Esteban Ocon, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Fans don’t need to see helmets to identify drivers – Whiting

2018 F1 season

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FIA race director Charlie Whiting isn’t concerned the Halo makes it too hard for fans to identify drivers.

Concerns the new safety structure prevents fans from identifying drivers by their helmet designs has led some, including Fernando Alonso and FIA president Jean Todt, to suggest incorporating driver identification into the Halo.

But speaking to media in Melbourne yesterday Whiting pointed out there are already other ways to identity which driver is in which car.

Charles Leclerc, Sauber, Albert Park, 2018
Australian Grand Prix practice in pictures
“I’ve first of all always personally felt that it was much easier to look at the colour of the onboard cameras to try to identify a driver,” said Whiting. “Max [Verstappen] and Daniel [Ricciardo], for example, don’t look dissimilar.”

Since the Spanish Grand Prix last year teams have been required to display driver numbers more prominently to aid identification.

“Last year it was much easier with those cars because the numbers were very prominent, which they weren’t until last year,” said Whiting. “I think you’ll agree that actually worked quite well.”

“We’ve made sure the numbers on the cars are in exactly the same places. And the cameras will be black for the first car and yellow for the second car. I’m fairly convinced fans won’t need to resort to try and identify drivers’ helmet colours to know who’s in the car.”

Todt also proposed using Halo as a means of identifying which driver was leading the world championship by painting it yellow, similar to the yellow jersey worn by the race leader in the Tour de France. However this idea was not adopted, as Whiting explained.

“It was all very well until Renault pointed out they would want their yellow anyway,” he said. However Renault subsequently adopted a black Halo on their 2018 car design.

2018 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 71 comments on “Fans don’t need to see helmets to identify drivers – Whiting”

    1. Well, perhaps if you didn’t get rid of the sharkfins, where there was a massive number, it would be a lot easier, while still allowing for the halo that you insist upon…

      1. Funny you say that… I’m reading the article and thinking “Why did they never use the Shark-fin as an area for the driver to assert ‘their brand’. Seemed like a no-brainer, but alas, that does not seem to have occurred.
        And why on earth did no-one look at the Halo as a brand platform (other than for branding flip-flops…). Now the you cannot see the team logos from the onboard camera, you would have thought ‘aha… that’s ad space but alas…

        And hey F1…. move the damn on-board cameras. I’m not paying money to watch a Halo go round a track.

        1. Just Paint the halo to match the helmet and be done with it.

        2. @mickrock

          So very much….THIS! I am not paying to watch a halo running around! Do you mean to tell us that nobody looked at that before practice last night and noticed “hey, I can’t see anything around the damn halos with the current camera placement”?

        3. Halo – camera: The view from the uppermost cameras, in the T-section over the airbox, is still pretty good: however, the view from the cameras mounted on the sides of the airboxes is a joke, and a bad one at that.

          What did occur to me was, that with the Halo, there should now be the possibility to get the holy-grail of onboard camera angles: that being a camera mounted at the driver’s eye-level in the direct centre of the car.

    2. From the tcam onboard, i cant even recognize the car behind the scaffolding, let alone the driver.

      1. @vjanik I am amazed it didn’t occur to anyone not to point the onboard camera straight at the Halo.

        1. @keithcollantine and @vjanik
          My wife and I were totally confused on a few shots when we were trying to see if we were on board with HAM or BOT. Usually the telemetry would eventually come up to help, but that’s really annoying as you have to “look away” to see who you’re watching now. You can kind of see some hands turning the wheel and kind of see over/around the halo.

          How could they possibly have missed this in testing? Surely they had some cameras on the cars before P1 yesterday???

          1. HAM is always in front of BOT so no confusion here!

    3. I don’t mind the halo. I’m not bothered by it when it comes to recognizing drivers. But oh dear, those side cams are absolutely awful!
      2/3 of the screen is covered by the halo. I was going to try the new F1 OTT service but not in this state.

      1. I hope they put the cams in front of the halo!

      2. @spoutnik That camera angle is terrible, but there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it until next year. The camera positions are governed by the Technical Regulations and the camera positions for this year were finalized by June 30th last year.
        There are 3 other cameras which are not obstructed by the HALO in the same way — the bad camera is defined as camera position 3 in the regulations.
        Teams could just disconnect that camera accidentally and the television director could not use it anymore.

    4. Charlie Whiting who need onboard cameras to identify a driver isn’t concerned the Halo makes it too hard for fans to identify drivers.
      Yeah. Right. Since when he concern about fans anyway.

      1. Off course Whiting hase many more views available, as well as having the telemetry so he can just look at the Tcam to confirm what he already suspects.

        I also agree with Whiting that far too many helmets are too little different from each other. This goes for All Red Bull drivers (this year Verstappen’s helmet is even worse than it was before), but also for the likes of BTW.

        But to me, when you are at the track, you can’t really focus on the t-cams fast enough to be sure. And while the numbers on SOME cars were great last year, it was hard to see on the McLarens, FIs, Haas cars and the red made it incredibly hard to read on the STR as well.

        Give us nice and big race numbers. And yeah, I would really like to have driver colours on the HAlo, that would help. But to say we don’t need to see the helmets, sigh.

        1. @bascb But of course the context of Whiting’s comment is that there are several ways of identifying the drivers, so we don’t need to solely depend on helmet colours. Especially when, pre-halo, the same issue existed with drivers with similarly coloured helmets, which is why they asked the drivers for consistency in their helmet designs to begin with…again…pre-halo.

          I think what we are seeing here is anti-halo people reaching for every reason they can come up with to whine. If a fan can’t figure out from the car number, and the colour of the T-cam, and from what car the cameras have been following, along with the other cars that car has ahead of and behind him, then that indicates a ‘fan’ that isn’t even trying to pay attention.

          1. Oh, I certainly agree that this really is not a good reason to object agains the Halo @robbie. On the other hand, reading what Whiting said is rather an example of saying something that is only going to make those comments louder.

            1. @bascb Fair comment.

      2. The moment a senior member of any business is going to tell the customers what they need, you must be really careful.
        Whether Withing is right or wrong does not better, he should shut up about wat fans need.

      3. Exactly. Maybe it’s Formula 1 that doesn’t need fans.
        Straight out of the Ecclestone playbook.

        1. +2

          Self-serving sycophants at the top of the F1 officialdom can suck it.

    5. Where this whole looking at the camera thing falls flat on its face is that the FIA introduced a new, completely random driver number schema, so there is no longer this clear ‘Team A Car 1 Team A Car 2’ hirarchy from back when they where numbered according to the previous constructors championship

      1. Which of course means it is still possible but it is not exactlyintuitive. It also focuses on a rather minor detail for a casual fan. I’d bet a few bucks on my dad saying something along the lines of ‘ i didn’t even realize they had small little babywings with colors on top of their cars’ if i were to tell him to tell drivers apart like that.

      2. @mrboerns To reply to a post lower down in the thread I had a quick look at all the pics of the cars from today’s running, the lower numbered car from each team (other than McLaren or some reason) has the black T-cam.

        So for say, Williams, Sirotkin has the yellow camera.

        1. @geemac I think that might be a coincidence. Aside from McLaren and Ferrari, the more tenured driver at their current teams also happens to have the lower number.

          1. It may be @dragon86, but it’s also a very convenient coincidence!

        2. I think it’s whoever finishes higher in the previous season’s championship gets the black camera (much as they used to also get the lower number). i.e. HAM, VET, RIC, PER, STR, HUL, ALO, GRO, GAS and ERI.

          It was much easier to differentiate the cameras back when the better drivers got the bright red cams and the other got the greeny-yellow, as sometimes the sun reflecting off the current black looks yellowish. (But that worked so F1 had to change it.)

    6. I’ve not seen any new f1 broadcasts yet but for me the driver helmet was rarely a significant differentiator. Only real different helmets was schumacher’s burning red helmet color (which looked fantastic). That being said charlie is probably always watching very high definition videos of the cars so the smaller differences are easier to pickup than it is for us who don’t have a wall of 60″ tvs in front of us. The camera coloring could be more noticable to make it easier to see which driver it is without having to look for confirmation specifically.

    7. SparkyAMG (@)
      23rd March 2018, 12:49

      And where does the casual viewer find a list of who has a black cam and who has a yellow cam?

      I sure as hell don’t plan on memorizing this for the year.

      1. @sparkyamg It’s the driver with the higher race number in each team, with the exception of McLaren.

        1. SparkyAMG (@)
          23rd March 2018, 14:51

          @geemac cheers!

          Now I just need to remember every driver’s number, work out whether you’re referring to the black or yellow cams, remember that McLaren are the opposite and bob’s your uncle.

          Charlie’s right, that’s much easier… Who needs to see the drivers’ helmets?!

          1. Hahaha i am in total agreement. Its like ive woken up in some other universe and everytime someone says something i just dont understand

        2. @geemac so if I see a Williams car numbered 35 with black T camera… how can I tell if the other Williams has a lower or higher number?

          1. Tommy Scragend
            23rd March 2018, 21:57

            Excellent point. Although if you see a Williams numbered 35 with a black T-cam, Sirotkin needs to give Stroll his T-cam back ;-)

      2. But you do memorise all the helmet designs?

    8. You can’t see the colour of T-cam in the T-cam, so that’s where you need to know the helmets.

    9. Why did we have to have a sporting regulation about not changing helmets then? Shouldn’t that be immediately rescinded as the FIA is admitting driver helmet designs don’t matter?

      1. Heh, nice one:-)

      2. @StuBeck No. The FIA is not admitting any such thing. Whiting is speaking for himself personally. And it’s true some helmets have looked similar, like Max and DR, and nothing prevents that from happening. They’re not being told how to paint their helmets, just that they can’t change them mid-season. (Although aren’t they allowed one change? Not sure).

        The fact is the drivers helmets are still very visible, and if anything, due to the whiners that simply hate the halo and so are looking for any little thing to shoot it down, there is all the more reason not to confuse them by changing up the designs frequently.

    10. MB (@muralibhats)
      23rd March 2018, 13:09

      So will the ban on drivers changing helmet designs be lifted? You cant have both ways…

    11. Charlie is right, fans don’t need to see the driver’s helmets to identify them, but we do want to be able to do that.

      As an aside, I actually found watching the cars in Melbourne today that it was actually easier to identify the driver in the cars with plain black halos, which I thought was a bit of a surprise.

    12. How did Whiting end up in that conclusion? All drivers have such unique designs and colour schemes that it has never been a problem to tell who’s driving the car. Last year’s Force India pair and 2013 Mercedes duo were a bit tricky, but that’s about it. I have no idea who has the yellow and who has the black T-cam and numbers aren’t as visible as they were last season.

      We already managed to get rid of Bernie. Will it soon be Whiting’s turn to leave the building?

    13. Personally, I have used the helmet design to differentiate the drivers since I started watching F1 way back. Now that we are moving towards enclosed cockpits, (unless we move to a “shield” design) I expect we’ll have to find a different way to identify the driver.
      Using the yellow bit on the camera isn’t the easiest option, as how do you know which driver is yellow and which isn’t? There is no clear rule. Identifying Alesi vs Berger at Ferrari was easy – but they used yellow squares on the front wing to make it obvious.
      I’d suggest the larger numbers used in Nascar and Indycar would be the best option, especially as drivers now “own” and brand their number. The issue is allocating the space on the car, which the teams will fight against for sponsorship space and design flexibility. It’s never easy with F1

      1. @racerjoss They are not moving towards enclosed cockpits. And I would think it should take very little effort, and just a few races, to get used to which guy has the yellow t-cam. Half the time you know which driver you’re looking at based on what action the camera has been following and what other cars are ahead of and behind him.

        1. I think taking a few races to get used to it isn’t really good enough for the T-cam. You could be 1/4 of the way through the season until you are really sure, compared to numbers which you learn once and then carry through the subsequent seasons.
          The battles comment is true, but it’s also a weak argument. So what if I “should know” who it is? Why can’t we make it easier for a casual audience, instead of only catering for people like us, who consume all the coverage we can?

          1. Ok so then the numbers should be good enough? So they decided upon consistency in the helmet designs, presumably for the casual audience. I don’t know, nor have you said, what exactly they can do for the casual fan then, if they won’t memorize car numbers, won’t remember what their helmet looks like, won’t get which car has the yellow camera…I think the casual fan will just have to ‘suffer’ from being so disinterested that they can’t muster the effort to become more than casual, and perhaps they aren’t even bothering to follow every race either. I think the only thing F1 could do then is to ensure that every time a car is in the camera view, the drivers name is flashed at the bottom of the screen. I suppose even for LH while he drives off in the sunset. Because casual fans still won’t be able to figure it out. Please. And people complain about the cars being made too safe, and the tracks too dumbed down. Now they have to plaster a drivers name all over the car or the TV screen every time? Or what do you suggest? I think F1 has far far bigger fish to fry than to lower itself to the lowest common denominator of viewers that wouldn’t be reliable anyway if they are that unable to get engaged. Why change for fans that may not even watch the next race for all they care?

            1. Driver numbers are the best way imho. They stay the same every year, so casual fans would learn them. Great example is Rossi – number 46. Every year the big yellow number is on his bike, making him immediately recognisable. It would help casual and dedicated fans alike.
              Everyone is a casual fan at some point, but your logic of letting them suffer doesn’t make sense. How would you grow your fanbase by alienating the ones who aren’t already on board? They obviously are interested becuase they are watching the programme, possibly their first ever race. Maybe they will watch another if it’s easy to identify the driver, what tyres each driver is using, etc.
              Your view of “if they aren’t dedicated, screw them” is fair enough, but it’s not how big business, or Liberty Media, will be approching this.

            2. @racerjoss Oh you’re right, I agree, and even if it sounds like it, I am not the ‘screw em’ type, but I was just moreso speaking about those who, if they can’t figure out who is driving given about four ways to do so, probably won’t be ‘sold’ on F1 no matter what Liberty does, so they (Liberty) shouldn’t have to reach that low when it probably would be in vane. So I’m not the alienating type, until we’re talking about people from whom at some point you just have to move on.

    14. I never look at the helmet unless the driver is outside the car. They could introduce the yellow to more places on the car though, especially so you can see it from the onboard camera.

      1. In my opinion the driver-numbers are superfluous: the three letter identifiers are more easily memorized and offer a better starting point for a brand-logo. They should appear on at least five different spots on the cars: lower-nose; upper-nose; either side; rear-facing.

    15. Potentially controversial opinion: I agree with Whiting.

      I can understand why people prefer to use the helmets, but that doesn’t really help with the Red Bull or Force India drivers.

      I thought the yellow jersey idea was a bit daft, though.

      1. @keithcollantine Could you give an example? Which Toro Rosso or Red Bull driver pair has caught problems? Their helmets tend to be similar yet easily different enough to distinguish drivers. Force India became problematic only last year when the sponsors dictated the helmet designs as well.

        1. But even in Force India’s case it is relatively easy to tell them apart by their helmet because Ocon has the bright pink and Perez has the light pink.

          1. While I don’t think pinks and blues are as bad as reds and greens, I can imagine that color blindness for some people might be a factor.

      2. I think the problem is that Charlie was part of the organization that had authority to address driver identification issue. While I agree it’s hard to tell driver with similar colour apart, why didn’t make a rule that every driver should have contrast colour between teammates? Why the rule of driver helmet design still exist? If he thinks Halo should be a part of driver ID, why he easily cave to Renault?

        Why didn’t he proposed something that helps himself doing his job? Why don’t make a rule that cam colour more visible? Why not have a strict rule which one of the cars get the yellow and which one should be black? Why didn’t he proposed every car on one team should have a distinct colour/stripe/design on some part which easily spotted?

        Why didn’t FIA made a rule for better camera position in July 2017 if they knew they going to have Halo? Should we endure a year with that kind of onboard view? Why didn’t they ask for Halo contractor to put a hole for a camera at the front of it which didn’t change its structural integrity?

        So, I’m sorry to say that Charlie was a part of the problem. He was not giving his experience to better the sport. He just a noise.

    16. Give me numbers over helmet designs any day. Having watched NASCAR far longer then F1, I have grown accustomed to the use of numbers and its always the first thing I look for.

    17. Behold a link from this very site in which the same organisation claimed that drivers would not be allowed to change their helmet “in order for drivers to be easily distinguished from one another”.

      They just make this up as they go along don’t they…

      1. @ben-n But that rule was simply meant to help. That didn’t automatically mean that every driver’s helmet would be easily distinguished from another, or any easier to see or allow a driver to be recognized, at a flash of a glance. It just added a bit more stability for the fans. Whiting says he still prefers to go by the colour of the cameras, because for example DR and Max’s helmets are similar.

        So we have stability in the helmet designs, because let’s face it the halo still allows fans to see the helmets quite well, we have car numbers, we have different coloured cameras, and we have commentary as the race is going along, not to mention we know who is racing nearby what other cars. That’s 5 ways to know which driver one is watching. No excuses. If a person can’t figure it out they’re just not that engaged in the race. Not to mention, is it the end of the world if occasionally it might take a few seconds to figure it out once in a while?

    18. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      23rd March 2018, 15:48

      Well, Whiting even got this comment wrong because it’s now harder to look at the onboard cameras which are black or yellow when half the Halos are black.

      It was a lot easier to single out the camera without the halo running visual interference – it’s not like we have 10 seconds to figure it out. We are shown some shots of the vehicle and then it pans to another shot. So you have to figure it out very quickly as the camera switches – the directors are not waiting for us to figure out who the driver is.

      Maybe they should get some focus groups and run a test like the rest of the world does…

    19. “Fans don’t need to see helmets to identify drivers”

      Oh really. Then why do drivers put so much effort into their helmets. There are some iconic helmets like Ayrton Senna’s yellow and Lewis Hamilton’s yellow one which is also a tribute to his hero Senna. Just last year in Canada Lewis received Ayrton Senna’s helmet and Formula 1 themselves made it a presentation thingy so if helmets are not necessary then why such ceremonies.

      Killing off good things such as helmets and bringing in monstrosity like Halo. Whiting needs to go.

    20. People who agree with the halo doesn’t have any love for F1 or open cockpit motorsports…. sad but true

      1. Where and when do you draw the line for change? Some of us think wings ruined the looks of Grand Prix cars. I also still think the front engined cars that Fangio drove looked and sounded awesome without any exotic manipulation

    21. Why aren’t the driver’s Three Letter Abbreviation and the car number on the side and rear of the car? While they’re at it, can we also have it visible on the video feed from the car as well? I can never tell which driver’s video I’m looking at without someone telling me.

    22. Teams used to paint dayglo paint on one car’s mirrors or airbox so they could identify their drivers.

    23. Ill know how bad it really is when the announcers can’t figure it out.

    24. Charlie watches two dozen screens and has multiple views of a driver, so it’s much easier for him to identify drivers compared to the rest of us mere mortals that only have 1 world-feed view at a time.

    25. Poor attitude from Charlie.

      Sure, fans don’t NEED to see the helmets, but fans WANT to see the helmets..

    26. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      23rd March 2018, 21:25

      The onboard views are absolutely atrocious! You mean to tell me they’ve designed this piece of crap for a few years and can’t place a damn camera in a spot where we can actually see where the driver is going? Watching the qualifying might be frustrating.

    27. I actually tweeted this yesterday, the hale makes the onboard camera look like a view from a foxhole.

      1. Halo*

    28. Michael Brown (@)
      24th March 2018, 13:55

      I mean, you banned helmet changes for just that reason, literally a year after you introduced permanent driver numbers. Going senile?

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