Racers wear fire-retardant suits to protect themselves in case their cars catch fire. The suit is meant to protect the driver from the flames until the fire can be put out or the driver is recovered from the burning car. The driver's boots and gloves are also fire-retardant.
J.B. Hinchman, an Indianapolis based company, manufactured the first fire-retardant suit over 80 years ago. The dress code for drivers in the 50s and 60s was primarily aimed towards comfort and elegance, that is until 1976, after Niki Lauda's fire accident. In 1979, Lauda, along with Carlos Reutemann and Mario Andretti began wearing racing suits that were made of five layers of fire-retardant material that was also used by NASA for astronauts' suits. Present-day suits are made of two materials mainly, Proban and Nomex. Proban is a chemically treated cotton-based fabric. Nomex is a synthetic fiber that allows a driver to survive in 850 degree Celsius heat for at least 35 seconds.