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Michael Schumacher

Italian News - April 25

As Michael Schumacher stood on the winner's podium at Imola on Sunday, sharp-eyed fans may have noticed changes in his red racing suit during the long months away from the top spot. The white panel over his stomach is a different shape, for a start, and there are also new white flashes around the arm holes.

Details, perhaps, but the Genoa-based company which makes the Ferrari ace's suits says these changes reflect the way that the outfit - like the car - is constantly evolving. Adjustments respond not just to changing sponsors but also to the demands of comfort and aesthetics. Recent innovations include elasticised knees to ease movement in the cramped cockpit and perspiration vents around the armhole seams (an important detail in the boiling Bahrein and Malaysia races).

This year, Schumacher started the season with a suit that is a few grams lighter thanks to thinner advertising patches, which will also rub less because they are not so bulky. Other important adjustments over the last few years include a softer collar that doesn't chafe during the 90 minutes of racing and a pocket set further down the trouser leg to avoid discomfort while racing.

Seven women tailors work on Schumacher's suits, stitching together the 35 separate, hand-cut pieces. They are made of nomex, a synthetic fibre which will not burn for 30 seconds when held in a flame. The suits weigh 1.3 kg and cost about 1,500 euros to produce. On the Monday before every grand prix weekend, OMP officials deliver two new race suits, providing a total of 40 each season, if you count test sessions.