F1 Drivers: The helmet is now the medium for the message
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Sauber
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 May 2012   |  4:21 pm GMT  |  92 comments

A driver’s crash helmet design is something uniquely personal to him with some iconic designs like Graham and Damon Hill’s London Rowing Club colours, Senna’s striped helmet in Brazilian colours and Jackie Stewarts’ racing tartan.

But increasingly F1 drivers’ helmets are being used for messaging and fundraising and here in Monaco we have a rash of them with Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen all having something to say.


Alonso has a unique design featuring a classic F1 Ferrari, rolling dice and other Monaco themed details. The helmet is a one-off and will be auctioned after the race weekend to raise money for a children’s road safety campaign backed by the Fernando Alonso Foundation.

Perez’s lid is dedicated to Roberto Gómez Bolaños, the Mexican writer, actor, director, known as “Chespirito”, an idol of Perez’ who is very ill. Chesperito is popular in Latin America and the United States and according to the Sauber team, “Two helmets with this special design have been made. One will be handed to Chespirito and the other will be the first item to be auctioned for the newly founded “Fundacion Checo Pérez”. This foundation will support various projects, and the money raised for the helmet will be for orphans in Mexico.”


Raikkonen, meanwhile, is wearing a helmet as a tribute to 1976 world champion James Hunt, who with his wild lifestyle and free spirit is an idol to the Finn. The helmet echoes the design of Hunt’s with yellow and red accent colours around the edges of the visor and James Hunt written on the side.

Hunt died on 13th June 1993 after a heart attack and has always been an idol to Raikkonen, who has entered ski mobile races under the pseudonym James Hunt

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  1. Buj says:

    Jean-Eric Vergne is also using Jean Alesi’s helmet design for this weekend.

    1. James Allen says:

      It does look like it.

      1. Richard D says:

        Hi James, I believe reading between the lines on Vergne’s twitter that this is a deliberate homage.

      2. Toby Mathews says:

        I read somewhere (can’t remember where, maybe BBC) that it’s because he said he’d go and watch Alesi in the Indy 500, before he knew he’d have a drive of his own this weekend!

    2. Nathhulal says:

      Hope Jean Alesi is wearing his own helmet, when he circulates around Indy oval this weekend

    3. Mike J says:

      and i rememeber (being a long time fan of Alesi)that Jean Alesi’ helmet design was based on the late Elio de Angelis helmet design as a tribute.

      1. Buj says:

        Ah yeah, forgot about that one. Here’s something that I’ve been wondering about since I got into F1, what was the kangaroo on Elio’s helmet about? I though he was Australian at first.

      2. Coops says:

        No, Elio was sponsored by Australian Sportswear , who logo was a kangaroo.

  2. Reinder says:

    Are these helmets still hand painted?

    1. daphne says:

      Of course, so are the cars. Airbrushed.

      1. Reinder says:

        But look at this: http://nzihelmets.co/2012/02/17/3d-helmets-rally-53-by-mapoma/
        That doesn’t seem to be painted, but rather printed.

    2. Alex says:

      Alex Wurz personally paints all his own helmets. I recall seeing a series of tweets where he described the process and shared some pictures of the various stages.

  3. Dave Aston says:

    I love all the helmet variations of the last few years. Raikkonen’s this weekend is both blunt and bizarre; fantastic. I’d like to see a balance between a driver’s identifiable theme, and these one offs. I think with more sponsor’s logos from the 80′s onward it became harder for simple designs to stand out.

    1. Trent says:

      Re simple designs – so true.
      I reckon I could sketch most of the 1980s helmets from memory, whereas the majority of todays are a mess and really don’t have any distinctive, memorable qualities in the manner of a Senna, Mansell or Piquet design (with some exceptions, perhaps, at Merecedes and McLaren).

      Sadly, helmet artists and drivers today really don’t understand that less is sometimes more.

      1. forzaminardi says:

        +1, see my comment in the next slot down!

      2. Neal says:

        I think Schuey, Hami (based on Senna), Button (very Mansell-esque) strike me as relatively consistent and easily recognisable.

    2. Phil R says:

      I love Kimi’s helmet this weekend, but one thing that occured to me is that its got no branding on it (other than the visor) at the weekend in the year where branding is the most important. Impressed he managed to get away with that one.

      1. Andrew M says:

        I can imagine someone trying to explain to Kimi that they need him to be more corporate this weekend, Kimi staring at them blankly and doing whatever he wanted anyway.

      2. SchumiSalo says:

        Haha, good call, I can imagine the same!

  4. Daniel MA says:

    Good designs and for a good cause, but I have to say that one of my favorite helmets this year is from Pedro DLR, classic and simple and now that Barrichelo has gone, that is one of the last “old school” designs.

    1. forzaminardi says:

      I agree with this, for the past decade or so, the designs have become too stylised and increasingly look like cheap motorcycle helmets and have lost their sense of individuality.

      Some of my favourite helmets from the past:
      - Rubens (of course)
      - Brundle
      - Tarquini (spiderman)
      - Prost
      - Capelli
      - Berger
      - Moreno
      - Piquet
      - Hill

      1. Luca says:

        what about Rossi’s one with his face on the top for when his head is down on the straights – brilliantly fun!

      2. Trent says:

        ‘Cheap motorcycle helmets’…you’ve nailed my thoughts exactly!

  5. Arjen says:

    And don’t forget the helmets of:
    - Jean-Éric Vergne, who will drive with a Jean Alesi design, commemorating the Frenchman’s first Indy 500 start.
    - Charles Pic, who has the names of the Monaco Grand Prix winners on the top of his helmet

  6. Olli says:

    Kimi couldn’t have made a better choice.

  7. etcyu says:

    the best thing ever happend in f1 – Kimi Raikkonen

    1. Erik says:

      +1

      The Eastwood of the F1 world.

    2. mayberth says:

      Definition of coolness – Kimi Raikkonen

  8. goferet says:

    Oh how lovely! Those are some fun ideas Alonso, Perez & Kimi have on their helmets.

    And if Alonso keeps up with these good works, he just might get elected into office, I don’t know why, he comes across as the type that would eventually end up in politics plus, he’s loved to death in Spain.

    Which reminds me, I haven’t heard anything about the Mclaren’s diamond encrusted helmets this time round. Yes, I don’t think the drivers have the bling bling and now am thinking maybe Mclaren are trying to stand in solidarity with Greece but not shining it too much in the people’s faces.

    As for the Kimster, am surprised he even has an idol for he doesn’t come across as the type that worships idols let alone go Gaga over celebrities —> Now that’s a bloke that never stops surprising.

    But hey, with Hunt having been a one time champion, isn’t the iceman in serious danger of following in the footsteps of his idol? ~~ Like idol, like protége methinks.

    Okay, 3 out of 24 drivers have the special helmets, do I take it the rest of the drivers aren’t funs of art, No?

    *Fun Fact*

    A little pretty birdie tweeted to me. Apparently Alonso, Kimi have got tattoos.

    I guess it’s safe to add Perez in that club (not forgetting Jenson’s Japanese tattoos of course)

    1. Paul du Maitre says:

      Actually, in addition to the hordes of Alonso fans, there’s also quite a lot of anti Alonso [mod] in Spain. It’s cultural: French support their sportsmen unconditionally, the same goes for the Brittons — Spaniards, however, don’t have a nationalistic feeling as developed. Plus, Spain in not like the USA, not many actors or sportsmen get into politics.

      1. Alvaro says:

        I wouldn’t say there are “quite a lot” of anti Alonso people in Spain. I’d better say there are only a few. 99% of Spanish people love Alonso. That 1% of “anti” people are just noisy, nothing more, and you’ll only find them in the Internet, nowhere else.

      2. **Paul** says:

        Bit of a generalisation there – as a Brit who doesn’t support Hamilton or Di Resta. Its worth noting my F1 friends (those who I attend GPs with) don’t support either of those two also.

      3. Paul du Maitre says:

        Sorry, you are right, generalisations are never accurate. I’ve lived in the three countries (Spain, UK, France), now I live in France, and whenever there’s a sport competition you hear the commentators talk a lot about the French sportsmen, even if they have absolutely no chance (and are therefore of little interest). What’s more, they rarely criticise them. I still remmeber the time when Bourdais was dropped by Toro Rosso mid season. The French commentators never said explicitly how his performance wasn’t good enough!
        Somehow, I haven’t seen that kind of unconditional support in Spain…
        Anyway, it was just a thought ;-)

      4. Juan says:

        Sadly there are people who tend to mix politics and sports and some of this anti-Alonso are well known separatists from both regions of Spain called Cataluña and Pais Vasco so they go against anything that represents Spain, that’s why you never see a Spanish flag in a Barcelona football match :(

        And its true anti-Alonsists are just a small percentage you see them on the internet, we could also add people who dont really understand F1 so they get bored easily and quickly discredit the pilot for whatever reason, but i guess this is common of every country, I’ve seen this before in Colombia with Montoya

      5. Carlos says:

        As far as I can tell, most of the anti-Alonso F1 fans are people who were die-hard Schumacher fans before Alonso became successful.

        Kimi also had his share of fans, who in 2005 and later I suppose were anti-Alonso by default.

    2. Eleanore says:

      It’s worth noting, re: the tattoos (Kimi actually has several, though Alonso – as far as I know – just has the one), that Alonso’s one-off Monaco helmet was actually designed by a tattoo artist.

    3. Chetz says:

      Kimi got his tattoo after winning the WDC in 2007… much to the surprise of Jean Todt.

      1. amit says:

        I think it was after winning the Australian GP. His first race and win for Ferrari.

    4. Michael Grievson says:

      You can see kimi’s tattoo on his wrist

    5. Athlander says:

      Goferret makes a common mistake made by people who live outside Spain: Alonso is not “loved to death” here in Spain and I hope the following helps Goferret understand the situation.

      Here, motorbike racing is the king of motorsport and, despite 2 races, 2 drivers and 1 team, Formula 1 is not widely followed. Spanish bars will show football matches and MotoGP but it’s more often the Irish bars you have to go to that show Formula 1(and only if it doesn’t clash with an English Premier League match).

      Alonso “fans” swelled during his rivalry with Hamilton but they weren’t really supporters – they were people who saw the rivalry as a way to express their xenophobia and racism. As the rivalry dwindled during the uncompetitive Renault phase 2 days and the emergence of Vettel and Red Bull when Alonso joined Ferrari, so have these “supporters” disappeared.

      As Juan noted, there is a strong sense of regionalism here and it must be said that Alonso is guilty of this himself. His helmet designs often incorporate the colours of the Asturian flag and much was made of the Renaults’ (phase 1) livery being similar.

      There was also an Alonso backlash, similar to the Hamilton backlash in the UK. Some consider Alonso to be arrogant. A newspaper claimed he felt no obligation to Spain because he received no Spanish support during his early racing career (apart from Campos) and he delayed his return to Spain after his first title because he felt the state had no right to take advantage of “the feelgood factor” of his title.

  9. Sean hardman says:

    Nice pictures. Love the James Hunt tribute. Well done Kimi.

    1. CanadaGP says:

      At first I thought the James Hunt helmet was being used in conjunction with filming in Monaco of the new movie on the Hunt/Lauda story.

  10. Ron Colverson says:

    Wonderful picture! Now those were the days…

  11. Trent says:

    While these one-off fundraising helmets are commendable, it’s hard to overstate how much I despise the current trend of drivers changing their helmet design so often.

    As well as making it harder for the fans to identify the driver, it makes a mockery of a wonderful F1 tradition that is loaded with history.

    Can I reserve additional vitriol for the teams and sponsors who want to impose these changes on the driver. Red Bull (bar Mark Webber) appear to want to dominate the design of every driver they operate, Lotus appear to have had heavy influence on Grosjeans design, and of course famously Mclaren offered Coulthard a million dollars to change his design to fit the car colour scheme better (which he refused, for which he has huge respect from me)

  12. Krishna says:

    Isn’t there a movie coming out that will be chronicling the life of James Hunt? Perhaps Kimi is catalyst in the PR for that film?

    1. Ihsan says:

      “Rush” is the name of the movie. I believe it is 1976 season and mainly revolving around Rush-Lauda rivalry of that year.

    2. hero_was_senna says:

      Yes there’s a film by Ron Howard being filmed for next year, called Rush.
      It’s not chronicling Hunt’s life though, it’s about the 1976 World Championship fight between Lauda and Hunt.

      http://jalopnik.com/5894846/ron-howards-f1-film-rush-will-make-the-70s-look-sexy/gallery/1

      From what I have read over the last few weeks, apparently Hamilton has been advising them on the film.

      1. patrciikkk says:

        Going to be a great movie.

        Hamilton and Kimi are about the only F1 guys todays that would have fit in that era. They would have loved the playboyesque F1 world, getting a scotch bottle on the podium ala Hunt did.

        Thats when F1 pilots were cool – all ended when the David Coulthard mould of F1 pilot started appearing. Ya know, goody two shoes bore fest who whine more than want to race mano a mano.

      2. Simon Donald says:

        I would hardly call DC a good two shoes. Between the supermodel girlfriends, saying he wanted the kick seven shades of **** out of Felipe Massa, flipping the bird at Schumacher plus plenty of great wheel to wheel racing over his career. I would hardly trace the boring racing driver back to him. F1 drivers like anyone is the product of their time, James Hunt came from the era of Led Zepellin, the current crop the time of Simon Cowell.

      3. hero_was_senna says:

        Are we talking about the early 90′s where PR became more important than actually having a voice?

        To add to your list of 2, I’d include Webber, Alonso and if he was fit, Kubica as men who would have added to the 70′s.
        I mean have you noticed Alonso’s facial hair, he could have had side burns like Fittipaldi.

        I do wonder though, if Hamilton would have happened in the 70′s, racial discrimination was certainly more rife then.

      4. Hendo says:

        but I would rather have DC doing the commentary than David Croft?? – perhaps James could tell him to stop shouting and that he doesn’t have to try to make everything sound exciting.

        Bring back DC & Martin

    3. Kay says:

      PR is the last to-do on Kimi’s list lol

      1. Krishna says:

        S0oo true…

      2. mayberth says:

        and yet bcoz of his attitude, PR loves kimi

  13. JamesF says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Kimi’s helmet choice.

  14. Berty Basset says:

    I really like this new trend for the drivers to have a special helmet, for auction after, at the very special Monaco GP. Not so sure about Vettel and his new design every race, it just does not seem right somehow. A drivers helmet should be the same through his F1 career, its just a tradition thing IMO.

    Kimi entering other forms of motor-sport under the pseudonym of James Hunt is cool, beats hands down, the use of the name A N Other that was prevalent in the 60s and 70s IIRC.

    [mod]

  15. JimmiC says:

    Also, Vergne is running with Alesi’s helmet design I believe? It was mentioned on the BBC website feed that it was because of Alesi racing at Indy.

  16. tim says:

    Kimi’s my hero for this.

    JV’s helmet scheme is the most iconic to me. It’s so different and thus instantly recognizable.

    Apparently Vergne is wearing a Jean Alesi tribute helmet. Perhaps Monaco should be ‘tribute helmet’ weekend. I wouldn’t mind that.

  17. kalofer_bg says:

    What a awesome helmet by Kimi. It looks bold, mean and screams racing. I hope Kimi gets this one. He’s been so close.

  18. Max Nalborczyk says:

    I love the fact that in true Kimi style, he’s done something slightly different to the rest – instead of a helmet based on Monaco, or leaning towards a charity, he’s gone for something personal to him. To wear your hero’s helmet must be something special, and sadly, one I can only dream of! (Kimi being mine!) Looks superb with the Lotus’ colours too!

  19. Sri says:

    Most of them have some PR of charity work, but Kimi’s isn’t (at least on the basis of the article). I guess he lives on his own terms! Good that he does not care what others think or write about him.

  20. Crusty says:

    Do you have any info on the lady posing with Hunt, James?

      1. Krishna says:

        Lol..crusty she may have looked like that way back when…however now…

      2. Kay says:

        +1
        HUGE LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

      3. David says:

        that’s a classy comment…

      4. daphne says:

        HE did look fine though; love the necklace.
        Gosh.

    1. Gate 21 says:

      I want to see that photo at the bottom of the post modernised: Kimi with the overalls partially unbuttoned, JH helmet in hand, bird on the arm.

      Then we’ll know he truly deserves to wear that special black lid!

      1. JohnBt says:

        I was going to say that, but you said it first.

        Noticed how similar the look of Hunt that Kimi has. Uncanny.

        +1

    2. Rudy says:

      Looks like a Bond girl. Don’t remember from which movie. So this is something like: James Hunt + babe. James Bond + babe. What about our own James Allen. Any pic James with a gorgeous chick?

      1. Sinnae404 says:

        Is this the greatest link ever provided on JAonF1?

      2. Dave Aston says:

        For Shaw.

  21. SP says:

    They should make/let the drivers design their own helmets for just one weekend. Would be interesting to see the results :D

    1. Kay says:

      eh….??!

      The helmets they usually wear are already their own designs…

      1. SP says:

        But I’m sure they work with someone with a more artistic touch and creative mind to come up with a completed product.

        I think Alex Wurz used to design his own and obviously get someone paint it professionally.

      2. Kay says:

        Ah right.. so that’s what SP meant then lol.

        Well I THINK Kimi’s done that by himself, like he chose that sign (it means “protection”), etc.. and little changed over the years other than the colours.

        Personally I like Kimi’s best.

    2. Grayzee (Australia) says:

      Mark Webber currently has a competition going to where punters like us can design his helmet for the Singapore GP. The winning designer get to go to Singapore, and keeps the helmet after the race!

      1. SP says:

        Oh brilliant! I’d like to enter that and give it a shot. Off to search the net….

  22. John says:

    Ask Alain Prost if the French support their sportsmen unconditionlly, might burst your balloon..

  23. Alysha says:

    Helmets with a personal tribute or borrowed inspiration are infrequent but not that rare. Alboreto wore the yellow & blue of Ronnie Peterson; Perry McCarthy’s helmet design was based on Gilles Villeneuve; Ayrton Senna inspired Lewis Hamilton (colours) and Eddie Irvine (rows of horizontal stripes); second generation drivers honour their fathers (Hill, Andretti, Rosberg, Nakajima, etc.).

  24. patrciikkk says:

    Less is more, good design, minimalism..ha yer right.

    seriously get a good designer to do the helmets. When was the last time a pro graphic designer design the mess that are on all the helmets today? Er you don’t. They must be getting a 13 year old girl to do all the designs.

    Maybe for a attention deficit /ADHD generation these designs are perfect – random, shallow, without style. Actually it’s not about that at all come to think of it, it’s that none of these people have an ounce of creativity in them.

    HONESTLY, go to NYC, find a great designer. Remember guys LESS IS MORE. Whether it’s great design, great photography etc – a few elements as opposed to the “i’ shoving as much as can onto a helmet”. George Lucas did that in the Star Wars prequels and look how ugly the frames were in those movies compared to the more minimalist originals.

    All the helmets today looks what happens when someone in the general public does a 3 week internet design course and then calls themselves a “graphic designer” – i.e. foul, ugly design that offends all creative people.

  25. Paul Hayes says:

    Of course, Monaco is where David Coulthard once famously had to race in a Michael Schumacher helmet, back in 1996.

    Whatever happened to the supposedly “aerodynamic” helmet design first sported by Schumacher and later copied by most other people, anyway? They seem to have gone back to being round again these days.

  26. forzaminardi says:

    I like the idea of one-off specials at particular races – Rubens used to do the same for Brazil – but I am not in favour of the Vettelian ‘change your helmet every race’ trend. Good to see an Alesi tribute, which of course when Alesi designed it, he was in turn paying tribute to his hero, Elio de Angelis.

  27. Lynn says:

    The James Hunt helmet looks fantastic!
    Neat, clean & outstanding!

    Awesome choice, Kimi!

  28. Laurence H says:

    Helmets are much less visible these days with the lower seating position in the cars.
    I’m old-fashioned enough to prefer drivers sticking to one design. As other’s have suggested, a one-off design change per season would be cool , a bit like the throwback uniforms in the NFL.
    My favourite ever design was Nelson Piquet Sr’s. Eddie Cheever’s was great too, but now I’m just showing my age!
    Is there anything that Kimi does that isn’t cool…? Legend.

    1. gond says:

      I scanned all the commentaries to see if anyone mentioned Eddie’s helmet. Thumbs up for your very good taste!. I also love the simplicity of David Coulthard’s one.

  29. Phil W says:

    In case you can’t read it, the badge on James Hunt’s overalls says:

    “Sex, Breakfast of Champions”

  30. Pete C says:

    Personally i don’t think drivers should be allowed to change their helmet design, or at the very least its overall colour scheme so frequently.

    Mainly because it makes it harder to identify them on TV… one can’t be expected to remember every drivers numebr or whether they have the red or yellow camera, and they aren’t immedately visible anyway. But the one thing you can always see is the helmet! They should be locked into a design for a whole season at a time IMO.

  31. JohnBt says:

    Dislike the new generation helmet designs. Feels like they’re imposing all the technical skills in the art of airbrushing or photographic transfer but its messy and has no solid focus. Its more the red and yellow top of the onboard cam that I watch for.

    Drivers need a simple design for quick and easy recognition. As F1 is the fastest sport in the world!

    Now with sponsorships changes can’t be avoided.

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