Toro Rosso stand-in driver Brendon Hartley can’t seem to catch a break in his first Formula One drive in five years. First, changes to the car’s power unit triggered enough grid penalties to move him to the rear of the field at the start of the race, NBC Sports reports. Worse yet, his helmet wouldn’t stay put during yesterday’s practice sessions.
Hartley’s full-time drive this year is in the Porsche 919, which is a closed-cockpit Le Mans prototype where the aerodynamics of the helmet don’t matter as they’re inside the car. However, as pit lane reporter Will Buxton noted on Twitter, the shape of Hartley’s helmet simply hasn’t worked well for an open-cockpit F1 car:
The air flowing over Hartley’s closed-cockpit-spec helmet caused it to rotate backwards on his head, which is surely the most distracting feeling on earth.
Your helmet provides your entire window out in an open-cockpit car, and already subjects your head to intense G-forces when cornering, braking and accelerating. Throwing in a weird rotation into that mix is the last thing you want when you’re trying to learn a new car after not having driven any single-seaters at all since 2012.
Hartley is also one of the taller drivers this weekend, so he sticks up out of the car a bit more than most. The team has also had to adjust his Hans device with more padding to make it work in the F1 car as well.
Sky Sports’ commentators noted that several changes have been made to Hartley’s helmet ahead of Free Practice 3. Jalopnik has also reached out to Toro Rosso as to what specifically they’ve changed and will update this post if we hear back.
A promising radio transmission during Free Practice 2 seemed to suggest that Hartley’s helmet is finally functioning as it should. “Keep us posted on the helmet,” his team radioed over. “Helmet’s all okay, helmet’s all okay,” Hartley said back.