Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 career in helmets

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel’s many helmet designs have provoked controversies, changes in the F1 rules and even political rows.

Since entering F1 15 years ago, up until his retirement from the sport after today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Vettel has been through far too many different designs to cover in a single article. Here are a few of his most memorable designs.

2004: Formula BMW

Vettel was backed by Red Bull from a young age, and wore their colours when he graduated from karting to racing cars. Having placed second in Germany’s Formula BMW series in 2003, he routed the field the next year, winning 18 out of 20 races and scoring 387 points from a possible 400.

2007: F1 testing

Vettel arrived in F1 as a test driver for BMW Sauber, and made his first appearance in a practice session at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix. His grand prix debut followed at Indianapolis in 2007, as a one-off substitute for the injured Robert Kubica. He finished eighth, scoring a point.

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2007: Hungary

His impressive debut for BMW convinced Red Bull he was ready to step up to their junior team, then called Toro Rosso. Scott Speed was dropped from the team’s line-up at the European Grand Prix, and Vettel took over his car at the next round in Hungary.

2008: Brazil

Vettel stunned by winning a soaked Italian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso, and Red Bull needed no further persuasion to promote him to their main team. For his final race at Interlagos he sported a helmet paying tribute to his team members, a gesture he has made on several occasions since.

2009: Testing

Vettel’s first helmet as a Red Bull race driver.

2010: Monaco

At Red Bull, Vettel developed a habit of frequently changing his helmet design. This early Monaco special was conservative compared to some of the more outlandish looks which followed.

2011: Britain

Another appearance of Vettel’s team members on his lid during his dominant 2011 campaign, which delivered his second world championship.

2011: Singapore

Vettel often chose the Singapore night race to display some of his more eye-catching designs.

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2012: Hungary

By 2012 he was a two-times champion, as this gold design pointed out.

2012: USA

Following Vettel’s debut in the United States Grand Prix the event dropped off the Formula 1 calendar. It returned at an all-new venue, the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. Despite being in the thick of a tense fight for the world championship with Fernando Alonso, Vettel broke out yet another special design to mark the occasion.

2013: Australia

Vettel started 2013 with a design marking Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking freefall jump.

2013: Monaco

He chose a pin-up calendar look for that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. By now some within the sport were voicing concerns over how regularly Vettel and other drivers were changing their helmet design, claiming it made them hard to identify on the track.

2013: Britain

More faces at Silverstone in 2013.

2013: USA

For F1’s second race in Texas, Vettel held a helmet design competition, which was won by fan Rolf Carsjens.

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2013: Brazil

Vettel signed off his fourth consecutive championship-winning season in style, claiming a record-equalling ninth win in a row at the Brazilian Grand Prix, sporting this cartoonish number.

2014: Monaco

The first year of F1’s V6 hybrid turbo regulations was a tough one for Vettel, who failed to win a race. Monaco was one of several disappointing races: He retired early with turbo trouble, giving the fans little time to appreciate his latest look.

2014: Abu Dhabi

In his last race as a Red Bull driver Vettel paid tribute to the team which had made him a multiple world champion with the word ‘Danke’ – ‘thanks’ – in their logotype on top of his helmet.

2015: Malaysia

It was all change for Vettel’s helmets in 2015: Or, rather, much less change.

The FIA had finally given way to the grumbles over drivers’ helmets and banned them from changing their styles from race to race. Vettel and his team responded thoughtfully to the changes.

His move to Ferrari inevitably meant the Cavallino Rampante replaced Red Bull. He also switched to a white design which allowed him to make small adjustments to the style without incurring the regulator’s wrath. A bold German flag became a fixture in his new look.

His switch to Ferrari quickly paid off: He won his second race for the team in Malaysia, wearing this helmet.

2016: Australia

After a successful first season with Ferrari, 2016 proved a win-less disappointment. He continued to adapt his helmet style as far as the rules allowed, however.

2018: Monaco

The tighter rules on helmet design did permit drivers to introduce one special design per season. Vettel gave his Monaco helmet for 2018 a retro look.

2018: USA

Pushing the boundaries of the helmet design rules wherever possible, Vettel used the lining of his lid for a stars-and-stripes design at the 2018 United States Grand Prix.

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2019: Australia

Vettel began his fifth season at Ferrari marking their 90th anniversary.

2019: Singapore

Wearing a special lid reflecting the lights of the night race, Vettel claimed his final grand prix victory in Singapore that year.

Sebastian Vettel's 2020 Turkish Grand Prix helmet
2020: Turkey

The ban on drivers changing their helmet designs lasted five years. It was lifted in 2020, which also turned out to be Vettel’s final year as a Ferrari driver.

Finally able to tweak his design as he pleased once more, Vettel increasingly used his helmets to give voice to his concerns over the climate and support for social justice. When F1 returned to Turkey he swapped his usual German tricolour for a pride rainbow and added the slogan “together as one”.

Sebastian Vettel's 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix helmet
2020: Abu Dhabi

Vettel’s hopes of winning the world championship with Ferrari were never realised, and he drove his final race for them at Yas Marina in 2020.

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2021: Turkey

After moving to Aston Martin, Vettel generally sported helmets in the bright pink colours of sponsors BWT, though he continued to draw attention to environmental and other concerns.

Sebastian Vettel's 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix helmet
2021: Abu Dhabi

His helmet for the final race of 2021 showed the breadth of Vettel’s advocacy for equality and for more environmental awareness.

2022: Testing

When Russia invaded Ukraine early in 2022, all the drivers indicated their opposition to war. Vettel put the same message on his helmet, though he had to make an adjustment to the design following a complaint over one of the flags he had included.

2022: Canada

Vettel has become an increasingly passionate advocate of his causes as his career has gone on. His choice of helmet for the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix was confrontational, accusing the country of committing “climate crime” – a bold statement to make given his team’s association with Aramco, described as the world’s biggest polluter, whose logos also appeared on his helmet.

This drew criticism from some local politicians, which Vettel responded to by admitting his statement was hypocritical. But, he said, “it’s disappointing that we break it down to a personal level and miss to look at the bigger picture.

“What’s really important is the message that we need to make the switch and get out of fossil [fuels] and start to base our whole lifestyle on renewables.”

Having worn the helmet in practice, Vettel chose not to use it in the grand prix itself.

2022: Austria

As part of his environmental activism, Vettel took a group of schoolchildren to build a ‘bee hotel’ at the Austrian Grand Prix, making his choice of helmet colours for that weekend an obvious one.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2022
2022: Mexico

Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz passed away on the eve of the United States Grand Prix this year. At the following race Vettel, who arrived in F1 thanks to the team’s junior driver programme, revived his original helmet design, swapping the ‘Red Bull’ wording for ‘Danke Didi’.

Sebastian Vettel's 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix helmet
2022: Abu Dhabi

For his final Formula 1 race, Vettel invited fans to bid to put their faces on his helmet. He said all the proceeds from the auction will go towards supporting his environmental projects.

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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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14 comments on “Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 career in helmets”

  1. The 2019: Singapore picture trully looks iconic.

    Anyway, that’s a huge bunch of totally unmemorable helmet designs. I wish drivers sticked to one, visually meaningful design (allowing for variation that doesn’t stray away too far from it).
    The black&yellow “bee” design is the only one I like.

    1. I think the off-centre stripe after he moved to Ferrari is quite distinctive, even if it does change colour from week to week. Red Bull helmets have always been pretty indistinguishable.

  2. Imagine the year being 2015, the FIA having enshrined Mercedes’ domination for many years to come, and they choose to ban helmet design changes of all things.

    Lovely priorities, those.

    I will never understand the arguments of the loud and insufferable who claimed to have problems identifying drivers by their helmets when there are exactly two cars of identical colours on the grid, one clearly marked by a yellow T-Cam.

    How do you dress yourself in the morning if you can’t figure that out?

    1. That supposes you know which driver in each team carries the yellow T-cam (I don’t). This was before personal numbers came into play too. There was a feeling back then that it was getting a bit rediculous with some drivers having wildly different helmets almost every race, encouraging a personal motif with small variations is a good thing in my opinion.

      1. Recognizing drivers by their helmet “supposes you know” what helmet design they use.

        I recognize drivers by the combination of T-cam colour and helmet design.

      2. If you can figure out that the Mercedes, which once were silver, ran in black for two seasons, only to switch back to silver for 2022, you can figure out which of their drivers is in their prime car.

        Certain very loud people must have spent the past three years in a constant state of confusion.

    2. @proesterchen Sky wanted something worth for their money. A way of stating their power “Hey we own f1 you know”

      1. This is true. Martin Brundle would complain that “drivers were changing their helmets almost every race” which was a huge exaggeration. Only Vettel was doing this, while all other drivers would keep the same helmet design with possibly one or two special helmets for certain races.
        The fact that that came after permanent numbers is just petty and dumb.

      2. @peartree It’d be nice if they showed they that accomplishment by having good commentary.

    3. +1 on that man. People who needed unchanged helmets, stupidly large AND unchanging racing numbers (and also name tags for a while) to ID drivers must have a really hard time walking and chewing a gum at the same time.

  3. He has enough helmets for a coffee table book, very wasteful, I think that is why he has retired, to offset the carbon lost on all the lids.

    1. Each helmet can be sold for tens of thousands. So, not a waste. Although, personally I’d prefer the driver to wear the same designed 80% of the time and not a different one every race.

  4. In a way, I liked the helmet design rule in the case of Vettel because his constant changes made little impression on me, none of the designs were cool enough except from a couple. But once he had to stick to one design, the white helmet and german flag looked very cool.

  5. “When Russia invaded Ukraine early in 2022, all the drivers indicated their opposition to war.” – not all of them, sadly. There was that one particular wet wipe.

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