A balaclava is a form of fabric headgear designed to protect the face leaving the eyes or sometimes nose section open. The headgear is used in motorsports as fire-resistant protective wear that driver wears under the helmet. Balaclava covers the crown of the head and goes down to the collar around the neck.
In the 19th century, balaclava was known as an Uhlan cap or a Templar cap. The headgear was used during the Crimean War in 1854 at the Battle of Balaclava, a town near Sevastopol in the Crimea, where the British troops used balaclava to keep themselves warm. Handmade balaclavas were sent to British troops to keep them safe from the bitter cold. Balaclava turned out to be a handful as British troops never received warm clothing, quarters and even encountered a shortfall of food.
Soon, motorsports race drivers started using balaclava as protective wear against fire and wore them under the helmet. Down the line, around the 70s and the 80s, the balaclava used by motorsports racers had double eye holes for giving complete protection of head and neck.
Balaclava used in motorsports races is made of two layers of Nomex, a fireproof fabric. In case of accidents, if the car or attire catches fire, then a balaclava will protect the driver. Therefore, they are comprised in fireproof attire and are not facemask. There are two types of balaclava: One with a hole for the eyes region and one with a bigger hole where the nose and eyes portion is left open. The balaclavas with wider holes are helpful for driver to drink fluids. Some balaclava comes with holes that are already stitched.
The driver wears the earpieces and microphone inside the balaclava for the driver-pit radio. The choice of wearing earpieces depends on drivers as they can choose whether to wear one or both inside or outside the helmet. The advantage of having the earpieces inside is that they are more audible.