|Safety on the Double! - Driver clothing|
Saturday, 06 January 2007 16:00
Formula 1 owes its high safety standards not only to the use of computer technology and high-tech materials in the construction of the cars but also to the consistent enhancement of the helmets and racing overalls. They not only protect the drivers from injury in emergencies, but also give them a feeling of security.
Safety on the Double! - Driver clothing
with French Grand Prix in Magny-Cours as an example
Another advantage of Nomex is its low weight. A racing overall – which these days normally consists of three layers of fireproof material – weighs scarcely 1.9 kilograms and every suit is tailor-made for the driver with the help of ultra-modern 3D computer programs. There is even space for a few small concessions in the interests of comfort: to make sure the overall does not cling or pull anywhere, a particularly flexible material is used for the shoulder area and the innermost of the three layers does not have any seams. Breathable materials are also used in the production of the overalls, which have varying thicknesses depending on the particular race. Each driver uses approximately 16 suits per season.
In passenger cars, too, the protection of the occupants has also reached an extremely high level over a period of many years. The safety of motorcycle riders, on the other hand, is extremely difficult to ensure. “Apart from avoiding accidents by riding carefully and defensively, the helmet is one of the indispensable safety factors,” says Dr. Christoph Lauterwasser from the Allianz Centre for Technology (AZT). Even so, no motorbike rider should rely solely on a helmet for safety reasons. Lauterwasser adds: “Good protective clothing with protectors should also be taken for granted.”
The exact composition of the 17 layers is a well-guarded business secret for every helmet manufacturer. The specialists will only reveal the three main substances: carbon fibre for the rigidity, fire-resistant aramide and polyethylene, which is also used for bullet-proof vests. Added to these – as we all know – are aluminium, magnesium and, as a binding agent, epoxy resin. The helmets are extremely durable, but with a weight of about 1.2kg they are still relatively light and so reduce the strain on the neck and shoulder muscles of the drivers on tracks with particularly high G-force loads.
In the autoclave, the individual layers are bonded to one another and hardened under high pressure and at a constant temperature of 132°C. Parts subject to exceptional loads, such as the underside and the visor cut-out, are additionally reinforced using aluminium and titanium. The interior padding consists of two layers of fireproof Nomex. The helmet is subjected to an 800°C flame for 45 seconds in the compulsory fire test. During this time, temperatures inside the helmet may not exceed 70°C. The ventilation system is designed to allow about 10 litres of fresh air to flow into the helmet’s interior. A filter cleans the air of even the finest motor oil, carbon and brake dust particles.
To test its protective qualities, projectiles are shot at the visor at 500km/h and the impact marks must not exceed a depth of 2.5mm. Given all this high technology, it is hardly surprising that the visor is heated – even though Formula 1 takes a break during winter.
“This track alternates very dynamically for the drivers between quick and slow sections and so is more demanding than it appears at first sight. Some of the corners run over small hills, so it is very difficult to see the apex. Because the tarmac is unusually smooth, we drivers always have the feeling that we can go right to the limit. So you have to be careful that you don’t overdo it. The whole thing also gets pretty tricky when it rains. In that case, the smooth surface can quickly become a problem.”
|Last Updated on Saturday, 21 July 2007 14:45|