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Schumacher gets £12,000 crash helmet
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Schumacher gets £12,000 crash helmet
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Aug 2009   |  11:04 pm GMT  |  41 comments

If you ever ask the question, “What should I pay for a crash helmet?” invariably you will get the answer, “What’s your head worth?”

Felipe Massa’s miracle escape from the incident at the Hungarian Grand Prix, where he was hit on the head by a 500g metal spring at 150mph, is testimony to the strength of the modern F1 crash helmet and makes you realise how invaluable it is.

I’ve spoken to a few drivers lately who never really considered being hit on the head until the tragic incident of Henry Surtees and then a week another freak accident, for Massa. It’s woken them up to the risks, but in terms of designing into the cars ways of ensuring this can never happen, it’s a very difficult area in which to improve safety.

Massa’s helmet maker, Schuberth, has had a long relationship with Michael Schumacher and for his comeback at Valencia in 12 days time he will be sporting a new model costing £12,000, according to German newspaper Bild, which always has the Schuey stories first.
Picture 9

This new helmet has seven stars on it, one for each of his world championships and has the names painted on it of his wife and children, who presumably will be viewing this comeback with mixed emotions, given the circumstances of the recent accidents. They may well have believed that Michael had put the dangers of F1 behind him.

The area around the visor, where Massa was hit by the spring, has been strengthened on Schumacher’s helmet with titanium. The message is, he’s leaving nothing to chance and this is classic Schumacher.

It is amazing, scanning the German and Italian media at the moment. It’s as if the clock was rolled back and it was 2000 all over again. Every move by Schumacher is reported and subjected to analysis and pictures. He celebrated his 14th wedding anniversary with his wife, went karting for four hours to work on his race fitness and took his top off for a while and there are articles about what great shape he is in. Apparently he is aiming to be back at his fighting weight of 69 kilos. Depending on who you believe, he had four or five kilos to lose to achieve that.

The FIA scales will not lie, so we will see whether he achieves his objective in the three week time frame.

He may have missed the thrill of the racing, these past two and a half years, but you can be darned sure he hasn’t missed the three ring media circus that accompanies the every move of a sporting superstar.

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41 Comments
  1. 12000 pounds (dont have the character on keyboard) for a helmet, perhaps at this level its worth that much. I paid about $300 Cdn for my kart helmet 4 years ago. I just can’t see these overpaid sports lasting as long as the working class watching them cant pay bills and mortgages, never mind race venue tickets, while sponsors pay these sports figures for high tech equipment and salaries from outer space. I’m a bit bitter, yes, someone else should have that seat, he had his run. If people bought the books I write, I’d be able to pay some bills. I don’t work less hard, but I get less breaks, because of no celeb status.

    1. Snail says:

      (Try posting again)

      Lets look at why helmets may cost more/less. This is grossy oversimplified. I’m just concentrating on the energies (in relative terms) involved in protecting a helmet strike at different speeds.

      1 mile => 1.61 km => 1610m.

      Whats the top speed of your kart? 75mph? Thats about

      1610 x 75 / 3600 => 120750 / 3600 => 33.54 metres per second.

      And for a Formula 1 driver, about 220mph, thats about

      1610 x 220 / 3600 => 354200 / 3600 => 98.38 metres per second.

      Kinetic energy of a moving object is

      0.5 x mvv

      where m is the mass and v is the velocity in metres per second.

      Let us assume your head doesn’t change weight and you’re driving the same car and the helmets both weigh the same. If we do that we can just eliminate m (mass) from the equation (or just assume it is 1.0 so it is the same in each equation).

      Energy of your helmet on a kart at top speed is:

      0.5 x mvv => 0.5 x m x 98.38 x 98.38

      => 562.4658 joules per kg

      Energy of your helmet on a F1 car at top speed is:

      0.5 x mvv => 0.5 x m x 33.54 x 33.54

      => 4839.3122 joules per kg

      Assuming both helmets have to defend against the same impact we can just compare the ratio in energy levels between each helmet at top speed (yes, this is a grossly naive assumption)

      562.4658 : 4839.3122 => approx 1 : 8.6 ratio.

      Which if you translate from your helmet cost of $300Cdn

      $300Cdn => $2581Cdn.

      Which is well short of £12,000.

      But construction techniques for stronger helmets that don’t weight too much will inevitably cost a lot more.

      Its also not a valid comparison because the F1 driver is sitting in a much heavier vehicle (which I haven’t accounted for) which will have a much greater kinetic energy and greater momentum should an impact occur. And of course I’m only accounting for an impact with a stationary object, not a bouncing spring or another car, all of which have their own energies and trajectories.

      I don’t know what a typical price for one of these helmets is (I can find many prices for Schuberth on the web, but for a genuine F1 standard helmet, only replicas or roadgoing helmets), but I don’t think you can call it overpriced just because your kart helmet didn’t cost anything near as much.

      1. monktonnik says:

        So there!

        That is a really interesting excercise.

        To actually think that the differential in energy, just in terms of the speed of travel is a factor of 8.6 at 3 times the speed (75mph against 220mph) really makes you think!

        I didn’t realise that the helmets cost all that much, but they have to be worth it in that case, particularly when you consider that they are made from Carbon Fibre.

    2. Sam says:

      Or maybe it’s because you’re not uber-talented?

    3. PT says:

      Q: What should I pay for a crash helmet?
      A: What’s your head worth?

      Schumacher earned his “celeb” status as you call it. You cannot claim in all the goings on of the past few weeks that he doesn’t deserve a £12k helmet!

      Now, I never appreciated Schumacher in his career until he retired but I’m glad he’s back, in unfortunate circumstances, and I certainly wouldn’t tell him to use a C$300 helmet.

  2. Liquid says:

    Now thats a pricey head right there…!

  3. Nicollers says:

    Re the threat of head injuries, perhaps teams, or whoever is in charge of these decisions, should start thinking about protecting the cock pit as well as re-inforcing the visors on helmets. Call it a mini-roll cage if you will. This could pose complications for getting in and out of the car, plus it would probably interfere big time with aero-dynamics. However, if there was some form of cage around the drivers’ cockpits that could absorb high velocity impacts of heavy objects hit at high speed and not interfere with visibility, then this would protect the driver far more than they are at the moment. I’m sure someone far more qualified than me could think this through better….

    1. BrightMinds says:

      The problem there would be the highly absobant materials crumpling into the driver. Open top clearly is the best way to go.

      1. Nicollers says:

        When you see some of the horrific crashes rally drivers have, I think F1 can learn a lesson from these designs…..

        Roll cage on top, u know it’s a fair cop!

    2. @ Nicollers

      I would not like to be trapped by a roll cage if a car caught fire – which still happens quite often…

      1. Nicollers says:

        It’s not that common in F1 mate! The drivers are tucked in with SANS devices too. Their fire-suits will stop any nasty burns by the time the stewards get there….you know it makes sense!

      2. Rudy Pyatt says:

        Take a look at any USAC racer, all with power to weight ratios comparable to or greater than in F1. And, given enough room, almost as fast in a straight line. Flying wheels, violent rollovers. And they don’t fold and trap drivers. Surely all the superfine minds and money of F1 can do as well. Besides: “Trapped by the cage” is equivalent to the “trapped by the belt” mentality of the ’50s and ’60s. And we know how effective that was…

      3. Rudy Pyatt says:

        Also, normal NHRA may serve as an example:

        http://www.nhra.net/streetlegal/cars.html

    3. Dicko says:

      @ Nicolars

      I think a role cage would be quite a risky move, and can’t see many drivers going for it. The amount of headstrikes per driver per race over say the last 10 years is next to nothing. But drivers needing to be rescued from their car by medics is much higher. Think of Jos Verstappen in 1994 when the fuel rig spat fuel all over his Benetton, an imposing roll cage would’ve definately put a crimp on his afternoon.

      1. john g says:

        why do they need a roll cage when they have a structural roll hoop right behind their head?

  4. Adrian says:

    £12,000…wow!! I actually thought the helmets they wear in F1 would cost MORE than that.

  5. George says:

    I’m imagining Michael Schumacher’s noggin on my mantelpiece, a snip at £12,000

  6. Tom says:

    Maybe he paid in small change and the 5kg came out of his wallet.

  7. Ted the Mechanic says:

    Can only agree…

    “Sporting Superstar”

    and he’s coming back to WOW us! Lucky us.

    Four hours of karting. Hope his helmet is well insulated against noise. But I suppose an F1 race car is pretty loud also.

    1. Ted the Mechanic says:

      Well I guess he’s not now. How sad, never mind.
      Excitement’s over, back to the boring old Button ‘n Bull story…
      Sigh.
      Well, boring in comparison to the sensational Schumi story anyways.

  8. Paul Mc says:

    I’m totally against any sort of roll cage or enclosed cockpit for Formula 1. While recents events have been tragic, it emphasizes that the sport will always be incredibly dangerous. The drivers know this of course but F1 is a much safer sport now than it was when Senna was killed.

    Schumi is right to take no chances in this case and I’m hoping that his return will be successful. Hopefully the team gives him a winning car!

    @James – The hype surrounding Schumis return really shows that no one has really replaced him in F1. He still has the support of the average F1 fan.

    1. Nicollers says:

      I agree Paul, it’s much safer than it was, and there will always be that element of danger associated with F1 (hence the large salaries). That said, they can still make it safer. I’m not talking about wrapping them up in blankets, I just feel the whole cockpit area can be made a much safer zone on the car….

  9. krad says:

    Are we sure he paid them £12k or is it worth £12k? I would have thought any PR minded company would have done this one for free.

  10. David Turnedge says:

    Erm… I suspect MS was PAID to wear a Schuberth helmet! But they are one of the best in the business.

  11. Casino Square says:

    ‘The FIA scales will not lie’… actually, judging by the FIA’s usual level of honesty, I reckon they probably will. And considering their usual level of incompetency, they’ll probably explode while he’s on them.

  12. kmo says:

    Make all the cars carry wing mirrors the same size as on HGV trucks. Plus the mirrors and their supports to be capable of bearing the weight of the car landing upside down.
    Results.
    1) More driver protection from rollovers, flying debris etc.
    2) Reduced top speeds and acceleration because of the extra drag
    3)Less shunts where “I didn’t see him coming up my inside.” was an excuse

  13. Tristan says:

    is it strengthed with daimond or something like that?

    my helmet for my scooter/motor is only 100 euro’s

  14. russ parkin says:

    dont forget this price includes the paint job as well, i know people like troy lee have charged people £3000+ just to make it pretty, even still though its a high price but hey if your worth half a billion its coppers in the back of the sofa for him

  15. Amritraj says:

    Hi James,

    An outside topic question. What is the future of the 2 BMW drivers? Any news which all teams are looking to have Robert Kubica in their driver’s line-up ?

    1. James Allen says:

      Renault are very keen on Kubica. Not sure about Heidfeld

  16. Martin Collyer says:

    James, am I the only one who finds it odd that Schuberth supplied helmets to Michael Schumacher, Ralf and Frentzen too, yet you rarely saw them in the shops during all those M.S. championship years, well not in Motorbike shops anyway.

    You are a biker I believe so you will know that bike shops are full of Arai, Shoei, Shark and other makes of lid. Only recently have Schuberth become easily available in Bristol, which is a fairly large city after all.

    Do you agree that Schuberth have missed a trick by not pushing/marketing their lids when M.S. was knocking up wins every weekend?

    1. James Allen says:

      Interesting point, Martin. I’ll look into that. Thanks

      1. john g says:

        schuberth, with their RF1 helmet, do not offer in it shops because each one is taylor made to fit. The schuberth RF1 (and arai GP6 / Bell HP3, each just under £3000 for the normal retail items) is also a car motorsport helmet and therefore not suitable for bikes (they need to pass different safety tests).

        you don’t see arai or bell pushing their association with F1 either with replicas like the bike helmets – so it’s a *sport* thing rather than a *company* thing – i guess they have decided that bikers would rather wear replica helmets of bike racers than F1 racers (and i can’t see them putting F1 driver designs on a bike helmet that isn’t approved for car motorsport). since very few drivers wear a helmet on the road, the replica market is going to be tiny, but i’m a bit surprised no-one has got into the trackday market with replica F1 helmets

        as for normal (bike) schuberth helmets in stores, there is quite a range (R1, S1, C2, C3, J1) but they just aren’t a massive name / outfit like arai or shoei, possibly because they don’t have the same sort of exposure in Moto GP etc.

        and unless i’ve misread it, some people appear to be getting upset with the fact that schumacher got a helmet worth £12k – if i was worth millions, valued my life, had a family, and was about to sit in one the fastest cars in the world with an open cockpit, you can be damn sure i’d have the best helmet in the world too – especially if i got it for free :)

  17. tomo says:

    Seems like a bargain to me. I sure Filipe would agree……

  18. Cridland [CridComment @ gmail] says:

    I’ll never forget the BBC’s “cockpit” video of Lewis’ helmet after the Q1 shunt in Monaco. There he sat, parked on the approach to perhaps the most famous corner in motor racing, with the famously soft South-of-France daylight washing over him and his suddenly-wounded chariot. And as his skull wobbled in a faceless but unmistakable pantomime of regret, the sunbeams danced across the “#1” pattern of diamonds of his helmet. (Take a look at his sheepish expression in those Flagworld photos… It’s almost like he’s thinking, ‘I’m going to regret this moment of vanity….’). If I remember correctly, he wore that helmet for the (entire) walk back to the pits. Brundle or someone made the point that these contemporary headgear designs –with futuristic materials and computerized-bespoke fittings– effectively reduce unnecessary conversation from stupid passersby.

    Maybe there should be rule that helmets shouldn’t have advertising. Plainer designs would make drivers easier to identify in fast-moving cars. Some drivers have room for more ads on their suits, anyway. I spent some time trying to figure out who Brawn’s “shark” sponsor was, and it turns out it’s the safety suit manufacturer. Do you suppose F1 teams get a discount for wearing the logos?

    1. Tom says:

      Made him easy to identify on the on-board shot though.

      Poor Heikki had to go around with no.2 on his head all weekend…

  19. Jon Wilde says:

    Alonso will race for Ferrari in Valencia!!! maybe.

  20. DavidT says:

    Well he will not be needing it now!! More pointless F1 hype. Can we please get back to the sport?

  21. Tom says:

    Is it on Ebay yet?

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