How Long Do Formula 1 Suits Last In Fire?
During the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean flew into the wall while traveling at a speed of nearly 120 miles per hour. After 28 seconds in his vehicle, Grosjean emerged virtually unscathed from the fiery wreckage. How is this possible? Keep reading to find out how fireproof Formula 1 suits are.
Are Formula 1 Racing Suits Fireproof?
To pass Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) regulations, race suits must be able to resist at least 12 seconds in a simulated 1,832° F fire. In a dangerous sport where drivers average between 130 and 140 miles per hour, fire safety provisions are truly critical to preventing disaster and protecting athletes.
Formula 1 race suits are composed of three layers of Nomex, a flame-resistant material developed by DuPont that is also worn by firefighters and astronauts. With custom designs catered to combining comfort behind the wheel and protection in the case of an emergency, a race suit is well-equipped and scientifically tested to withstand direct flame exposure for 12 seconds.
At every Formula 1 circuit, drivers will wear four different suits with layers fastened together by fireproof thread and stitching. Further, suits feature handles on each shoulder to permit the pit crew to easily pull a driver out of the wreckage. On race day, both drivers and members of the pit crew don race suits that aim to protect against fire exposure.
According to Appendix L of FIA Regulations, Formula 1 drivers must also wear fireproof underwear and socks made of Nomex material. Drivers are further required to wear a balaclava that includes two layers of Nomex and attempts to protect a driver’s face from fire exposure. These materials add additional protection for drivers and are subject to Heat Transfer Index testing. During these tests, all three items must exceed five seconds in a 1,832° F fire to be approved and certified for race day.
Aside from the eyes, a driver’s hands are the most exposed portion of their body as gloves only provide one layer of Nomex fireproof protection. Interestingly, each set of Formula 1 gloves features a sensor that monitors a driver’s vital signs and oxygen levels. This is particularly influential in the event of a crash, as medical teams quickly receive biometric data that tracks and informs the most effective response to the traumatic event.
In 2001, Formula 1 introduced carbon fiber helmets that better absorb the effects of crashes, feature fireproof lining, and are subject to FIA safety tests and regulations. Manufactured by Bell Racing, Schuberth, Arai, and Stilo, constant research is conducted to improve their design. Formula 1 helmets limit head injuries and must be heat resistant to a temperature of 1,290° F prior to FIA certification.