Dear Formula 1 drivers.
Did you know that most fans don’t actually like it when you change the design of your helmet every single race?
It’s not big and it’s not clever.
In fact, it’s quite irritating.
And it’s reached a point where the FIA have decided that, rather than focus on the immediate threats for our beloved sport, like the financial state of some teams or the noise your engines make, they must spend an inordinate amount of time coming up with a rule that says you can’t change your helmet each race.
So stop doing it, ok?
An F1 Fan.
Now, I don’t particularly like it when drivers change their helmet designs on a race-by-race basis. Sebastian Vettel began the trend and everyone thought it was cool, and then they realised it was quite annoying. Vettel has had around sixty different designs since he started his career.
And, by the time the fans had realised it was quite annoying (probably the second race), the other drivers had thought it was cool, too, and started doing it.
The fact is that, even in this digital age of high definition TV and on-screen graphics, fans and pundits alike still look for familiar traits to identify a particular car/driver combo heading towards them on the track.
If this changes regularly, it’s hard for anybody to identify a driver and we have to wait for Anthony Davidson to point specific drivers out to us on the Skypad afterwards.
I think it’s fine to have a commemorative design for a specific occasion; a centenary race, an anniversary event and so on. Or to have a new design at the start of each season. After all, it’s what the teams do with the liveries of their cars so why can’t the drivers do it with their helmets?
Nevertheless, teams don’t change their liveries every race so neither should drivers change their helmet designs so frequently.
And yet, should the FIA have gone to such pains as to introduce a rule that physically bans such practice?
No, I don’t think so. It smacks of the FIA procrastinating. They don’t know how to resolve many of the issues on the table in front of them, so they’re nit-picking at little issues that rankle but, at the end of the day, aren’t killing the sport.
I think it should have been a recommendation, a piece of fatherly advice handed down from the governing body and then left up to the drivers’ and teams’ respective PR machines to recognise the simple value in fans identifying with a single image.
Just look at Ayrton Senna’s iconic design. Pretty much unchanged throughout his career, the yellow and green colours of
his national flag can be identified by true F1 fans of all ages even twenty one years after his death.
When shown Vettel’s helmet, would fans still be able to identify it? And in pub quizzes will they now be expected to know not just who’s helmet it is, but which race they wore it at?
So I don’t think there should be a specific rule enforcing it, but I do think the drivers should stop doing it so frequently.