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Spare a thought for F1 commentators
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Feb 2013   |  3:39 pm GMT  |  257 comments

The job of F1 commentator is never easy; certainly not as easy as many fans think it is. But this year there is a real challenge for the motormouths – spot the difference between the two Mercedes drivers at speed on a small TV monitor.

The problem is that both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have a yellow crash helmet and even the design is similar. So telling them apart at distance is going to be really hard.

Lewis Hamilton

Nico Rosberg (all photos:

The only way to tell them apart during Grand Prix weekends will be the roll hoops; the T shaped TV camera mounted on the roll hoop of the lead car (Rosberg) will have a black camera and Hamilton will be day-glow yellow.

In this instance Rosberg is designated as the lead car, because he is Car number 9, while Hamilton will drive Car number 10.

But these are much smaller than the drivers’ head and not always easy to see. It’s always important for a commentator to register helmet colour to be sure of identification, so don’t be surprised if a few mistakes get made.

It’s not quite as bad as the two seasons in the 1990s however, when first Brabham Yamaha then Ligier fielded Brundle and Blundell – a pronunciation nightmare for foreign language commentators!

* Ross Brawn has indicated that he plans to stick around, after telling the media last month that he was taking time to decide whether he wanted to continue as Team Principal of Mercedes in light of the management changes.

“I am very settled,” Brawn is quoted as saying in Autosport today. “I have no problems at all on that front.”

Rosberg or Hamilton? Which is it?

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And they say nurses have it tough.


Best use of a partridge quote ever!


We Do :o)


Great reply. Yup, tough life!


Yes, poor journalists. Maybe they should concentrate a bit more, and look at the car, it's position, T-cam & number


Personally, I like that Valentino Rossi has a personal accent on his bike that differentiate between him and his teammate. I think that would work well in F1.


I'm not sure if that's allowed. I'm fairly certain that the liveries of both cars have to be exactly the same. Which led to those god awful zippered BARs when they wanted to run one with 555 and the other in Lucky Strike colours.


Yeah, because there is no urgency in their job. No fast action to describe. Its basically Golf on wheels.


IMo they are payed well. The helmet is not the only difference. T-cam is much better to see, even at high speed live at Monza you are able to see the different clour of the t-cams


Completely agree James!

Bet it was easier back in the day when McLaren had to cover their 'West' tobacco sponsorship with simply 'Mika' and 'David' all over each of the respective cars!

Commentary is much harder than it looks - I've tried it, it's exhausting!

As for the Mercedes drivers helmet situation - it is surprising, i.e. surprising that they've let it happen at all.


I have to say one thing that doesn't seem to be mentioned here is how it'll affect us - the fans! If I see one of the Mercedes in the tyre wall I don't want to have to scramble around looking for minute details working out who it is!


What is more suprising is that drivers are allowed to continually change their hemet design and even colours. They should consider fixing it at the start of the year. Usually the helmet design has some personal meaning to the driver, it's the colour and design they grew up with - I am suprised that they dispose of that so easily for the in vogue designs we see at every other GP now-a-days. Back in my day, grrrrr, you could be sure of a consistent hemet 😉


"Usually the helmet design has some personal meaning to the driver..."

Except for Kimi, who simply thinks that it protects his head 🙂


Couldn't agree more Wayne - Seb is a repeat offender at" / rel="nofollow">50+ designs already... - mind you he's quite easy to spot - he's generally at the front....!


No argument there Wayne. Adam tells it like it is.

It's a strategy by Seb to make all his helmets extremely valuable for decades to come. I pitty the guy trying to put together a complete collection of once he wore to a GP win.


Can't disagree with that. When this comment flashed up on my iphone I would have bet it had been posted by Sebee 🙂


Seb is a fanatic collector. He saves the helmet and overalls from each race he wins.

I imagine he has them all mounted on a vast stone wall above his mammoth fireplace... in the east wing of his Bavarian castle where he hatches his evil plans with Adrian Newey for World (Championship) domination....


Do you think that has anything to do with merchandising? I have collected model cars for years.

You saw with MSC during the 90's, that Minichamps would produce a collection of his cars, but then you started seeing the Rossi collection, not just race bikes, but figurines and every possible helmet design in 1/12, followed by test bikes!!

They're not hugely expensive as a 1 off but when the numbers start mounting up, that's quite an income.

I remember the rumoured $30,000,000 that Ferrari paid MSC per season was dwarfed by what his merchandising brought in


Lewis has also taken to "tweaking" the design of his helmets, but seems to stick with the predominantly yellow colouration.


Seb is usually at the front....Roger that!


Picture is Hamilton, Rosberg has more black on the sides


The cars carry a patch of the roll hoop camera housing colouration at the rear too, so based on that it's Rosberg.


in testing they all usually carry black camera housings. cant really tell the difference


In testing only one car per team is on track, should not be too difficult to know who it is!


Someone has been caught taking a nap in class!


Rosberg. Yellow is is more "cold"


Rosberg, he was the one with fire..

Also Nico has a more fluorescent yellow crash helmet,

Lewis's one is a warmer tincture of yellow.

rob in victoria bc

That will teach me to look at the helmet and not the car. You're absolutely right, that's the corner of the car that caught fire when Nico was driving.


The car is on fire, so it is Rosberg...


I hope that's not going to be a season long way of differentiating the two Mercs.


Rosberg! No, wait .. 😐


Being F1 commentator and tech analyst, I can tell it's hard for sure, especially on a "small TV monitor" - but that's part of the job 🙂

"Rosberg or Hamilton? Which is it?" - Says the caption on the last image? Well, you better talk about something else at this time, until you are sure 🙂


I totally hear you.

For sure, modern day sponsorship has made F1 a whole new world for now drivers have to perform all these extra activities but also, we lost the big numbering on the side of the car which let the fans know who's who.

Now concerning the Lewis-Rosberg partnership, I guess the trick would be in driving style.

Lewis tends to pull audacious moves on the first lap matter of fact, that's how I usually tell him apart by looking out for that driver that's sticking his neck out.

Away from the first lap, I notice which cars a particular driver is racing against from the timing screens and that's how I keep in touch with the goings on (though this isn't easy for commentators because they're doing a million other things like looking out the window).

As for the Brundle-Blundell problem, maybe the could have used their first names i.e. Martin and Mark to make it easier.


Must have been very confusing last year when Alonso was making some incredible first lap moves. How did you get through without going insane???

Oh hang on, I know, Lewis was in chrome and Fernando in red... Emergency diverted


So you're going to use driving style to tell appart Rosber and Hamilton when they're backed into a tyre wall and there's no caption?

I believe the Japanese had right fun with Brundle/Blundell line up!


it must have been a nightmare for the Japanese, as their "R" is pronounced as "L", so in the end there's no difference for them.


@ Andrew Carter

Regards situations involving shunts, I would attribute 90% of those to Lewis and 10% to Rosberg.

I mean just look at the recent Jerez test, Lewis was in the barriers whilst all Rosberg had was some electrical mis-wiring.

So yes, if a Merc is in the barriers, 90% of the time that will be Lewis (unless his luck changed)


I seem to remember Rosberg being taken out in far more races than Hamilton was last year, and in case you missed it Hamilotn was in the barriers because of a brake failure and nothing to do with him.


What about their gloves, which you can see during cornering? Nico still seems to have a preference for dayglo yellow, but haven't seen any shots of Lewis' gloves from Jerez to compare.

Bring Back Murray

If the only chance of telling who is who is by the gloves then we really are in trouble...


We noticed that Nico had "Nico" on his gloves. My daughter (then about 8 or 9) said his mum put his name on them to stop MSC stealing them, and we had visions of Mrs Rosberg writing a note to Ross Brawn about Nico coming home without all his kit - again ....

JAMES. is it me or have car numbers become smaller and harder to see over the years. You can **just** see the 9 on the "who is it picture", and I would have said that the helmet is the slightly greener yellow of Rosberg


Minimum sizes for competition numbers were abandoned many years ago to allow more room for sponsors' logos.


Hey, I've been annoyed at the small car numbers for years now!

People of F1! Sort it out!


If you think this will be tricky you should take a look at the Toro Rosso drivers who have identical helmets.


They're not identical? RIC has blue all around the sides with white at the top, JEV has Yellow round the sides, white on top, and a yellow ring around the top (at least from the testing pictures). The Merc situation is much trickier imo


Try picking the driver at a glance out of those two...

Mercedes is easier as the yellows are very different shades.


OK, lets agree to disagree. I'm not saying it won't be difficult for the TR, it will still be very difficult. But it would also be very difficult to tell the Mercs apart, yellow will look yellow, regardless of shade.


We may be getting ahead of a problem here. Do mid-fielders get that much air time? Alrighty worries about Mercedes or STR as they won't have much air time.

And by the way, it is high time for some proper large numbers in the nose and wing plates.


When they blow-up, catch fire or run out of brakes, we need to know who it is...


I thought that when watching some of the testing footage last week.

I really liked how Mercedes did it last year with

the red and yellow helmets, gloves and T-shaped cameras that Rosberg and Schumacher used last year.

Richard from Perth

James, The Toro Rosso helmets are also very similar. How do you tell those two apart - any hints?


I don't understand why people keep saying this, I can immediately identify whom is whom, namely as Ricciardo's helmet is predominantly blue where Vergne has nearly every colour under the sun on his.

Doesn't help that STR puts those Falcon National Bank symbols on both helmets, but even then I don't see much trouble.


If it's past the mid-way point of the race, then it'll most likely be Rosberg. If it's got a Williams embedded in the side, then most likely Hamilton 🙂


That one had me bursting out loud!

Sad thing it is true... lol

Bring Back Murray

Rosberg will be one who's pit stops are less than 30 seconds long!


I would say Rosberg after a stare at the lowest picture, would definitely struggle if I only got a 'live' glimpse. Perhaps the performance between the two drivers will be so great that it won't be an issue... 😉


Re. picture 3. It's a two digit number in the red circle on the rear wing; must be 10: Hamilton. That was easy. ¦¬þ

Brundle Vs Blundell was easy in foreign lands too. Just say Bundle fast and move on. ¦¬)


I think you will find that Lewis and nico both drove the same car at testing as they only took 1 complete car. Top pic is Ros' next down is ham' then the next is Ros' the bottom pic is the car when ros' was driving as he had the fire.


Having worked fora Japanese company myself I am still convinced that many of the Japanese bosses thought they were paying only one driver. Since the L and R sounds are exchanged in Japanese it became impossible to explain that there were two of them.


Maybe in the old days, but I find today's (younger) Japanese speak better English than many native speakers.


In NASCAR, team mates have different colour chassis'. Why not have a silver-green Merc and a green-silver one. Commentator problem solved! (Don't mention this to the spares department though!)

P.S: I'm no NASCAR fan, but I do miss Montoya!

Tom Haythornthwaite

British American Racing were not allowed to have different liveries.


Regulations don't allow the team to run two liveries. Bar with the zip design in 1999 anyone. The original intent had been 555 brand on one car, lucky strike on the other


Stupid regulation imo. Don't see the point in such a rule.

Back then I sooooooo hoped there'd be two BAR liveries.


Mercedes had this problem in Spa when Schumacher had a gold helmet. They just did the entire area around the driver in a different colour.


Understand the concern. However the commentators are pro's too. I am sure they will figure a way out to distinguish before the first practice sessions at Melbourne are over. Surely, a solution will emerge.


I have been using rollhoop colour only for years, and usually have a better sucess rate than the commentators, and i'm no pro. I think the commentators just grew up using helmets, but roll hoops is easier.


Good luck with that James! I would love to see Murray walker try and commentate on these two...

'hamiltons out, Hamilton is OUT'

''Murray that's a replay of Nico spinning'


To be fair, he used to make those mistakes when the numbers were huge and drivers took pride in their helmet


"Unless I'm very much mistaken. Yes, I am very much mistaken".


Murray Walker saying the first line, Martin Brundle saying the second line.

Classic F1 commentary!!!


The "Ligier Problem" is simply solved by referring to both as "Brundell", if corrected, apologise and say "Blundle"....


In Japanese I'm told both were pronounced "Burundulla"


Martin was/is pronounced Burandoru.

Mark was/is pronounced Buranderu.

: )


This is ridikurrous 🙂


I also imagine the emphasis would be slightly different.

Brundle - buRANdoru

Blundell - buranDEru


The problem is that both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have a yellow crash helmet and even the design is similar


Just like lovers, it's always amusing to see how good mates mirror themselves.

Not only do they have similar tastes (both Lewis & Nico live in the same building) but they also tend to have similar personalities (both are chatty chaps with sunny smiles)


MSC and Barrichello had similar helmet designs until MSC decided to make his all red back in their Ferrari days, they didn't exactly get on well....


"Just like lovers", lol. Priceless.

Wonder which one is the bitch..


Both look like terrible pop music artists?


That is just awkward.




Awkward would be every race weekend when they first come across each other, "We're both wearing the same outfits AGAIN?! *sigh* How embarrassing."


The only thing to do in that case is to hug it out, like like any two dudes in a bromance would.


its easy james, lewis is the one in front


....but will he finish there?


If the car does..


Darn it Rich- exactly what I thought !


Very funny. But i do feel bad for Rosberg. He seems to have been written off before the season has even begun.


Don't feel too bad. I seem to remember him being written off when he was paired with Schumacher, and look how that turned out. Talk is cheap - in the end we'll find out in November who was right and who was wrong.


Ask Jenson


Heard the same thing 3 years ago when MS signed on. Someone(s) was wrong.


It's Lewco Hamberg 🙂


'cos he has no brakes...


Ermm.. take note of one car in front and one car behind, compare those to the live timing and see who's in the middle ?

I did that very often when watching live races together with live timing. Of course , I have the luxury of time to work out who's who while sitting on my cushy roller chair.


Those of us with less than perfect color vision have a hard time distinguishing between the orange and yellow camera mounts. Different colored helmets help us viewers, but then you have to remember which is which, especially when they occasionally change.

The easiest solution would be larger and easier to read numbers somewhere near the nose and on the side planes of the rear wing. Ferrari's numbers last year were quite visible.


Can we please go back to putting big numbers on the cars? I know, it'll never happen, but I can still dream.



Never say "never." Flippin' NASCAR does it, and even with sponsors logos to compete with you can tell who's driving because of the legibility of the car number.

F1 should wise up; this will pay dividends in viewership.


When even the Indy Racing League has in their rulebook minimum number sizes for wing endplates and or speedway wheel guards, and US television graphics department has adopted the exact numbers from the cars to be used on television graphics, it does matter. The practice, first used in NASCAR Sprint Cup for 2001, was adopted for INDYCAR in 2010 (ESPN) and 2012 (NBC), F1 (2011-12 Fox/Speed) and MotoGP (2011-present Fox/Speed).

Comcast's office in Connecticut will be studying each car to see how to apply the number on the television graphic since authentic number graphics are now a must. Another possibility is different colours for the car number. Penske did this in the Marlboro INDYCAR days (red number, black number), and in NASCAR Yates did that in 1995 with a red-numeral car and a yellow-numeral car. Why not run one light blue numeral and another black numeral? Would that be legal?

Could you imagine how the television broadcasts would have been during the era of Nige when the graphics package on television showed a real, authentic Red Five?

And pity the race spotters feeding data to commentators.


Back in Piquet/Mansell late 80's numbers were not very large and visible in Williams. Making the matters worse, they were 6 and 5, two look-alikes. Someone solved that using 6 white number for Piquet and 5 red number for Mansell, and that worked pretty good.


Unfortunately the regs only say the number must be visible from in front of the car. So pretty useless!


Brundle and Blundell was problem enough for poor Murray Walker half the time: 'Blundle' was what he'd come out with, and someone writing for Autosport called them The Brundell Brothers.

But the poor identification of drivers is a big problem, especially nowadays with the driver cocooned ever more inside the car and very little of the crash helmet visible. I understand why it's necessary, but they need to do something more to identify the drivers. Perhaps stipulating how big each car's number must be, and where this should be placed, would be a start.


BAR had the right solution - differently painted cars!


They presented them at launch in different colours 555 vs Lucky Strike, but rules state both cars have to look identical. Hence why they changed to the zip design in 1999


Is it really such a big deal if they looked a bit different?

I wonder when this rule came into effect BTW. The BAR stunt was the last time that got attention. Another team should do this stunt again to get some press.

I really can't understand this yellow/orange thing. Tag one camera orange, leave the other carbon black. No mistake there. It is as if they want to create mix ups.


The car is in fire. So Rosberg it is.

Thanks James. We all appreciate the work you all do.


Fortunately they won't get much air time in 15th/16th places...


I thought they had to have the driver name on the side of the air intake as per the Lotus car.

Or is that for 2014?.


No driver can be bigger than the team. Or so Ron says.

So small names are fine by the team. 😐


The current rules say that: 'The name of the driver must appear on the external bodywork and be clearly legible.'

It seems that 'clearly' is a very fuzzy word.


No - "clearly" is not the fuzzy word. What they don't say is from what distance it has to be clear. So from two feet it is very clear but on a TV screen or the stands - not a chance and it would be difficult to achieve anyway.


You're right in saying the distance is not specified, but I think McLaren managed pretty well with the old West sponsored cars, even if they did have other motives for doing things that way.

I think it's generally believed that the names (and numbers) were made smaller to make way for sponsors. I wouldn't argue that, but in truth there's enough free space on most of the cars for the teams to fit a larger driver name and number that everyone could read clearly during the race - if the teams were inclined to do so.

Sadly I think small names / numbers is a trend that won't change anytime soon.


I think it's Rosberg because at this place Lewis went into the barriers and Nico is turning to the right 🙂

Where are the days when the drivers had a personal design for their whole carreer?


Vettel is easy, it is the helmet you have never seen before, quite a change from Hill Sr and Hill Jr with the same pattern (from Graham's rowing club I recall?)


Vettel is easy as its the one leading the race..


Why will Alonso be wearing Vettel's helmet 😉


That's right. Damon's son Joshua drives Formula Renault with the same helmet, so it's 3 generations already.


There is a decent chance that neither Mercedes car will be close enough to the front for it to matter which driver is which...

At least this season, anyway.


As far as your picture/question is concerned, I'm going with Rosberg, as I don't see any toys on the track.


It's Rosberg as the yellow is brighter.

It's a pity I can't appreciate your live comment as in Austria I can't receive it.


Thanks, James, I can show this to Mrs Werewolf who had no understanding of the problem when I raised it the same day the Hamilton-Mercedes announcement was made!

I do hanker after the '70s when drivers' crash helmets were all readily identifiable signatures, thanks to bold designs, rather than the expensive, frequently ugly and ultimately bland inticracy of today's bonce protection graphics. I guess it's ironic that Hamilton and Rosberg, two drivers with more distinctive designs, should end up together.


This is a reason why the commentators' boxes should be built for maximum track visibility and not facing pit lane only. Furthermore, it makes the hiring of spotters crucial, especially if the commentator prefers to watch the race from the window.


Would commenting from a glass-floored helicopter be a good idea?


Not if they're wearing stilletos.


Perhaps better if you were strapped supline beneath it!


This helmet case of 2013 Mercedes drivers it's very annoying, and it is nobody's fault. Each driver uses his helmet as his signature. I do not like Vettel for example, can anyone recognize his helmet signature, when he changes every race his helmet design and colours? I think also Lewis and Nico have the right to use their own colours choices, even if those colours are the same or very similar. In my opinion, Mercedes should had to their cars some elements in order to differentiate Lewis and Nico. Let's see if Mercedes takes the initiative, once this matter is often spoken and debated by numerous F1 journalists.


Schumi selflessly changed his helmet colours to predominantly red when he clashed with Rubens red/blue at Ferrari. He was a great guy that Schumi.


You beat me to it ! Yes, Schumacher and Barichello had the same helmet pattern until late 2000 when Schumacher colored his helmet all red, which stayed with him for the rest of his (two) careers.


The only solution I can think of is to put some 'bling' on Hamilton's car and sorted! I say that as a Hamilton fan too - cringe!


Diamond encrusted wheel nuts perhaps?


Hamilton's car has an ATM at the back instead of a diffuser. Cash blown aerodynamics.

Ah just kidding Lewis.

Couldn't Rosberg get a special outfit that says 'I beat Michael Schumacher and all I got was this lousy t-shirt and Lewis Hamilton as a teammate...'


That'd be awesome 😀 The outfit, not the ATM.


LOL well said


This is gold...


May be put the sticker differently in Hamilton's car...


I still have trouble telling the RedBulls apart from the Torro Rossos.

And would Vettel PLEASE stick with one helmet color? Kids today have no respect for their elder's declining vision.

That said, my first thought on pic #3 was Rosberg, which was confirmed by the #9 on the wing. I imagine it will be tough during a broadcast and under certain light conditions, but there IS a difference in the shade of yellow. Rosberg's is a little bit more dayglow/pale. Given a few seconds stare you can see it well enough.


Discerning the RBs is made easier by Webbers continuous use of yellow.


That was funny AND sad at the same time. It would be awesome to see Webber's 2010 first half back on business.


I don't think the number on the car is conclusive, since during tests, teams only run one car...


"I still have trouble telling the RedBulls apart from the Torro Rossos."

Ah now this year its easy, if it's red and blue and says "Red Bull" on it, then it's a Torro Rosso.

If it's mauve/violet and says "Infinity" it's a Red Bull.

Note now that Mclaren says "Lucozade" on the rear wing.


Lucozade was on their rear wing this time last year, but it kept changing. It must be a sponsor which varies between the countries.


Hamilton said the reason why he picked yellow was so his dad could see who he was. Now that no longer applies. Even if the real reason was self-decoration as the next Senna, Lewis should change his helmet color now to Red... since he's just replaced Schumacher and he considered himself the next Schu as well. Plus he'll want to move to Ferrari when Alonso leaves.


I always thought Nico picked bright yellow to stand out from Schumacher Red. Did he always have the neon yellow helmet, gloves and boots before his Mercedes move?

Maybe he can take the Germanic Red Baron colours now? Although he's dual nationality so maybe he could have an orange blend.


Nico used to have a blue helmet in karting days & lower Formula. Lewis' had always been yellow


It looks like he had a half blue/half yellow at Williams f1 - so he should go back to blue.

John Sertori (@adorimedia)

Going to be a challenge to call it. Such a habit to look at helmets for identification. Theres going to be some wrong calls this year.....


Didn't Schumacher change his helmet colours to red because the design was too similar to Barichello's and the two were hard to distinguish?

Tornillo Amarillo

I suggest to Hamilton to change to a new helmet, retro style, in plane white with some black in the borders.


Don't know about you guys: I sometimes get confused between Toro Rosso and Red Bull also especially when there is a crash. It takes a couple of seconds to know if it is the usual leading driver of the race which makes WDC wide open at the end of the season or the backmarker.


Toro Rosso use a much darker blue than Red Bull and a much darker red on the bull.


It might be a bit easier with the Red Bull having all that Infinity Purple this year.


Yeh that does get confusing, you get used to the gold nose on the toro rosso and the more detailed bull on the side. I was hoping Hamilton would go for a white helmet like he did in Singapore or Rosberg would at least revert to the blue helmet he used to wear.


I think sombody should tell them to put a small sticker in their helmets, Lewis with the British flag and Nico with the German flag.It´s the only think I could think of right now.


Just get the Helmut Marko out... Sorry I couldn't resist


Hahaha 🙂 Well, if this ever happened at Red Bull (i.e. Vettel wanted Webber's design), I'm sure Helmut Marko will come and sort Webber out...



yes, cheesy but still funny


Rosberg has a silver rectangle background on the merecedes sign while Hamilton the the mercedes sign over the yellow background.


I noticed in testing that HALF the drivers have yellow helmets. HALF! That's ridiculous!

It's going to be very difficult James, I do soccer commentary in League of Ireland and it is incredibly difficult to tell players apart (and they all were the same jersey!), and the game moves so quickly. Good luck with it; it will be tough


Yep. Everyone wants to be like Senna.


Anyone else think the Mercedes decals have ruined Hamilton's helmet?


And the monster decal with big patch of black ...


Just call them both "Hamilberg."


Peculiar article this? Is it about commentors or the Mercedes team. OK let's get back to the number roundel on the sides and nose. Sponsors might be a bit pushed for space though.


Mercedes should do what Williams did in the late 80's, its drivers during those years had different helmets designs and colors but the fact that the number 6 was white and the 5 was red left no room for mistake about wich driver was.


Yeah, a white 9 on a red circle, and the a red 10 on a white circle, with the opposite colour as border, would work well.

Warren Groenewald

I really thought the fire would have given it away, but it's definitely Rosberg.


Surely they could just make it easier by making the wing mirrors the same alternates as the t-cam? These would be visible whenever the t-cam couldn't be used and wouldn't have much impact on sponsorship issues.

Having the merc badge as the only thing to differentiate the helmets at speed does seem to be a little silly. Kimi has it right - he has his number on his helmet.


Number is a good idea. Nice one Kimi 😉 Or maybe a nationality flag.

But to be honest I've never really used the helmets. I just wait for the name to appear in the corner of the screen, if it's on board the t-cam, or I just look at the t-cam, if off board. I've never had much of a problem myself with doing this.


T-cam is my reference after helmets as since I started watching F1 as a child in the late 80's I've always used helmets as first port of recognition.

Flags is a good idea in theory but can't beat a flash of single a colour for instant recognition. For me helmets has always been the easiest and most fun way as I see the helmet and instantly have the drivers name. With just T-cam's I have to make the link.

Some are some really nice helmet designs this year, would be nice to have a feature of some kind at some point featuring them.


Attach some green astro turf on Hamiltons car. Problem solved !

Speaking of Hamilton & Rosberg. According to internal Mercedes calculations in testing Rosberg has been the faster driver (by ca. 03 sec) all things equal so far. This was leaked to/by finnish journalist Heikki Kulta. Can anyone who speaks finnish confirm this ?


Kimi: Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing.

It's just testing so times are meaningless tbh.


The flames give the last picture away, it's Rosberg when his electrics whent last week.


I'd know Hamilton's hat anywhere. 😛


Will be easy when each will have their car per race weekend and you can tell form the color of the camera over the driver's head.

Even the team would want to know which driver they are seeing in their video feed. They want to be able to make split second decisions for strategy etc.. and not have to keep double checking.

Mike from Colombia

There was a similar problem with Barrichello and Schumacher in 2000, if I am not wrong?

Someone is going to have to give in on this one!


Full respect to you and your job James, it must be difficult to get everything right even in the best conditions.

As far as the Mercedes drivers are concerned, sure we'll hear more commentators making more mistakes this year, but it wouldn't be the first time and that's okay - commentators are human too.

As for Hamilton and Rosberg:

Maybe they should just play rock/paper/scissors to decide who has to change their design.

Out of curiosity, here's a question for you older gentlemen:

Which F1 driver raced the longest with their original helmet design?

I could also ask which was the shortest, but I guess we'd all know the answer to that one 😉




I'm guessing the shortest was prost or alboreto.. The helmet could be patrese.. or maybe it is prost as well.

good trivia question. gimme more!!


Well the shorter I find it hard to answer. The big majority of F1 drivers are not exactly tall

As for the helmet, Mansell maybe?


Lol okay, okay. Poor choice of words...but on second thought I suppose it could have been worse... 😉


Anne, tallest? That has to go to Justin Wilson.

I guess everybody forgot about him and his stint in Minardi.


You can relax. I haven´t had any close encounter with them. Just close enough to get an autograph like the millon people who were there as well.


I'm hoping like hell that that you completely missed what I meant Anne...think about it...


The shorters right now are probably Massa, Hamilton and Perez. The tallest are Webber and Jenson, maybe Hulk too.That´s according to my recallection from attending a couple of races 2011 and 2012.


You can delete this James, but I'm curious:

I got a e-mail reply mentioning Ratzenberger, but it doesn't show up on the page.

I thought the reply was in bad taste, and

I'm assuming it was removed for that reason.

Can you confirm?


It's surely either Patrese or Graham Hill, neither of whose helmets changed greatly over long periods ... unless anyone knows better. But undoubtedly Moss, if you're allowing non-F1 races.

I'm guessing you're suggesting Vettel for the shortest (a valid dig) but it's probably whoever retired earliest in their only GP. Without any certainty, I'd throw in Lance Reventlow, whose Scarab (a story in itself) packed up on the first lap at Spa in 1960, as a suggestion.


Bernie Eccelstone, Monaco, retired on first lap of qualy and never raced again!


Didn't Vettel turn up to Australia in 2012 with three different helmet designs? I think the only way anyone's gonna top that is if one of the FP1-only juniors changes his helmet every race weekend.

Or maybe if a driver went out in FP1 with a new helmet, crashed on the outlap, went to hospital and couldn't take part in the rest of the weekend, going on to retire the helmet design after that.


I was indeed thinking Vettel for the shortest, but you make a very good point; Less than one lap would be the winner. Kudos.


Had never heard of him (he was around couple years before I started watching), but I pulled this from the F1 site:

'Ex-Formula One driver Riccardo Patrese, who raced in 256 Grands Prix between 1977 and 1993.'

Seems like a good call 🙂


I remember Patrese barely. Those were the years I begun watching F1. I was a little child, my early days in school. In those days all the drivers my family followed and I grew up with were Fittipaldi, Andretti, Jones, Piquet, Laffitte, Pironee, Lauda, Gilles Villeneuve and Reuteman.


Ah crap, I just remembered everything on is copyright.

I'm going to jail 🙁


Maybe it's a conspiracy between FOM and BSkyB to force more people to get HD so they can tell the drivers apart? OK, it's just a thought.... 😉


It's easy to tell them apart, the center panels directly above the visor are different, Rosberg has a silver panel (with black strips either side) and Lewis has the same yellow as the rest of his helmet in the center (with black stops either side) they are close but not impossible, from a distance Rosberg's helmet looks like the dark band goes strait across the front and Lewis' appears to have a gap. Simples!


That's fine when the car is head on, but from rear, side etc?


Well you can't really see the helmets from the rear because of those inconvenient great big roll hoop structures and air intakes - but I know what you mean...

Can you demand that all the commentary boxes get great big HD TV's instead of those puny 1980's VT monitors?

I'm amazed commentators can even see the cars on screens that small whilst a lot of viewers at home are watching on great big plasma and LCD's...


Not a problem, Lewis will be the one in front on the track.


@dave mingay, Fixed it for you.

"No peoblem,Lewis will be the one crashed into a fence."


boom boom ching... unfortunately you missed being the 1st one to make that joke by about 100 comments sorry!


or maybe 50 🙂 oops


What say y'all, I say we start a JAonF1 petition to get either Rosberg or Hamilton to change their helmet colours before the 2013 season proper commences! 😉

Incidentally, this very issue had also caught my eye as early as last Christmas as I was preparing my GP4 mod:


Now it makes sense why Mercedes have two new Directors on board.

The saying "too many Chiefs and not enough Indians" rings bells with Mercedes, a lot of patchwork with staff I feel. This team will never win unless Mercedes gets behind it 110% and it looks like the opposite is happening with new directors and shareholders.


Another tricky too spot team was the Ferrari lookalikes Dallara in early 90's James and Murray had a hell of a time with them ( mostly Murray)


Won't matter anyway, they won't be much on the cameras, fighting Force India and Torro Rosso.


Surely the digital live-timing data could be synched with digital camera position and orientation to provide additional real-time info just on the commentators' monitors? Car position could thus be matched to screen pixel position and overlaid in part with slightly different colours or driver-identifying text. This subject to commentators' individual requirements, as long as each monitor was provided with some form of user-interface. Obviously, the track-side equipment provided for yourselves would have to be digital- rather than analogue-based.


Hey James was your recent post inspired by my comment yesterday hahah


Hamilton will be the one in front! Haha jokes, no word of one of them changing colour like Schumacher did in 2000 as his was very similar to Barrichello's?

I always think the numbers should be more prominent on the cars. I'm keen for a return to the old way of teams having the same numbers every year with the reigning world champion getting no1.


i think the helmets are more different thank the red bull and toro rosso cars.


Given how much data they get from the timing system and how many lines/loops they have, it's pretty piss-poor that this isn't being used to identify which car is within a camera frame.

Happy for them to contact me if they want to offer me a job fixing a problem that makes the top level sport look amateur 😀


Yep, made this exact comment when I saw Hamilton's helmet design for this year. Good job we have HD, I guess.


I'm worried about Sauber's new color scheme too. I have trouble telling dark gray from dark blue and black, unless the lighting's just right.


I have a happy memory of Murray Walker pointing out David Coulthard's car and happily commentating away on Coulthard's race, season and entire life history as the camera followed the car around the lap. Eventually, almost as an aside, Murray said "it's actually Hakkinen..." and then carried on!


...and that's how you spot a true professional.


Sorry James an off topic question. Have you read or heard Martin Withmarsh´s recent comments against paid drivers, budgets and spending cut for teams?

I´m suprised he has been outspoken recently.


So, if the collective media and the FIA politely requested that one of them change helmets to reduce the confusion, which one would it be..... ?

Would Hamilton think that he deserves preferential treatment as he was WDC back in 2008 ?

Would XIX get involved as the helmet design is part of the over all "brand" of their product and needs to be protected ?

Would Rosberg stand-firm or would he bow-down ?

Would Mercedes need to hire a new Manager to co-ordinate the discussions and report to the Board on developments ?

Ah, let the games begin !


Sounds like the next big reality show.


Okay, I have to ask:

Any suggestions for the show's title?


Helmet Extreme Makeover


So You Think You Can Drive?


Keeping Up With The Hamiltons ?

Brackley's Next Top Model ?


James, I hear you. And thats why I'm prepared to accompany you to ALL the F1 grand pix this year to assist with helmet ID. I'll need paddock passes for every race, so I can check the helmets beforehand, and a prominent seat at each track, near to where the cars are changing direction(so I can see the helmets from multiple angles) and I guess a radio to communicate all this wonderful info to you. Oh and I'll probably need about $150k per year, to keep the missus and kids happy and fed while I'm away! 😉 Cheers!


Well... Hamilton would be the one who's gone nose first full speed into the tyre barrier or slid tail first into the tyre barrier. Nico would be the one doing the tank-slapper off the armco, and launching over the top of a Ferrari.

Seriously though, I shouldn't worry about this, I suspect one or both will change their helmet design out of concern for being mistaken for the other, or on the advise of their managers.

Or perhaps you've done enough by simply bringing up the subject.


Okay- Mercedes should say whoever finishes behind in Australia must change their helmut design.

Btw James are you coming to Melbourne.? I finally booked haven't been since 98 have


Picking the cars apart will be easy, Hamilton's will be the one ahead.


Well I won't be able to tell the difference easily at speed, so I suggest either one of them changes helmet colour (unlikely) or an added flash of bright colour Ia added somewhere to one of the cars.

F1 is meant to be a Fan Friendly sport. Make it easier for us to spot the difference !

And to all those who quip "Lewis will be the one in front ". Nico is no slouch. Don't be too confident.


The car on pic below is NR coz that fire LH had brake issues next day if that's correct?


Hi james, I have wanted to ask this question for a while: why commentators have such a small monitor only? To provide a normal sized screen should not be a problem surely for race organisers/broadcasters.


The commentary boxes are pretty small in some venues, with a small shelf to put screens etc on.

The TV is probably a 28", maximum, the FOM timing monitors are standard size for everyone and not huge.

Although SKY have multiple monitors and pictures from every nook and cranny!

I might do an post on this during the season - it's quite interesting and the conditions aren't what you would expect - with a few notable exceptions!


It's easy...just look at the T-Cam above the drivers head. Rosberg's will be red and Hamilton's will be yellow.


No, they've changed the rules this year. Rosberg's will be black and Hamilton's day glo


Seems football commentators have similar problems 🙂

Tweet from BBC:

"BBC Sport ‏@BBCSport

Not a good day for commentators in Scots Div 3, it's Stirling v East Stirling with a Stephen Stirling playing for East Stirling - confused?"


A sterling game played in Stirling by Stirling and East Stirling, Sterling scoring the only goal.

Love it.


James, why have the FIA changed the rules so much on identifying marks for different drivers? I fondly remember the pink marks on the wing plates of Hill's Williams, or the yellow spot on the wings of Alesi's Ferrari.

It used to be another detail us diecast model fans used to love!

Taking those away just make it harder for the viewer to identify drivers too. These days the helmet colours are often so complex, and change so frequently that it makes it much harder to work out which driver is which during a quick cut to dicey action on the track.


I think its very easy to armchair commentate and spot things instantly while at home and give out that commentators miss things, but commentating live to millions of people where every sentence is analysed and mistakes are out in the open for all to hear is a different kettle of fish. I know i wouldnt be able to do it.

James im really interested in training that you receive for a job like lead commentator. Do you have to do vocal work, do you practice a certain style for overtakes or exciting action etc or do you just wing it and be yourself?


Voice training yes, like actors do (same coaches)

That's it though. You have to learn the rest on the job.


As Ben Edwards often struggled to even tell Hamilton from Button on track last year, I am fully expecting a total pig's breakfast here.


Rosberg's helmet is more florescent yellow while hamilton is solid yellow... You can easily tell from the last picture that is rosberg from the florescent yellow helmet.


Time to settle things I suppose:

There have been suggestions that the driver in the final photo is Hamilton, while others are convinced that it's Rosberg.


Truth is it was Schumacher. He decided to borrow the Mercedes for one last spin (he just forgot to ask first).

Soon after this photo was taken the cops arrived on the scene, but I'm sure you'll all be pleased to hear that Michael is now resting comfortably in the Wunderbar Retirement Home 🙂


There seems to be a lot of rubbish put out on this subject - the answer is simple - Rosberg is in car No. 9, Hamilton is in car No. 10. We should not have to try and identify a car by the drivers helmet surely. This is another thing that the FIA should enforce - much larger more prominent numbers on the cars for all to see. As someone mentioned, MotoGP is a great example of how this should be done. Bikes are much smaller, but you have a far better idea of who's riding what. I favour drivers having their own personal numbers, again like MotoGP and Nascar. The fans and I think the drivers would love it.


the clear difference between the two helmets is that hamilton's has a mercedes logo with a yello background while rosberg's has a silver background to the mercedes logo.


Expand the yellow/red of the cameras to the top of the engine cover, so it can instantly be seen clearly from all directions.

Paint a line around their wheel rims matching the camera color, and paint the rear crash structure that color too.


james _ i think there is trouble brewing at mercedes. i can't see how all those strong pesonalities are going to work out. i.e brawn, wolff and lauda.


You aren't the first to say that!


A few years ago over here in the States, the people broadcasting NASCAR started "tagging" the cars so we the fans could tell them apart. These "Tags" were like you'd see in a comic strip. It was a little box with the drivers name and a line pointing tho their car. It seemd to work because they do it now, still. Let me tell you, it is much easier keeping up with the Jones' when I can see the actual car number on the side. I'm not sure how the F1 commentators do it.

Another suggestion I'd have also comes from us in the States and a few years ago, too. One of the four major TV broadcasters here was trying to shed a different light on Ice Hockey so they decided it would help out the un-educated hockey fan to have a bright blue dot follow the puck around portions of the rink. Well, it helped only those who had never played or seen the sport and pissed off all the rest of us fans.


That was Fox, and was a total joke (the swoosh following the puck on shoot-in's, etc. Thankfully they don't do that anymore.


exactly.. what you need is technology, or use of old tech..

basically.. something on the car that tells the camera who the driver is and all. all that augmented reality stuff going around... must be a way.


Pretty soon people will become like those blobs in Wall-E

Can't even watch a screen without having every element spoon-fed


When you're standing close to the track, it's more or less easy to tell then apart but I guess on any TV screen it'll be a total nightmare:

A thought was spared for TV commentators.

One of the drivers has got to change helmet design, there are no proper green helmets in F1 right now, sort of like Heidfeld had in '09.


James, maybe it'd provide you a great excuse to ask your employer for a bigger television to work with? 😀 32" would be nice.


It would make sense to me to alter the regulations (if necessary) to allow (or even force) teams to have different liveries on one area of the car, say nose or one of the wings.

I find that when I'm watching races I rarely note the helmet colour, I prefer some other reference. Back in the day, Red 5 / White 6 was a very good way to tell between Mansell and Patrese, although the fact Nige was usually in front helped as well.

Something needs to be different and contrasting between the cars, and bigger than a bit of paint on the roll hoop. If teams don't want big numbers to get more sponsor space then let them use the space differently between cars enough to allow easy differentiation. The BAR situation wouldn't work as having 22 different liveries would be too confusing, but having some difference would be a good thing.

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