Innovation that helps mechanics in the heat
Innovation
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Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Mar 2013   |  7:36 am GMT  |  31 comments

Innovation in F1 is not limited to new technology on the cars or in communications devices, it even extends to the clothing worn by mechanics in the pit lane. And this weekend in the heat of Malaysia it should come into its own.

A new material developed from high-tech sportswear used by top tennis stars and other athletes is now helping to keep race mechanics cool and less tired when working in the pit lane in intense temperatures.

Human Performance Engineering, a company set up by Nick Harris, the man who trained top drivers like Mark Webber, David Coulthard and Nico Hulkenberg, discovered that team shirts made from the anti-microbial Freshfit material helped mechanics to stay sharper for longer, particularly in hot places like Malaysia this weekend. It uses a moisture management system to reduce fluid loss and maintain body temperature, which helps athletes to maintain performance over long periods and works in a similar way for mechanics.

“They conserve energy because they sweat less,” says Harris. “This means less fatigue and loss of concentration.”


Although the Melbourne race weekend took place in cool temperatures, the Caterham team, which is using HPE team gear this season, had a chance to feel the effect while setting up during the end of the Melbourne heatwave, which lasted until the Wednesday before the race. Temperatures in the pit lane on Monday hit 38 degrees and the mechanics reported a “significant” difference from previous team gear, which was made of material similar to football shirts, as most F1 teams use.

“They reported that they didn’t feel as tired at the end of the day and they noticed that they didn’t sweat as much,” says Harris.

The real test will come this weekend in Malaysia where temperatures of 35 degrees are combined with humidity as high as 80%.

For more information: www.hpeclothing.com

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31 Comments
  1. Random 79 says:

    Any guesses on how much one of those shirts might cost? I could have used one last week ;)

  2. Mohammed Al-Momen says:

    Bahrain will be another test the weather is getting warmer by the day over here!!! Even we had rain this mroning!!!

  3. Ben says:

    Sounds like a good plan to me.

    On the other hand Mclaren mechanics will have to be wearing trousers and not shorts so looks like not all the teams are buying into this philosophy.

  4. Martin B says:

    Fascinating stuff James.

    I wonder if or indeed how long it will be before this material filters down to the general public and be used in sportswear. As a runner, it would be interesting to try it out and see the difference.

    1. Pops says:

      They have compression tops and polo shirts, but no tees at the moment.

      http://hpe-shop.com/collections/men/products/formula40-compression-top-long-sleeve-men
      http://hpe-shop.com/collections/men/products/formula40-ultimate-polo-men

      FRESHFIT® Fabric: 80% nylon 20% spandex

    2. Phil Bishop says:

      I use x-bionic tops for running when it’s hot, check those out. they have a range for super hot weather
      personally I like the technical geeky look but my wife hates it. mega £ too but it does work

      incidentally the HPE hoodie and trousers are lovely for slouching round the house

  5. Steve says:

    I wander what they have been doing for the last 10-20 years to keep mechanics & drivers cool? Surely they’ve tried things for when in full fire suit..

    1. James Allen says:

      McLaren had “cool suits” for mechanics during refuelling era in hot places, apparently. One of their mechanics tweeted me a photo. I don’t remember those!

  6. Quade says:

    F1 is so interesting for the levels of innovation it churns out. It would be such a nice place to work!
    I wonder if any team uses high performance shock absorbing plastics (eg D3o) to save the jack mans legs being ground to dust from frequent impacts with over enthusiastic pitting cars?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D3o

  7. David B says:

    Really interesting and different type of article, thanks for the insight.

    1. Sarah says:

      Yeah, I like to read things like this, as well as stuff about what happens on-track.

  8. Monji says:

    Great, pit stops should be faster now, let say 2.4 average

    1. DB says:

      I cannot see the wheels coming off anymore. I think they just remove them while the car is moving. :-)

  9. aveli says:

    f1 is meant to be hi tech yet we see masking tape used to secure parts on cars and old mops used to clear dust etc. and yet they’re keen to show off hi tech clothes they’ve only just introduced. i would love to hear about techonoly transfer from f1 to other parts of life in general. f1 should use their wind tunnel and aerodynamic knowledge to design silent and more efficient vacuum cleaners for example after all all fans are very noisy. even those in computers and laptops should be quietened down with f1 wind tunnel knowledge.

    1. cometeF1 says:

      as funny as it might sound, people don’t like silent vacuum cleaners. the reason? They thing they are not as powerful. Marc

      1. Random 79 says:

        Plus they don’t scare pet dogs and cats nearly as much, which takes all the fun out of it ;)

  10. hotAir-O-foil says:

    Their website’s Fabric Lab advertising-speak says:-
    ‘…silver technology that prevents bacterial build up…’

    Translation:-
    ‘Significant reduction of body-odour facilitates enhanced team co-ordination’

  11. yassin says:

    Hi James,

    On a different topic, Nikki Lauda has expressed his displeasure to the press regarding the tyres, whats’ your thoughts on the situation?

    My understanding from OZ is Teams now have to be an all round package to win rather then being just fast.

    1. James Allen says:

      If he was winning, like Lotus, he wouldn’t be complaining…

      It’s the same for everyone. Mercedes tried to do a 300km race with just two stops, so they clearly thought tyres would last

      1. yassin says:

        Thanks James

        I got a little emotional, Kimi looked like his old self back when he was at Mclaren.

      2. Random 79 says:

        Ha, good answer!

      3. Johnny Z says:

        Brawn decided to do a two stopper because he didn’t believe they had the pace to keep up with Red Bull and Ferrari on 3 stops. They wanted to take a chance by leaving Rosberg and Hamilton out there on a two stop strategy with a chance of rain, to see if they could poach a podium when RBR and Ferrari pitted for the 3rd time. Mercedes biggest mistake was over estimating their levels of tyre wear. Hamilton clearly stated in his early radio communications that the 2 stop strategy wasn’t going to work. Warmer temperatures in Malaysia will probably help Mercedes, but it will also help Red Bull and Ferrari.

      4. Yak says:

        Lauda says a lot of things. He also said at some point last year that Vettel was out of the running for the WDC.

        He may once have been a great driver, but it doesn’t mean everything that comes out of his mouth is gospel.

  12. JoeS says:

    What id*ot thought to put them in football top material shirts in the first place, it isn’t rocket science to realise those shirts a flipping hot!

  13. Kbdavies says:

    Hello James,
    Great article, but this statement does not make any sense – They conserve energy because they sweat less,”
    If it reduces sweating because it is more breathable, or evaporates the sweat quicker because, again, it is more breathable, that that is different. However, this does not seem to be what the article is saying.

    Anyone with a simple grasp of bio-mechanices will know that sweating is a biomechanical reaction cause d by exposure to heat which increases core temperature. This exposure can be external or internal.
    To achieve what they are claiming, the attire must reduces the heat exposure/ ambient temperature the skin is exposed to, or serve to evaporate sweat faster,thereby cooling the skin and reducing further sweating. The article does not seem to be saying this.

    I stand corrected if i have made a balls up of the article.

    1. Random 79 says:

      No disrespect for you Kbdavies, but these guys probably have a bit better than a *simple* grasp of bio-mechanics.

      Whether it makes sense or not, whatever they are doing seems to be working for them.

      1. RampantHaddock says:

        …because companies never try to fool the general public with science-y sounding technobabble, do they?

      2. Random 79 says:

        No, they have advertising for that ;)

  14. Phil says:

    pffft…when i was at Tyrrell we just had open necked baggy shirts and shorts during pit stops, no pit lane speed limits and jumpers for goal posts…..we were cool enough .. ;)

    1. Random 79 says:

      Yes, and it was probably that lax attitude toward safety that ultimately led to the development of those pesky Nexus 5s ;)

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