Tag Archives: Ayrton Senna

Your Helmet is Your Brand

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.

The Autosport news article.

The Autosport news article.

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

An iconic helmet design

An iconic helmet design

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.

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Why is Senna a Saint and Schumacher Satan?

I bet that if Senna had lived long enough to compete with Schumacher properly, we’d have seen many great battles, many great arguments … and many, many spectacularly controversial accidents.

Michael Schumacher as Dick DasterdlySo Michael Schumacher has apologised for his Dick Dasterdlyness and Derick Warwick has announced that, had there been more time on Sunday, the German would have been black-flagged for his manouevre against Rubens Barrichello in the closing stages of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Brazilian himself slammed Schumacher’s move as one of the craziest and most dangerous he’s ever faced in all his time driving a Formula One car and Schumacher finds himself on the receiving end of a 10-place grid penalty when he arrives in Spa later this month as punishment for his wreckless driving.

But, as criticism of the German’s tactics mounts, I find myself wondering why we are all so surprised.

Michael Schumacher is, after all, no stranger to despicable tactics.  Just look at how he won the 1994 championship, for example.  Or his move on Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.  Or how about blocking the road in Monaco?

It’s a trait of Schumacher’s to attempt to use whatever tactic he can to his advantage, and he is despised for it.  He is Formula One’s pantomime villain.  We love to hate him, and yet he remains statistically the greatest Formula One driver of all time.

In these politically correct, eco-friendly, safety conscious times, Schumacher’s tactics might seem old fashioned and reprehensible, but we’re talking about a man who retired for three years and has come back to a very different Formula One.  He doesn’t understand and is having to learn new forms of Public Relations.

When, in the old days, did you ever hear Schumacher apologise for being hard on somebody?

Despite all this, I love Schumacher.  His poor performance this year might be indicative of an old man who is struggling to make it in the high octane pinacle of motorsport amongst men much younger, and fitter, than he is these days, and I believe he should have remained in retirement with his image unsullied by the attrocious results achieved so far in 2010, but it gauls me more to hear criticism of him in one breath and then in the other, in hushed tones, praise for Ayrton Senna.

Senna and Schumacher sadly did not get to race together for too long but I suspect the battles between them would have been epic.

Schumacher, like the Brazilian legend before him, has the unnerving ability to know within a hair’s breadth exactly where his car is on the track – and neither were afraid to be ruthless.

Senna’s tactics on track were, quite often, equally as ignominious.  Look at the rivalry between Senna and Prost and the number of incidents that occurred between the two of them, not least Senna taking Prost out at the first corner of Japan in 1990 in a deliberate and callous move to ensure he won the championship – and prove a point to the FIA.

Ayrton Senna was undoubtedly a brilliant driver, one of the best; but so is Schumacher.  Which other driver would

Ayrton Senna ... equally Dick Dasterdly

have said: “I knew I had five centimeters to play with…”?

I bet that if Senna had lived long enough to compete with Schumacher properly, we’d have seen many great battles, many great arguments … and many, many spectacularly controversial accidents.

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