Are Formula 1 Suits Fireproof?
Formula 1 drivers assume a tremendous risk by stepping into a car loaded with lots of extremely flammable fuel and driving nearly 200 miles per hour in extremely close proximity to other cars. Crashes happen all the time, and while most are benign, a particularly bad crash can make the potential for fire very real. It’s one of the most dangerous things that can happen in racing. That’s why drivers wear fireproof suits which protect them from both heat and direct flames.
History of Fireproof Suits
Since the early days of racing, fireproof suits have been a requirement for drivers. Over time, these suits have only grown more sophisticated in their ability to keep drivers safe from heat and fire. Modern suits are made with three layers of fire-resistant material and are tailored to each specific driver’s dimensions.
Older suits used to be made with five layers which didn’t allow for much comfort, but superior materials and better design have allowed for a lighter but equally protective suit for today’s drivers. In recent years, regulations have been added that require drivers to wear fireproof undergarments in addition to their suits. The garments are made from a light and breathable material while retaining their protective qualities. Over time, fireproof suits have become more comfortable and better at protecting drivers.
Other Fireproof Garments
In addition to the actual suit, drivers wear a number of accessories that keep them safe in the event of a fire or severe heat. For one, drivers are required to wear a balaclava under their helmets. The garment is worn underneath the race helmet and can help protect the face, neck, and head from burns.
Formula 1 drivers must also wear fireproof gloves while they’re racing, although their gloves aren't quite as fireproof as their suits. Gloves have to be a bit thinner to accommodate the fine movements required when operating a Formula 1 car. Drivers have to not only steer, but also make fine adjustments to the cars through buttons and dials. Similarly, their boots are a bit thinner and thus less protective of accommodating the fine movement required to operate the pedals.
Fireproof Suits in Use
Luckily most Formula 1 races go off without a hitch, and fireproof suits don’t come into play. On rare occasions though, catastrophe can strike, and fireproof suits can be the difference between life and death. One such instance came in 2020 when Romain Grosjean suffered a catastrophic crash, and his car burst into flames. Grosjean was in the flaming car for almost 30 seconds before he finally emerged. He suffered only mild burns to his hands, but if it weren’t for his fireproof suit, the results could’ve been far worse. This is why it’s crucial that drivers wear fireproof suits; it’s impossible to know when one will need them.