Alexander Albon, Red Bull, Monza, 2019

Three reasons why Albon ran a plain white helmet in practice

2019 Italian Grand Prix

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Alexander Albon unexpectedly appeared in a new, unpainted helmet at the first practice session for the Italian Grand Prix.

It follows his move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull ahead of last weekend’s race in Belgium. Albon traded his usual Bell helmet for an Arai model. He switched back to his usual helmet for second practice.

Several explanations have been offered for the change. One view held that the Red Bull RB15 aerodynamics were originally designed to suit the shape of the Arai.

Asked whether this was the case Albon said: “I’m not Adrian [Newey, Red Bull’s chief technical officer] so I can’t speak too much but of course they’re very keen to try that kind of thing. Every detail matters in Formula 1.”

Albon gave another reason for the change of lids when asked by RaceFans. “We just wanted to see if we could improve the radio as well as obviously [improve performance].” The lower cheekbone side padding design in the Bell helmet is different, and this has an effect on the acoustics of the microphone.

However RaceFans understands there is a third factor in play. Despite the Arai design being used as a reference by Red Bull, Max Verstappen switched from Arai to Schuberth at the beginning of the season.

The competition in the market for racing drivers’ helmet preferences is fierce. A driver like Verstappen has high value to a helmet manufacturer as they increase sales to junior racers wanting to emulate their heroes.

A source with knowledge of the situation said the team’s relationship with Arai has prompted them to trial the helmet with Albon. His predecessor, Pierre Gasly, also used an Arai helmet.

Albon confirmed he ran a plain white helmet at first because “it was quite a late decision”, and indicated he intends to stick with the Arai. “Hopefully we will have it ready painted for tomorrow.”

However from his point of view the change makes little difference. “For me it doesn’t change that much. I think all the helmets nowadays, they have such a small specification that they have to follow, they all feel quite similar once you put your helmet on.”

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2019 F1 season

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 20 comments on “Three reasons why Albon ran a plain white helmet in practice”

    1. Plain white? The sponsors didn’t leave it as plain white for long, did they? :)

      1. Do you remember Jochen Rindt with his first Bell full face helmet in plain white?

        1. @gnosticbrian – no, I didn’t follow F1 during his era. However, I searched for a few images, and found the plain white one, and possibly one that spurred your comment :)

          1. I’d forgotten the “This $pace for Rent” one.

            The move to full face helmets came after incidents such as Jimmy Clark being hit in the face at high speed by a low flying partridge. We see advertising and company logos as an integral part of the F1 scene nowadays but I well remember the controversy when Colin Chapman first painted a Lotus in fag packet livery – the old guard were very much up in arms. ‘Decorated helmets’ – whatever next?

    2. How could helmet-coloring, or a helmet itself, in general, have an impact on the aero-performance?

      1. @jerejj – it’s a new helmet/shape, so it’s not yet been customized with his usual styling, so comes with just the base colour.

    3. Why would anyone care about driver’s helmet???
      Likewise – what underpants, gloves and shoes they use… totally irrelevant.

      A driver like Verstappen has high value to a helmet manufacturer as they increase sales to junior racers wanting to emulate their heroes.

      *facepalm* And I though they were concentrating on improving their skills, rather than chasing “idols” and shouting “Oh, what a shiny helmet! I HAVE TO HAVE ONE NOW!!!!

      1. If they’re learning to drive like Max, they have a great career ahead of them.

        1. Maybe they should wear masks with the face of Verstappen?
          24 hours a day!
          Then they will definitely improve!!!

      2. A lot of people care about the fashion and kit used and promoted by their idols. It’s kind of why stars are big in advertising. I’m pretty sure Hamilton’s clothing lines aren’t sought after because of their longevity or affordability, but who promotes them and how he/she flaunts them and makes them suit their lifestyle.

        And I though they were concentrating on improving their skills, rather than chasing “idols” and shouting “Oh, what a shiny helmet! I HAVE TO HAVE ONE NOW!!!!

        The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

        1. The two aren’t mutually exclusive

          No, they are

          1. So just because they wish for the same helmet as their idol, that suddenly hampers their ability to improve their racing? That’s quite the one-track world you live in.

            1. actually, there is one way it could. At lower levels, you’re not getting the 1-off hand made custom fit $10K, helmets like the F1 guys do so some helmets tend to fit some head shapes better than others. So if a junior driver is picking his helmet based on what his F1 hero uses and not what fits his head the best, that’s a bad call.

      3. I was watching a Final Practice session a few races back and the commentators mentioned the drivers wear special light weight shoes with light weight laces. My guess is their gloves and the rest of their attire, besides being fire resistant, is also light weight too.

        1. That is definitely true, but it is more akin to “geek fact”, rather than something which should be replicated by young drivers, “because they want yo wear the same golden pantaloons as their golden idols”

        2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSwFmJc03Bg

          Check out this video on the race suits, some of the weight saving things are almost funny (perforations in the velcro), but every ounce counts.

      4. Croft loves Seb so much he said he enjoys the ruling that limits helmet design changes.
        What a cringy rule. Almost as cringy as Ted calling Seb’s father Norbert, nobby, and the chuckle it garnered.

    4. Not an hommage to René Arnoux? Doh!

    5. I assumed helmet design was totally homologated in F1, never knew the field was open between competing manufacturers. Fascinating!

    6. “Three reasons why this is clickbait”

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