Looking at the driver getting into that low slung Formula One
car is akin to watching an astronaut about to board a space-shuttle in his suit, helmet and HANS (Head and Neck Support). We give you an inside look into what goes to ensure his safety.
There are broadly 3 items of clothing that ensure the Formula 1 driver
survives in the event of a crash or fire: the Helmet, the driver suit/overalls and the HANS. Here are 10 unknown facts that keep your favourite driver safe and in the driving seat.
1. Before any material can be used in making the driver’s suit, it is tested to ensure it does not ignite when a 300-400 degree flame is placed at a distance of 3 cms from it. Further, the garments are washed 15 times and then dry cleaned another 15 times before being tested.
2. Nomex, a light weight artificial fibre is the only material which can be used to make the driver’s overalls because it can withstand temperatures of 840 degrees for 10 seconds, while ensuring the temperature inside does not go over 40 degrees C.
3. Taking attention to detail to a whole new level, even the zips on the driver’s suit and the thread used to sew it together have to withstand temperatures of 840 degrees, the same as the overalls. Less weight is always beneficial, so the logos and patches are now printed, saving more than half a kilogram in the weight of the driver’s suit!
4. Every driver’s suit has to have two handles on the shoulders with the capability to support the weight of the driver and the driver’s seat, in case the marshals need to pull out the driver from the car.
5. The FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) is the only agency which can authorise a Formula One helmet. The FIA conducts extreme fragmentation and deformation tests on the helmet. The helmet has 4 layers, starting from the outside, fibre-reinforced resin over carbon fibre, then Kevlar (yes, the same material used in bullet proof vests!), then a deformable layer made of polyethylene covered with flame retarding material typically same as the suit.
6. The helmet which weighs around 1250 grams also undergoes wind tunnel tests to ensure that the design minimises drag. Further, the liveries on the helmet are hand painted even today! It requires incredible skill to complete the designs.
7. The visor of the helmet is made from a special polycarbonate and ensures excellent visibility, flame retardation and protection from impact. The visor glass is tinted, anti-fogging coating is applied and multiple transparent strips which can be peeled off are pasted on the outside to enable the driver to clear his vision as dirt from the track
gets plastered on the visor.
8. The Hand and Neck Support (HANS) has been a part of the Formula 1 driver’s outfit since 2003. It was developed in the 1980’s at the Michigan State University; however a lot more research has gone make it usable in Formula One.
9. HANS helps control the movement of the driver’s head in the event of a crash, the collar of the HANS helps to redistribute the pendulum movement of the head instead of it being absorbed by the neck muscles and the head.
10. HANS can reduce head movement in an accident by 44 percent, forces to the neck by 86 percent and acceleration applied to the head by 68 percent. Enough said!
Written By : Rishabh Agarwal