By Andrea Montolivo
Rome, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- Romain Grosjean had barely started the Bahrain Grand Prix last Sunday when his Haas careered into the barrier and was engulfed in a ball of flames.
Everyone feared the worst. But just seconds later the Frenchman managed to clamber out of the vehicle — which had split in two — and make it to safety.
His flame-retardant suit, made by Italian firm Alpinestars, and the Halo driver protection mechanism, adopted by Formula One 2018, played a fundamental role in preventing a tragedy that day and heralded a technological triumph in a sport that sees its competitors reach dizzying speeds.
Grosjean escaped the accident with light burns to his hands and ankles, but with no major damages, a testament to the fire-retardant nature of his suit, boots, gloves and underclothing, all manufactured by Alpinestars in the small town of Asolo in northwest Italy.
Founded in 1963 by Sante Mazzarolo, Alpinestars now has hubs in Asolo, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Bangkok and provides state of the art equipment for F1, NASCAR, Motocross and MotoGP.
Coming in at around $2,000, and available to the general public, the Hypertech v2 Suit worn by Grosjean at the time of the crash went through two rounds of heat testing.
The first is a flame test on each component of the suit to confirm it can resist a temperature of 700C (1,292F) for at least 10 seconds. The second, known as an HTI test, which examines the heat-resistant properties of the suit overall, Elizabeth Mikulis, head of communications at Alpinestars, tells Efe.
For the HTI test, technicians place a thermometer sensor on the innermost layer of the suit to see how long it takes for the internal temperature to rise by 24C in a simulation of a fire with temperatures up to 1,000C.