will help improve comfort, as will be explained below.

The current racing suit is made of three layers of fabric to meet the fire resistance test required by the FIA. Under 8856-2000, the time is 10s when the time is 800s, but it is now 12s to comply with the current rules. The test is now also applied to seams and stretch panels to prove that the entire suit can provide the same level of protection as the main structure. In addition, the suit must now have an expiration date so that the suit will not exceed its safe service life.

Once proved to have passed the FIA ​​test, the neck of each suit must be embroidered with the certification type and expiration date. The manufacturer tried to print these details, but F1 inspectors quickly condemned the practice. Since the printing line may be worn or burned, and the fire line is more durable, it has a longer service life, especially in the event of an accident.

To prevent flames, the wrists, ankles, and collar of the suit must be tight, and the zipper must have flaps that cover the entire length. Safety also needs to have epaulette rings on the shoulders of the suit to help the bailiff pull the driver out of the car, just like Grosjean’s escape.

Needless to say, each suit is tailor-made for each driver. Obviously, a suit that fits can improve its safety performance.

Therefore, it reflects the size and shape of the driver, as well as their preference for comfort. Although most drivers now wear tight suits, people like Jacques Villeneuve prefer looser suits. Most suits even have pockets, although who knows what F1 drivers need to carry with them nowadays! Of course not his car key.

The material of the suit covers the fire resistance, and the tailoring details of the suit determine the comfort of the driver. First, because the driver is in the retracted position of the car, the tailoring of the suit tends to be offset forward and backward. The back of the suit is longer or has a stretch panel, while the front is shorter to prevent improper folding under the seat belt. Similarly, there are stretch boards at the intersection of the sleeve and the body and the part. These stretch panels provide comfort, but emphasize the importance of using the new rules for more testing. Then all seams are flattened to prevent the seams from cutting into the driver when tightly tied to the seat.

As early as the 1970s, this suit used up to five layers of nomex with a felt layer between them to provide fire resistance. This makes the suit like a blanket in winter, reducing maneuverability and keeping the driver's body heat inside the suit. Now, the latest lightweight materials enable drivers to articulate their arms and legs more comfortably. But it’s also important that these layers are breathable, allowing the driver’s body heat and sweat to be dissipated.


More importantly, compared with the old-fashioned suit, the weight of this suit is much lighter, the weight is even 750 grams, and the weight is lighter, close to 2 kg. In order to meet the more stringent test requirements of 8856-2018, the suit is lighter and more insulated than before, but there is only a little leeway.

No more embroideries or embellishments on suits can further help reduce figure and weight. Most of the clothes are printed by inkjet! In this way, complex paintings of sponsor logos and prints with multiple colors, fades and even photo styles can be applied to the specially processed outer layer.

Under the racing suit, the driver must wear a layer of fireproof underwear. Like the suit, this must comply with the regulations 8856-2018, and the material is Nomex. As with most sports, the technology of this base layer has been developed in recent decades, and old suits that look like wool warmers are now thin, breathable and wicking moisture. Therefore, they not only meet the fire protection requirements, but also provide the sports comfort required by the driver.

There are long John-style bottoms and socks on the sleeves. It is important that there is enough overlap between them to protect the driver from fire even in the seat position. Like a racing suit, the bottom layer needs to show a certificate of regulation, and the material can be printed with a sponsor's logo.

Then there is the balaclava. It can have a double layer on the front to further protect the exposed facial area inside the front of the helmet. In the higher-risk 70s and 80s, double eyelets were used as a priority to provide more protection. Nowadays, drivers seem to have only one larger eye, often pulling their nose or mouth downward. In order for the tube used in the beverage system to enter the driver's mouth, these holes are also sewn into the balaclava.

Inside the balaclava, there are often earpieces and microphones for the driver’s radio, which vary from driver to driver, because some people prefer one or two of the helmets. The advantage of putting them inside the balaclava is that they are closer to the ears and mouth. In addition, balaclavas are cheaper than helmets, so if the helmet worn by the driver is faulty, many spare balaclavas/headphones/microphones can be prepared.

Gloves or hand guards have always been a characteristic of racers. Starting from the crochet backing or perforated leather gloves in the past, to the present, the driver’s hands have some fire protection.

The delicate leather palm provides the silicone grip of the steering wheel to the driver's hands and provides tactile feedback, and then the nomex glove extends from the palm and fingertips. Similarly, good fit is essential for feedback and safety, and some manufacturers and drivers prefer the Velcro straps on the wrists to keep the gloves close to the hands.

This structure is a compromise. More Nomex layers will be better in terms of fire protection, but the driver’s fingertips are not so delicate. Therefore, compared to other parts of the competition suit, the gloves receive less fire protection. Grosjean's accident proved this again, his hands were most affected by the fire, because Nomex had fewer protective layers.

Never thought that some weight loss would make me happy. The body recovered well from the impact. Hope the burns on my hands are the same. ?

Thanks again everyone for the information.

PS: Typing input speed is still very slow

-Romain Grosjean (@RGrosjean)

Most car fans don’t know that the driver’s gloves also have a new safety innovation, the bionic sensor. Inside a fingertip is a wireless sensor that can read the driver's vital signs; heart rate and blood oxygen saturation. The data from this sensor is fed back to the car safety data logger and can be accessed wirelessly from outside the car. Not only can this provide real-time data and recorded data about the driver’s health, but in the event of an accident, the bailiff and medical team can also determine how urgent the driver’s condition is and make judgments accordingly.

If an accident prevents the medical team from contacting the driver, please know whether their heart rate or breathing is critical-the medical team may decide to abandon certain recovery procedures in order to unplug the driver more quickly. For example, if the driver loses consciousness and is trapped in reverse, they may roll over faster and may suffer bone damage in order to prioritize the driver’s breathing/heart rate.

Racing boots seem to change with the times and often reflect other fashions in footwear. Like wearing gloves, boots are a compromise solution that can cause feedback errors due to absolute safety. Current trends follow the style of sports coaches, with velcro straps or laces and thin silicone rubber soles. Recently, sock-style uppers have become a trend instead of leather\suede or artificial leather-like materials.

The leather flight helmet was quickly replaced by a helmet with fiberglass, initially open, then closed, and with goggles. The current F1 specification helmet is an incredible engineering feat and requires some very rigorous testing. The current 8860-2018 regulations have been filtered to other race categories and have been the evolution of many helmet themes in the past few decades.

The helmet consists of a carbon composite shell, a foam inner lining and a fireproof lining, and every aspect has been tested to comply with FIA certification. Recent regulations try to reduce the burden on the helmet while meeting the impact resistance test, reduce the weight of the helmet while making it more comfortable when turning and braking at 5g, and it is safer in the event of a major accident of 50g, reducing neck injuries, although HANS device. According to the size of the shell, the weight of the F1 helmet is only 1250g!

-The key to the 2018 regulations is the change in eyelet size and sun visor overlap. After the accident of Felipe Massa, the shell of the helmet was quickly hit by the metal spiral spring on the helmet/visor, and the FIA ​​enforced the Zylon anti-collision strip to strengthen the overlap between the visor and the helmet. This is replaced by the new rule, in which the sun visor opening is smaller and the area around the opening is enhanced, thereby eliminating the need for additional straps. The obvious reduction of driver visibility is not a problem, because the old sun visor labels or tee strips cover the same area, so the effective window area formed by the helmet\sun visor is the same.

Those who think back to the 70s and 80s of F1 will think of the tube that enters the driver’s helmet, which is connected to a special medical gas supply device that allows the driver to breathe when trapped in a fire. Due to the safety standards of racing suits, the car and trackside operations have been improved, so these systems are no longer needed, are no longer suitable for racing, and do not meet the requirements of the regulations.

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