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F1: Ban on Helmet Change Approved

FIA recently decided to modify the current rules of helmets, limiting the changes F1 drivers might bring to the appearance of their helmets during the season.


FIA impose this ban to help audience and spectators more easily recognize drivers when they are on track.


The modified rule reads: “In order for drivers to be easily distinguished (…) the crash helmet of each driver must be presented substantially the same livery at every event during a championship season.”


Thus, minor modifications allowed during one championship provided that there is a need to highlight a particular event or there is a change in sponsorship. Also, a complete helmet livery change from season to season is permitted.


Nevertheless, the rule prompted dissatisfaction among some drivers.


Former F1 driver Alex Wurz tweeted: “I am a fan of consistency. But seriously! What’s next? Rules on haircut?”


Maybe the most affected driver is the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who has used over 50 helmet designs since his debut on the F1 grid. And he made his opinion quite bluntly, saying that he would happily pay any fines as a donation to charity if he nonetheless decided to change helmet design in-season.


In Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff’s mind, while die-hard fans can keep up-to-date with the drivers helmet changes, less regular viewers do not. Thus, driver recognition becomes an important issue.


He said: “So either you put big numbers on the car, which we didn’t like, or you make the driver more recognizable with the helmet.


“If the promoter thinks that it will help him sell tickets, I think that’s a good argument.”


However, he also considers the timing of this rule modification unfortunate. He said: “This detail coming out of the F1 Commission made us look like we have nothing else to do than discuss driver helmets.


“As a matter of fact, the promoters are struggling a bit to promote their grands prix.”


Moreover, the FIA revealed the change in drivers’ race numbers. Drivers now must pick a set number for their entire career. However, the rule also reads that “a driver's career in Formula 1 will be deemed to have ended if he does not participate in an event for two entire consecutive championship seasons”, which means that drivers such as Kimi Raikkonen will have to choose another number if theirs be picked by others during their sabbaticals.


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