The first real-world test of new gloves designed to improve fire protection for Formula 1 drivers yielded positive results last weekend.Romain Grosjean’s crash in Bahrain last year, in which he suffered burns to his hands.
The gloves were developed with multiple suppliers of protective race gear and trialled during Friday’s practice sessions at the Turkish Grand Prix.
“As a result of Romain’s incident, it was an area we started working on immediately,” said FIA F1 race director Michael Masi. “We identified very quickly that was an area that could be improved, together with the manufacturers.”
The test identified minor areas of potential improvement for the new glove designs, said Masi.
“The initial feedback from the drivers is all good. There’s a couple of little fine-tuning elements with a couple of the brands, but nothing insurmountable from that end. So we’re very grateful to the drivers and the teams involved to actually run them and it shows that we’re trying to increase those levels of protection as much as possible.”
The gloves are designed to reduce heat transfer to a drivers’ skin when exposed to direct heat. They are intended to provide around one-and-a-half seconds of extra protection compared to the previous design.
“It sounds minimal,” said Masi, “but as we’ve seen in those types of scenarios, every tenth of a second, millisecond counts.”
The increased protection must be achieved while maintaining the dexterity required to operate the many buttons, switches and dials on complex Formula 1 steering wheels.
“We can’t completely change that side of it because they’ve got to have that level of feeling, particularly with something like their gloves with everything that they have to operate,” said Masi. “So that’s why we have this practical test to get their feedback in a real-life situation.”
Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and George Russell were the drivers who participated. Mercedes and Ferrari are supplied with driver protective equipment by Puma, McLaren by Sparco, Aston Martin by Alpinestars and Williams by OMP.
The FIA’s head of competitor and road user safety Nuno Costa oversaw the project and monitored the trial in Istanbul last weekend. Afterwards Ricciardo said he could not tell a difference between the prototype gloves and his usual ones.
“I knew that I was going to use them but after the fact, I didn’t know I used them,” Ricciardo said. “So I’m trying to say that’s a good thing – I didn’t notice the difference.
“But I’m not very fussy with my kit and stuff, so I’m not that particular. But [it was] completely fine for me. It’s a nice addition without any downside, really.”
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