Kvyat helmet dispute could prompt rules rethink

2019 Russian Grand Prix

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FIA race director Michael Masi says the sport will look at how it enforces restrictions on drivers’ helmet artwork after Daniil Kvyat was denied permission to use a special design for his home race last weekend.

Article 9.1 of the sporting regulations states: “In order for drivers to be easily distinguished from one another whilst they are on the track, the crash helmet of each driver must, with the exception of one event of the driver’s choice, be presented in substantially the same livery at every event during a championship season.”

The interpretation of “substantially the same livery” has come under question. Max Verstappen was allowed to use noticeably different helmet designs for at least three races this year.

However Mase denied Kvyat was “picked out” when he was told he could not use the helmet design he brought to Sochi.

“The question was asked if the helmet design is substantially similar and the response was ‘no it’s not’,” said Masi. “The team asked me if the design was in my view substantially similar.”

Masi said he told drivers the FIA will consider the implementation of the rule but changing it for next year would require the unanimous support of the teams. “I said to the drivers on Friday night it’s something that we’ll look at but there are a number of inputs.

“It’s not just the FIA it’s the F1 Group we’ve also got, at the end of the day, you guys [print media], broadcast media. It’s funny talking to some of the commentators about it, they said the reason why it was there is because of us because when we’re looking down we know who’s in the car, [if] we’ve got someone changing helmets all the time, we’ve actually got to think and look twice and see who it is when we’re doing the live television broadcast.

“So there was various reasons why it was brought in. And it’s one of those of we’ve already spoken about it, we discussed it on Friday night and said let’s have a look at it.

“It would, at the end of the day, it would require a regulation change is the simple part. There is your one joker a year that you’re allowed and when the question’s are asked the response is relatively black and white.”

Top picture: Max Verstappen’s helmet designs for the Australian, Belgian and Austrian Grands Prix (top, left to right) and Daniil Kvyat’s helmet designs for the British and Italian Grands Prix and his unraced Russian Grand Prix design (bottom, left to right).

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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...
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49 comments on “Kvyat helmet dispute could prompt rules rethink”

  1. To defend Max Helmet the main feature of the design is there (Lion) on all three helmets while Kyat are 3 different styles complely.

    1. wait…isn’t kvyat’s ‘main feature’ the ‘red bull logo’ ?

    2. No I don’t agree with what you are saying @macleod

      Apart from the one special Monza design, which is allowed by the rules, the two on the left and right are quite similar in design and use the same set of colours (though one you see the back side!) – but with the same set of colours (those of, in this case, the Russian vlag) put in a different amount and order, but in a similar pattern as before. And the special one uses that same pattern even.

      In Verstappen’s case, he does indeed retain the exact same lion pattern, and most of the other lines are kept, but the colours are wildly different, such that in some of them, the lion is highly visible in all lighting , distance, and from all angles, while in others (like the chromeish outline), it needs light shining on it to actually show up from afar.

      I mean, I think Verstappen’s helmet design shines through well enough for it still be seen as substantially the same design, but if anything, Kvyat’s designs are more so!

      I think maybe Masi shouldn’t be the one to make (subjective, apparently) judgments about design. Hm, thinking about it, wouldn’t Jo Bauer be better? He is after all used to look very carefully at what the teams do, in detail ;-)

      1. wouldn’t Jo Bauer be better? He is after all used to look very carefully at what the teams do, in detail

        @bosyber – Legend has it that Jo is still busy keeping a watchful eye on the FIA’s weighing scales ;)

        1. Heh, that might well be the case @phylyp, oh well.

      2. The helmets are different color which alone makes them look totally different until you really look for similarities. The rule is even more bonkers than I thought if colors can be changed totally but the stripes must be in the same places to make it legal.

        1. This is correct. I remember being told in design school, long ago, that people recognize differences in color first, then shapes, then wording. (This is why most flavor indicators on food and beverages is done with color.)

          So, if anything should be kept the same to make helmets consistently recognizable, then it would be the “predominant color inpression.”

      3. @bosyber

        In Verstappen’s case, he does indeed retain the exact same lion pattern, and most of the other lines are kept, but the colours are wildly different, such that in some of them, the lion is highly visible in all lighting , distance, and from all angles, while in others (like the chromeish outline), it needs light shining on it to actually show up from afar.

        I made a helpful graphics which showcases which kind of changes count against the rule and which don’t. Those marked in green are deemed similar enough to have the same pattern whereas the last one marked in red is too different to be allowed:
        https://i.imgur.com/bCCKKEp.jpg

        1. @socksolid – In all fairness, I never look at the colours. I know it’s Hamilton’s helmet by counting the stars on it as he passes at 200mph obscured by the halo. If it’s got 5 stars on the side, its Hamilton.

    3. As if anyone from a distance, can relate any of the helmets to max. In contrast a Vale helmet is generally the same 2 colours…not design, and everyone knows it is a drudi design.
      A wiser Masi would have remained silent.
      Get rid of “this” over regulation, besides, the helmets have the drivers numbers anyway.
      Crofty is such a wallflower that he has to force someone to use the same helmet not to annoy him and because he wants the drivers to create a signature helmet design. Intolerant is what he is.

  2. Ok this is ridiculus. The halo obscures the helmet anyway and in today’s F1, few helmets are iconic enough to stand out. Most of them are too cluttered with sponsors and the same design patterns and colours. To enforce a rule because the fans will ‘definitely’ identify enery one from the drivers from a glimpse of a multicoloured helmet is idiotic.

    If you look a car from the front, we now have large numbers on the nose, personal to every driver for their entire careers!
    If you look a car from the sides, we have the same numbers on the back, even larger!!! plus the onboard yellow/black camera!
    Even if you are a casual viewer and look at the onboard and say “I remembered Max was wearing a white helmet. Who is that with the red/yellow? I’m so confused, i should probably turn of the TV, F1 is too confusing nowdays…”, many of the teams have it engraved on the halo like Haas (8 GRO for example)…you know, even if you are too blind to see the down left corner where it says whose onboard camera you are looking from…

    DROP THIS NONSENSE RULE!

    1. I agree – todays helmets are so cluttered and generic that it really doesn’t matter what design is on it. None look special.

      If you asked me to draw various driver’s helmets from back in the day, I could get most fairly close. Gerhard Burger, Schumacher, Damon Hill, Coulthard, Alesi, Fisichella, Prost, Senna… The list goes on and on. It became a brand for them and they were instantly recognisable.

      I honestly don’t think I could accurately draw a single one of the modern day helmets.

      1. @petebaldwin Totally agree. In the olden days I would instantly see who’s in the car, from about any angle apart from straight behind. Nowadays the helmets are a mess and the driver’s head is even hardly visible. I can’t read the numbers on the car when viewing on TV either.

        Of course there is the color of the camera mount on top of the cars, but that’s often hard to see also and I don’t remember for that many teams who has the yellow one and who the black one.

        Perhaps drivers could have a wing in their “own” color? Perhaps even with personal sponsoring. Or the rims.

        1. In the olden days the picture quality was so bad that often times it was difficult tell whether you were looking at a ferrari or mclaren.

  3. Maybe the FIA should just mandate that the three-letter driver abbreviation should be placed in a specific location and of a specific size, and let the designers go nuts with the remaining 90% of the helmet’s area. e.g. the brow of the helmet (visible even when the driver is snuggled into the cockpit), or on either side above the hinge (not obscured by the halo, visible to trackside cameras).

    Currently, we already have FIA guidelines to specific signage and indicators (roll-hoop cameras, car numbers on the nose, etc.), so this can be viewed an extension of that.

    Knowing the FIA, they are instead likely to come up with a 100-page specification as to what defines “substantially similar”, instead of just rescinding the rule or choosing a simpler option.

    1. Could put 3-letter LEDs indicators on the halo. Can barely see the top of the helmet once the driver is in the halo’d cocoon.

      Must not be sufficient to have numbers on the cars. Perhaps the FIA are concerned about driver identity theft on track. Or the F1 broadcasters really are incompetent at their jobs.

      1. Since this rule was brought in after Brundle, Crofty et all cried foul about not being able to recognize drivers when Vettel was on his 7-8th of the season and others started tauting new helmets every other race, I think we should just put the spotlight on that – influence from the companies paying for the “circus” over the helmets. Funny how they now make a show of how absurd this rule is too @jimmi-cynic, @phylyp.

        Personally I prefer if drivers keep more or less the same helmet design over time (I find that at the track it is easier to recognize helmets than the numbers, because of their placement), but as Jimmi mentions, since they are hard to see behind the Halo anyway, incorporating things like well visible driver numbers (yes, Mercedes using different colours in the past was a great help there too), possibly adding them on the halo too, would be a more sensible way to go if we feel recognizablility on track is an issue.

        1. @bascb – you make a better point – just add it on the halo and be done with it :)

        2. Am I the only person that feels everyone ignores the obvious way to distinguish teammates – the yellow roll hoop of the second driver?

          So much easier to spot than helmets which sometimes look similar anyway.

          1. Yep, that’s how I identify the drivers as well. No need to memorise helmet designs.

          2. @pault But I don’t remember who has a yellow camera.

            When helmets still had recognizable designs, it would be easy to recognize them. Duh! Nowadays it’s just a random mess which is only recognizable if you seem from really close up.

  4. However Mase denied Kvyat was “picked out” when he was told he could not use the helmet design he brought to Sochi.

    This is just petty minded bureaucracy. When you look at the on board video feed often you can’t tell which of a team’s cars it is from, but no one gets in a panic about that. It isn’t uncommon to be confused as to which team the car is from as well. At the very least you’d expect the car number to be on the Halo, but no! “If you can’t tell then you’re stupid!”. However, as soon as a driver wants to change their helmet for their home race there’s panic and torment. “We must know even if we can’t see the driver’s head”. If you can’t see the driver’s helmet in the onboard video then what does it matter if they change the colour scheme?

  5. Don’t forget to “improve” the rule by adding a pair of colored underwear per season for each driver.

  6. It’s funny talking to some of the commentators about it, they said the reason why it was there is because of us because when we’re looking down we know who’s in the car, [if] we’ve got someone changing helmets all the time, we’ve actually got to think and look twice and see who it is when we’re doing the live television broadcast.

    This is codswallop. When you are watching an onboard you have so many visual indicators as to who the driver is in addition to the driver’s helmet design, including (a) the driver’s number which is required to be on the top of the helmet (b) the livery of the car itself…from this alone you can rule out 18 of the drivers in one fell swoop, (c) some teams put the driver’s number/name abbreviation on the halo (d) looking forward to see the car the driver in question is racing if you know where they are in the order.

    The rule on helmet changes is nonsense in my view, it adds nothing to the sport. The drivers should be allowed to change their helmet designs as little or often as they choose. In the end the fans win either way: either a driver’s design stays the same and becomes iconic (e.g. Graham and Damon Hill’s London Rowing Club design) or they change it all the time and we get to see amazing helmets from race to race (e.g. Vettel in his Red Bull pomp).

  7. Do different helmet designs make the cars go any faster or slower? That is absolutely the key point.
    If the answer is no, then why on earth is there an FIA rule governing designs?

    This just reeks of a system doing what it has to to justify its existence. Who cares what helmet designs are used, the drivers are adults and last time I checked F1 wasn’t a UK or Japanese school, with uniforms designed to promote a sense of equality/conformity/community, depending on your point of view.

    I feel like the FIA and probably Liberty are trying to strengthen driver identity via fairly bone-headed means…prescriptive rules by definition will make things less memorable because they stultify any chance of surprise, whilst also making things slightly duller just by codifying every last detail.

    46 years after he retired, a large portion of F1 fans will be able to tell you what Jackie Stewart’s helmet design was.
    44 years after his death, a large portion of F1 fans will be able to tell you what Graham Hill’s helmet design was.
    25 years after his death, virtually every F1 fan will be able to tell you what Ayrton Senna’s helmet design was.

    To the best of my knowledge, at no point in their respective eras were there strict laws governing helmet artwork. Perhaps the FIA would be better off spending their time figuring out why these drivers’ designs were memorable, yet virtually nobody remembers Mike Beuttler’s or Jaime Alguersuari’s helmet designs, for example. Why could this be?

    If they should be of a mind to offer me paid consultation on the matter, I could tell them…

    1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
      1st October 2019, 11:26

      A few more memorable vintage helmets:
      Ronnie Peterson (blue/yellow)
      Jo Siffert & Clay Regazzoni (Swiss flag)
      Henri Pescarolo (green)
      Chris Amon (white/red/blue)…

      1. There are all great, yep. My comment wasn’t meant to imply that only vintage designs are memorable however – Button’s is immediately identifiable, as is Vettel’s white + German flag pinstripe design.

        What makes them memorable isn’t something I believe can be codified though, and thus the limiting of design changes seems rather pointless beyond giving the FIA another justification for its existence.

        1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
          1st October 2019, 13:02

          Of course, I completely agree with your points, also re. Button and Vettel.
          In later years, I think Felipe Massa also had a good helmet design.

  8. I must be in the minority because I don’t even bother to look at helmets, other than a few onboard shots.

    The camera mount to me has always been the easier sway of working out who is who. Then again, I’m old and my eyes probably aren’t good enough to notice detail on a helmet.

  9. Why not just have the drivers initials in black 50mm Capitals on the very top of the helmet for the commentators and the rest of the helmet design becomes irrelevant!

    I really don’t understand why this should be an FIA issue, as long as the helmets themselves provide protection to the drivers heads, the design on the outside shouldn’t matter (as long as there’s no controversial content on it like swastikas, etc!)

  10. I believe, that the main reason for the ‘no design changes’ rule was to make a helmet design be synonymous with a driver. In the old days, drivers were our heroes and you’d be drawing tiny versions of their helmets in your notebooks and such. Today, the problem lies not within the constant design change, but in the design itself. They’re far too intricate and complicated.
    The solution would be, to – before the start od a season – give each driver a box of crayons and a small sheet of paper, and make them draw their designs themselves, have someone clean them up (make lines actually straight etc.), make a helmet out of that and… viola! We’d have simple and distinctive design all up and down the grid.

  11. So they are going to make every team vote everytime whether one driver can change his helmet colors for one race? Totally unnecessary bureaucracy. Are they going to have this discussion and vote 20 times for monaco if every driver wants to run special helmets? Just imagine them sitting there in a 1 hour meeting rubber stamping the helmet permits because surely they have nothing better to do. If you are a team boss why would ever even object if some driver from other team wants to run different helmet? Why spend even one microsecond thinking whether a driver from another team can change colors on his helmet? Worthless. I’d guess this is one of those things where once a decision was made it must not be changed because it would hurt someone’s ego to acknowledge that a bad decision was made.

    1. It really looks like a power grab by the governing body – all bureaucracy is unnecessary and seeks to make itself necessary, after all.

      All the FIA has to do is sit tight and come out with a repeal of the rule once the fuss has quieted down a bit and they will get praised by the community for acting – thus legitimising their authority on a subject that actually has nothing whatsoever to do with them. Quite a cushy position to be in, really.

  12. Pointless rule now that you’ve got the halo obscuring it. Remember the days I’d collect stickers of the iconic helmets of the 80s and 90s. Doubt I’d recognise more than 3 these days.

    They should let drivers design the livery of their halos, practically speaking they exist in/on the car for the same reasons the helmets do…why can they personalise one and not the other?

  13. Something like this is completely subjective. And I wonder how much time they waste checking the designs, seeing if there’s a pattern or if it’s a different design altogether.

    Makes no sense. Either force them to use the exact same design (which I’m against) or don’t bother…

  14. https://www.racefans.net/2019/03/14/pictures-every-f1-drivers-helmet-for-the-2019-season/
    Most of the helmet designs are busy and multi-coloured.

    Very few of them can be identified at a glance. You often need to look at the sponsors, or a logo/driver’s name literally written on the helmet. If the idea is that drivers are identifiable from their crash helmets when they are in the car, it is a complete failure.

    It seems that most drivers want to have a design that reflects their individuality, rather than being recognisable. Regular changes are a part of that.

    Given that the driver is now so embedded in the car, maybe they should look at having a prominent spot on the car (I propose the top of the airbox) be a sponsor free zone, and dedicated to displaying the driver’s name. The driver must also pick a distinctive colour scheme that is different from their team mate. How easy would it be to pick who’s driving the car if for instance, Lewis had a yellow top and Valtteri had a blue/white top.

    1. Given that the driver is now so embedded in the car, maybe they should look at having a prominent spot on the car (I propose the top of the airbox) be a sponsor free zone, and dedicated to displaying the driver’s name.

      I’d go further and suggest the entire helmet be a sponsor free zone. Some teams (Red Bull, STR and Ferrari in particular) have so many sponsor logos on their driver’s helmets it is near impossible for the driver to find space to come up with a unique and interesting design.

    2. @davids Amazing how almost all of those designs are just awful in regards to being recognizable. Mostly just a combination of red and white plus blue or orange.

  15. Most recent drivers use rather complex helmet designs that become a blur of colors anyway. Plus, with today’s car design the helmet is not necessarily sticking out anymore. So, it really does not matter anyway. Many years ago when I started following F1, the helmet designs were much simpler, and I could easily identify drivers like Tom Pryce, Mario Andretti, James Hunt, etc… even on black-and-white TV.

  16. Silly rule. Vettel is 32 now. He won’t be changing designs every time he gets into the car like he did in his Red Bull days.

  17. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    1st October 2019, 19:11

    Personally, I like seeing the different designs and artworks. I also dislike jobsworth, arbitrary rules. So let them do what they want.

  18. Paint the halo in the nations colours and job done!

  19. Weird how he’s calling Whiting a liar. When the rule came out he had said it wasn’t brought in for identification purposes, as he said he just used the t cam for identification. Why can’t the new director do that?

  20. All excellent points. F1 of old was very different, todays F1 is about selling glamour and entertainment, it only fair to allow drivers to be a part of it. It’s about each drivers brand. Ricciardo, Verstsppen, Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi famously known as ice man, all these guys have some kind of name/logo design, I’ve always looked forward to the special helmets especially for the home GPs and iconic venues like Monaco, Silverstone, COTA, ect. When the numbers on the helmet were introduced it was for this very reason they justified it, “so we can easily identify them”

  21. Current F1 drivers helmets are an adolescent mess. Drivers should register a helmet design and then keep it for their entire career. Now they change so often nobody cares any more and another little bit of the sports character has been erased.

  22. The pettiness of the old farts running F1 is becoming increasingly tiresome.

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