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Driver safety - Clothing // An overview of the fireproof gear each driver is kitted out with

Published by Christine

This article was originally written for BellaOnline, but is republished here for posterity.

When it comes to driver safety, there have been vast improvements in the car, in the facilities and in the circuits themselves. A driver wouldn’t dream of getting in the car without a helmet on, and the same is true of the clothes they have to wear. You can’t get in an F1 car in your jeans and a t-shirt, the safety requirements outweigh the need to look fashionable.

The major requirement for a drivers outfit is for it to be fireproof. Nowadays we don’t see many fires, but with so many flammable elements to a Grand Prix weekend, precautions must be taken. There have been fatal crashes in the sport before, where a driver has died because of the flames from the fuel, rather than from the impact itself. We’ve also seen some terrible fires in the pit lane, where things are at their most dangerous.

These days, a drivers overalls are made to withstand very high temperatures and strong flames. The fabric needs to be light, durable, and not claustrophobic – things get quite sweaty in the cockpit. The plastic material is tested with a propane flame, and all of the overalls are made of the same material, the basic body suit, the sponsor logos, even the thread which holds it all together.

Another feature of modern overalls is a strip on each shoulder that acts as a handle. If a driver needs to be removed from his car in a hurry, he can be pulled out by these. The seat is actually detachable as well, meaning that if the worst came to the worst, a driver and his seat could be pulled out by these handles. They have to be very strong to make this possible.

Other aspects of a driver’s wardrobe include fireproof underwear, gloves, and special racing boots. The last two are especially important as they need to be safe, but also thin enough for a driver to be able to steer his car accurately. It’s no good being completely safe and wearing enormous gloves, if by wearing them you are inevitably going to crash. The soles of the racing boots are very thin, to allow a driver the best contact with the pedals. There has to be a fine balance between safety and the ability to race. Motorsport is dangerous, it’s a given fact. You can’t travel at high speeds and not take a risk. However, there’s no need for lives to be put in danger when they don’t need to be, and the clothes a driver wears add just that little bit of extra protection when things go wrong.