Haas drivers helmets, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

F1 scraps ban on drivers changing helmet designs

2020 F1 season

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The FIA has lifted a ban on F1 drivers changing their helmet designs, five years since it was introduced.

Drivers have been limited to just one change of helmet design during a season since 2015. The rule came in for criticism last year after Daniil Kvyat was prevented from wearing a special design at his home race.

Lewis Hamilton ran a poll of his social media followers last year asking “how many of you think it’s bs [bullshit] that the FIA only allow the drivers one helmet design change in the year[?]” Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen also criticised the regulation, which was introduced on the grounds it would make drivers easier to identify.

The World Motor Sport Council announced following its meeting today the ban has been lifted for 2020.

Two other rules changes were confirmed for the new season. The minimum weight of cars has increased by 1kg to 746kg, due to the addition of a second fuel flow sensor to power units.

The WMSC also approved the use of F1’s new 18-inch wheels for 2021 at this year’s post-season test at Yas Marina. F1 teams will use their mule cars to test the low-profile rubber.

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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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64 comments on “F1 scraps ban on drivers changing helmet designs”

  1. Great, now open the Door for custom/oneoff/driver specific liveries.

  2. Good luck to the future tribute makers and poster designers to choose between the 7.846.306 helmet designs of Vettel for their work.

    1. Well, if web changes helmet when he wins, he would probably keep to 2 designs for the season, bar maybe a Monaco special or a home race special @esmiz

  3. I’d heard arguments that consistent helmet designs were mandated to help fans recognize drivers. Does anyone here regularly ID drivers during a race by their helmet? Personally that’s the last thing I look for.

    1. @knewman When there’s already the big numbers on the cars, the T-bar camera colour and usually identifying details on the Halo, it’s hardly needed.

      1. Big numbers on the cars, but letters to define the drivers in the lap charts and standings, let’s face it…it’s a bit of a farce

        1. When I got into f1 in 2012, I thought it was ludicrous that f1 didn’t have driver numbers. It actually did, but they were 100% useless, as nobody used them, they didn’t put them on the cars… and as you said, they use the three letter abbreviation instead.

          1. The race cars have always had a number on them even if sometimes it didn’t look like it, they have to by regulation. I remember in the past some teams would put the number in small text on the front wing underneath the nose where you would not see it unless you looked specifically at that space.

      2. Exactly @keithcollantine. Add to that the fact that most drivers would probably keep their primary colour anyway, it’s about time this rule was lifted.

      3. My mother identifies the drivers by helmet designs. She doesn’t understand the T bar system and forgets the driver numbers but seems to always know who is who by the helmets.

        It’s good to remember that race fans are diverse.

      4. Yup, with the generic BWT and Red Bull Cola helmets I could only tell them apart by the T-bar.

    2. Only when the camera switches to the onboard camera and usually only use it to recognize vettel or leclerc. Most helmets are already quite similar or not immediately distinguishable amongst teammates. Vettel having the German stripes on white and Leclerc with Monaco stripes on black is the one exception I occasionally use that to identify which driver I’m watching.

    3. I’ve been looking for the helmet since i started watching 17 years ago. never knew which t cam is which driver. The fixed numbers from recent years help a lot too, but i primarily look at the helmet, even with the halo

      1. Yep, me too – it was the best way when I started to watch (also, w/o HD, and often much less quality as I realize when rewatching footage from the nineties!) so I guess it largely stuck, even though nowadays it is not the easiest method.

        1. @bosyber The SD-format was still in place throughout the 2000s-decade or noughties. The HD-era only started in 2011.

          1. Yeah, but point was: different times, helmet was best identifier and that stuck @jerejj

      2. Wellbalanced
        7th March 2020, 13:02

        I totally agree, I only ever look for the helmet. Very few drivers (Ham being an obvious exception) would I even be able to identify by their number, or anything else.

        Like Brundle, I would like drivers to stick with a helmet design throughout their careers (let alone a season), but that is preference, and in my opinion artistic expression should not be limited by regulations.

    4. That was indeed the reason given. But really it just became a pet peeve of brundle and crofty after Vettels umpteenth iteration his design started inspiring others to start experimenting a bit more and then it spiralled into suddenly feeling like changes should be banned @knewman.

      That said, I have found looking at the helmets wored best for me for a long time. I’m not sure there even were t-bar cameras when I started watching and even since I know about the colours, they never worked for me.

      The large numbers used now currently work better though, since all RB helmets are the same and others often use small details you can’t see at speed, well and the halo gets in the way too.

  4. I never liked this rule. Big thumbs up from me.

    1. Peter Waters (@)
      6th March 2020, 21:26

      You can hardly see the drivers helmets anyway because of the Halo. As soon as the Halo was introduced, it should have been made mandatory for the drivers names to be displayed on it.

  5. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
    6th March 2020, 19:35

    Nice, finally
    thank you Daniil

    Has someone shown this to Seb already?

  6. I still tell drivers by their helmets even after the introduction of the halo.

    It was very easy in the 90s to tell drivers apart from their helmets even though the TV pictures was in SD. In the HD era, as long as we know by the beginning of the first practise what the helmet designs of the drivers are, it’s not a problem to tell which car it is by the time of the race.

    It is still better to have those iconic helmet design though in my opinion! Imagine F1 without Senna’s iconic yellow helmet!

    1. That is my feeling too.

      However, the rule as it existed wasn’t great,and contributes little at the moment.

      I didn’t really like the bazillion variations in helmets that Vettel had, but that was mainly because Red Bull allows its drivers so little room to show individuality, so none were iconic. His current design is (and open enough to allow variations, big fan).

      Many other helmets have been too busy and hard to distinguish as iconic, though I believe the obstruction of the halo has helped improve that aspect. The rule did little good, so time to let it go.

    2. @KG The SD-format was still in place throughout the 2000s-decade. The HD-era only started in 2011.

  7. I don’t think drivers should be constrained in this respect, I like when they bring special helmets for special occasions, but I never liked Vettel’s approach in Red Bull, bringing totally different designs for seemingly any Grand Prix. I think driver’s identity still should stand out and he should be mostly recognisable.

    1. And when the ban was introduced, he brought one of the best designs and one that could have become iconic to him.

    2. @pironitheprovocateur, to be frank Vettel’s overall design did not really change throughout those years. But colors, yes. So for me those designs were more easily recognizable than, say, Sutil’s, who would bring an entirely new helmet to different races.

      Broadly speaking, the T-cam colors and numbers is a short-term solution. None of this will work when we look at today’s photos 30 years from know. Today’s drivers will be unidentifiable, opposite to the ‘70-ies or ‘80-ies. Even today, it is very easy to identify Stewart, Fittipaldi, Villeneuve and de Angelis without taking T-cam colors into consideration.

  8. Excellent, sanity prevails.

  9. Good riddance. I hope to see 20 new lids every race just because.

  10. Makes no difference, you can never see the helmet designs once their in the car anyway…always said they missed a trick not allowing drivers to design their halo’s…would be the modern version of a helmet to distinguish and personalise the car through the livery of what is a safety device first and foremost (i.e. not designed to be an advertising billboard for the team).

  11. I might be one of the few who appreciated the constance of the same helmet designs. Mainly with all the camera angles from above the drivers helmet and close in shots where you can’t see the colour of the T bar.

    As for the numbers – they might be great for those that have the time to memorise them for each driver, otherwise they are pretty meaningless – especially so when most of them are difficult to see.

    1. @guybrushthreepwood Respectfully I can say the same for helmet designs. They are great if you want to take the time to memorize them, but with the halo, they are difficult to see.

      I personally look for numbers, but thats probably because I grew up watching NASCAR first and you couldn’t miss a three foot tall number on the side of the door.

  12. About time they did.

  13. Won’t be too long before they don’t even need a crash helmet they are making the cars so safe, and the designs of todays drivers are all rubbish and samey anyway so who even cares? If you show pictures of each drivers crash helmets all together, unless their name is clearly on there, you have no clue which one belongs to which driver. Show me a crash helmet of a long standing driver from the 80’s or 90’s or even the 2000’s and more likely than not I would be able to say straight away whose lid it was.

  14. Shame, like Crofty, I absolutely use the crash helmet to see who it is. Big numbers on the cars? Don’t make me laugh, even this season many are hard to read unless very close, straight on and on slow motion, and the on screen graphics don’t always tell you who you’re looking at. Maybe it depends on what era you started watching, maybe not, but given you take in the car livery pretty easily from most angles my next glance is at the driver helmet usually.

    Oh, and I think a lot of responses welcoming the rule change (as is your right) are quite glib 🤔

  15. Neil (@neilosjames)
    7th March 2020, 0:08

    I liked this rule, but… can’t say losing it is going to ruin my enjoyment of F1.

  16. Wow, they got a brain!

    I bet this is only half the story though, And they will now have to wear 1 pair of underpants the whole season!

  17. I am one of the few it seems that used the helmet to identify who names looking at but alas you cant please everyone.

    1. No. MANY people do, there are just lots of cynical people here who don’t like to recognise that.

      Helmet designs have always been a great way to identify drivers, from the days of Hunt, Lauda and Senna to now.

  18. I am one of the few it seems that used the helmet to identify who I am looking at but alas you cant please everyone.

    1. If you take a look at my Airtable you will see a sheet for Drivers that lists team/car n#/camera colour that you can use to identify which driver is which

  19. A bunch of years ago, D. Coulthard was caught walking back to the pits having parked the car during a race. He had his shoes in his hand. Asked why, “McLaren driver’s have to buy their own shoes, but the team supplies the socks.”
    In past years, who supplied the helmets and who paid for the design and painting of the lid.? Bet it was the drivers and money was tight, always tight.
    Now-a-days, having a helmet designed and painted is likely cheap and the helmet can be sold off for a bundle or given to charity after every race.
    I for one am glad the rule has been nixed. Makes no difference really as I can usually tell the driver’s apart by who is running into who. Mind you, the Hass boys pose a challenge.

    1. @rekibsn the haas boys do make a use of their crash helmets.

  20. Great to hear that awful rule is being done away with! I used to love watching the likes of Vettel experiment with new designs regularly, and can’t wait to again!

  21. Just hoping Vettel doesnt go overboard. I like his current helmet. Would be a shame if he starts changing it every race again.

  22. You can spin it anyway you like but if Kvyat knew he wanted to run a special livery for his home grand prix all he had to do to be able to do that is to not change his helmet anywhere else that year. Obviously if he changed his helmet at another event knowing the rule was in place and knowing it would mean not being able to run a special design at this home event then the other event must have had more meaning for him.

    1. Completely true. He changed his helmet for the Italian GP.

  23. I don’t really care either way and never have.

  24. I have always felt this rule shows intolerance, as the reasoning for it was slim. Everyone likes a good helmet design but good helmet designs are good for a reason, they may have meaning or simply just look good. Many drivers haven’t found a signature look. In the end I can’t understand why drivers weren’t be free to change their helmets scheme.
    I think outside pressure led to it, Croft was a big supporter of this rule, I fear tv was behind it.

  25. It’s not like people who grew up identifying drivers by their helmet in the 80s and 90s won’t be able to now—there wasn’t a rule against the drivers changing their design back then, either! All it means is that now you’ll have to take note of a new design, if the drivers change it.

    1. @markzastrow, it means there was more discipline back then for not changing the designs. Current overloaded designs are not helpful, either; I am surprised designers do not take that into account.

  26. I find it strange that current drivers don’t want to create and keep a design that identifies them. If you see the Senna helmet you instantly know the driver. If I saw any of the current crop of designs I’d be uncertain who it belonged to or even if it was from this year. I might appreciate individual designs as they come and go, but they can no longer become iconic. Drivers regularly use one-off designs in tribute to past drivers, but future drivers could not pay tribute to today’s drivers as nobody would get the reference. However it should always be a driver’s choice and an unnecessary rule. My own personal favourite was Eddie Cheever’s lid.

    1. @leethatsme That is exactly what I have been missing these last 15 to 20 years with the helmets of the current crop of F1 drivers. They hardly stand out and are not recognisable over time. When I close my eyes I can see the helmets of the likes of Arnoux, Patrese, Mansell, Piquet, Villeneuve, Prost, De Angelis, Alesi in front of me and I can literally picture them. With these current helmets I can’t. I am not saying that today’s helmets are ugly, to the contrary, they are mostly pieces of art, they just don’t stand the test of time.

      I was in the fortunate position last year to have my own helmet for karting and when hooking up with a designer who also had painted helmets for F1 and WEC drivers, we shared that philosophy of the greatness of the timelessness of helmet designs. I hope that there will be helmets again which can become as iconic as the ones from the past.

      1. Agreed Arthur, I think the identification problem’s because many helmets have way to much detail and too many colors going on too small a space.
        I’d add Barry Sheene’s lid to your list…… couldn’t miss him.

        1. @aegges66, @budchekov, we are on the same page. For me Ratzenberger’s helmet design is top notch.

          1. Check out these ‘what if’ helmets :)

          2. Oops, long link, it’s meant to be one line
            In the address bar just add the bottom line to the one above it WFM.

        2. @budchekov That is cool to see those old helmets in a modern look. :-) Some of them look pretty good, but I don’t like the ones where the design is altered to fit a sponsor like Martini for example. I had not seen Barry Sheene’s helmet before … I think it would have fitted very well with a JPS sponsorship deal. :-))

  27. Never recognized a driver by the helmet.
    In the wide shots you could never distinguish them anyways, neither T cams or numbers.

  28. This whole helmet design thing is a bit kiddie IMO. Grown men obsessing with the looks of their apparel is slightly embarrassing TBPF.

    1. @balue Please define how “grown men” wouldn’t embarrass you. What do “grown men” need to do for you to feel comfortable? If Max, Pierre & Lando are “grown men”, I guess that makes Kimi a more “grown man” – is Kimi therefore allowed to paint his lid without causing you distress?

      1. @psynrg There’s no one distressed here except you.

  29. The numbers should be a lot more prominent with the shark fin-let on the 2020 cars. I remember last year at COTA it was hard to see numbers on the cars in person so the helmets were the main distinguishing feature for a couple teams.

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