- F1 authorities are worried that the underwear worn by drivers may not comply with fire safety rules.
- Some drivers are concerned about how the sport’s officials will enforce checks on correct underwear.
- Others, like AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, were philosophical: “If they want to check my arse, feel free.”
An unusual clothing row is developing in the world of Formula One, after drivers were told that their underwear must now pass fire safety standards.
According to a report from the Daily Telegraph this week, the 20 drivers on the F1 grid were involved in an almost two-hour-long discussion at the Australian Grand Prix about the issue of their undergarments and their levels of fire protection.
“From what I understand, the drivers on Friday in Australia spent more time discussing the underwear thing than actually anything about the track,” ex-F1 driver and current Sky F1 presenter Karun Chandhok told the Telegraph.
The issue has arisen since the arrival of Niels Wittich, the sport’s new race director, who replaced the controversial Michael Masi for the start of the 2022 season. In the three races so far this season, Wittich has shown himself to be a stricter referee than Masi, more stringently enforcing F1’s myriad and often complex rules.
This has even extended to what the drivers themselves wear while on track, with Wittich including a reminder to drivers that jewelry and piercings are not allowed to be worn while racing in his race notes.
The memo was seen by some as being specifically directed at seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who is the only current F1 driver with visible piercings.
Wittich also sought over the weekend to remind drivers about Appendix L of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) International Sporting Code, which stipulates that all drivers must wear a certain set of garments alongside their race suit, such as socks, gloves, and long underwear. These must all meet FIA safety standards.
Drivers were then told of concerns that many wear regular underwear underneath their fireproof clothing, and that this underwear may not comply with regulations, particularly if they contain synthetic fibers.
According to racing news outlet motorsport.com, the FIA is concerned about what might happen to a driver wearing any synthetic garment if they were caught in a fiery crash like that involving Romain Grosjean during the 2020 season.
The rules have been in place for many years but have only come to the attention of most in the sport since Wittich intervened.
“You have to question whether it was really of incremental benefit. Conversely, how much of a disadvantage is it just to allow their normal pants underneath? If a fire has got to that point, there’s a lot of other things to consider,” Chandhok, the former F1 driver, told the Telegraph.
‘If they want to check my arse, feel free’: Drivers confused about underwear crackdown
According to a number of reports, there were several sources of frustration about the briefing.
Some drivers were annoyed that officials had waited until the third race of the season to inform them of the new strict interpretation of the rules, others wondered about enforcement, and others were simply frustrated at the length of the discussion about their tighty-whities.
“It was the longest drivers’ briefing of my life,” Lewis Hamilton said after the meeting, motorsport.com reported. “I’ve been racing a long time, and they’ve never done such a long drivers’ briefing.”
“I don’t really understand the small things they are picking up, like the underwear. Are we really talking about that sort of thing?” Hamilton added.
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner seemed to see the funny side of the possible enforcement of the new rules, telling the Telegraph: “I certainly won’t be checking our drivers’ underwear.”
“I’m reliably informed our drivers go commando! Hopefully, it won’t be an issue for them.”
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was one driver to express confusion about how the rule of non-flammable underpants would be enforced, the Telegraph said.
While some drivers were annoyed by the new underwear rules, others, like AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, were philosophical.
“If they want to check my arse, feel free, I’ve got nothing to hide,” Gasly told reporters. “If that makes them happy, feel free.”