You will never know the feeling of a driver when winning a race. The helmet hides feelings that cannot be understood.
To celebrate an occasion, to mark a sign of support, to say goodbye to a friend or to show off personality the helmet of a rider or driver is one of their only opportunities to do so.
They might not be the most interesting item of the kit to the most ‘diehard’ of fans who are only there for the racing but to someone like me I adore studying the detail, seeing whether certain riders carry certain images and whether ultimately the sponsors have got their markings all over.
For F1 fans they witness a constant, or what feels like constant, changing of Sebastian Vettel’s helmet designs. Whilst some elements stay the same for the man sponsored by Red Bull he has admitted after winning the inaugural Indian GP “I need a new one urgently because I don’t wear them again after a win.” I for one cannot wait for him to win another race just purely on the fact I’m not keen on his current helmet, one of his best this year has been the above Monaco version. This helmet goes some way to show the detail with competition winner Lucy Bloor managing to guess somewhere around the 1,577 sequins stuck to Vettel’s head.
The Monaco F1 is a great event for special helmets, the Iceman Kimi Raikkonen had a tribute to British hero James Hunt and another shiny special was from none other the championship leader Fernando Alonso. Alonso chose to have the helmet covered in emblems that were relevant to him and his career, around the circuit the gold looked truly beautiful and expressed the extravagance of the principality.
Of course if you’re a motorbike fan you will be familiar with Valentino Rossi’s penchant for telling a story via his ‘lid’. Whether it’s the Donkey from Shrek to illustrate a stupid move, his eyeball to say he’s watching his rivals or a merger to say goodbye to a dear friend Rossi’s career story can no doubt be told through his helmets.
However, the colour, the sponsors and the story are not favoured by everyone. Two riders stick in mind for me when I think of ‘white’ and that is 2011 125 rider Harry Stafford and current Moto3 rider and winner Romano Fenati. When Fenati was on stage at Silverstone he was asked why he wore a white helmet, his reply was simple: “I don’t know, but it’s beautiful no?” In a business so dominated by sponsors it is refreshing to see something clean rattling round the circuit. It may change but he seems to have no intention of bowing to the sponsors… just yet.
As mentioned the detail is incredible and it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t give my favourite helmet painter a shout out, I truly admire his work and when I learn to ride I hope to own one of his creations, @richartconcepts.
Of course the helmet is not just for show and the likes of AGV, Arai, Shark, Shoei and so on have been credited with saving the brains of even us ‘ordinary’ people. Taking bumps and scratches over a race weekend it’s a great chance for the general public to see how their very own helmets are put to the test.