by Caroline De Beaumont - Sports

Brazilian Grand Prix: Keeping F1’s heroes safe

To combat the dangers of their unique profession, Formula 1 drivers benefit from a raft of equipment conceived entirely with their safety in mind. Carlos Sainz Jr. talks us through this special kit...

One of each driver’s identifying features thanks to its personalised design, the helmet is first and foremost a safety device. Carlos Sainz Jr.’s helmet is manufactured by Japanese brand Arai. Its outer shell is composed of 19 ultra-fine layers of carbon-fibre and Kevlar – a far cry from the far flimsier helmets of the 1950s! Now, helmets must be able to withstand the very hardest of impacts by dispersing as much energy as possible. They must also be able to protect against temperatures of up to 800°C for a period of 45 seconds.

Safe and lightweight

So as not to overly restrict the driver, this technology-packed device strikes a complex balance between maximum safety and minimum weight. The helmet must be ultra-light (less than 1.5kg), since drivers are exposed to significant g-forces through corners that increase the combined weight of their head and helmet fivefold. This is even more of a sensitive area this season with Formula 1’s higher cornering speeds, and Interlagos is a particularly demanding circuit in this respect. Every gram saved in the manufacture of the helmet eases the stresses on the driver’s neck.

Of course, every driver has several helmets to choose from.

I go through about ten each season. It’s necessary, because they get damaged a little bit with use, particularly when you are closely following another car for 60 laps!” . Carlos Sainz Jr. , Renault Sport Formula One Team driver

Each driver brings two or three helmets fitted with visors adapted to different weather conditions to every grand prix weekend. Although only 3mm thick, the visor must be capable of resisting a projectile travelling at 500kph. It is covered in several plastic ‘tear-off’ strips, which the driver removes over the course of the race to ensure they have optimum visibility:

I generally take off no more than four or five per grand prix. Usually, I remove a tear-off strip just after the start, because that is when the pack tends to kick up a lot of dirt and tyre rubber residue.” Carlos Sainz Jr. , Renault Sport Formula One Team driver

A system to guard against whiplash

In order to protect them from whiplash, drivers benefit from a ‘HANS’ device, which is now compulsory. This piece of equipment keeps the head at shoulder-level during impacts and safeguards against serious spine injuries:

This device is capable of saving my life. We wouldn’t even consider getting into a Formula 1 car now without it! It’s not even particularly uncomfortable – you barely even know it’s there. Wearing it has become entirely natural.” Carlos Sainz Jr. , Renault Sport Formula One Team driver

Another indispensable element of the driver’s arsenal is the race suit, which goes over the top of similarly fireproof Nomex underwear. Tailor-made for each driver, the suit is designed to withstand temperatures of up to 700°F for a period of 12 seconds, which is the time required for a driver to extricate themselves from a burning Formula 1 car.

I go through about six each year – three over each half of the season.”

Given his mid-season transfer to Renault Sport Formula One Team, that number has been slightly higher than usual for Carlos Sainz Jr. in 2017!

Duly protected, Carlos Sainz Jr. and team-mate Nico Hülkenberg can tackle this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix in complete confidence. After finishing sixth at Interlagos last year, the Spanish driver is firmly focussed on further adding to Renault’s points tally at 5pm CET on Sunday.

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Tags: renault sport f1