F1's Helmet Design Limit Once Again Proves That It Is The Stupidest Rule In Racing

Photo: Peter Fox (Getty)

In this day and age of over-sanctioned racing, there are plenty of stupid rules in motorsport around the world—but possibly no rule is quite as pointlessly dumb as Formula One’s demand that drivers retain the same helmet design for a full season lest they face an ambiguously defined financial punishment. And this dumbass rule came into play yet again ahead of last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom.

For those of you unfamiliar with this rule, F1 regulations only allow drivers a single one-off design during the course of a season. Aside from that deviation, drivers must retain the same (or, at the very least, a fairly similar) design for the rest of the year.

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Russian driver Daniil Kvyat had a whole new helmet designed for his home race at Sochi, and, like a good rule-obeying race car driver, he submitted a formal request to wear it during the course of the weekend. Unfortunately, the FIA totally rejected him because: 1) he’d already run a one-off design for the Italian Grand Prix, and 2) the helmet design was too substantially different from his regular one to warrant an exception.

The problem is, there are plenty of drivers who run more than their allotted number of helmet designs in a year. Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, for example, has had one-off designs that differ from his regular season helmet for both Austria and Belgium—and he didn’t catch any flack for it.

I’ll let Formula 1 race director Michael Masi explain the difference between Kvyat and Verstappen in this quote from Motorsport.com:

While many observers have pointed out other drivers running a number of different designs this year, Masi has suggested that has only happened because not everyone has asked in advance.

“Not necessarily,” he said when asked if all teams got approval beforehand. “Generally those that ask get a response either one way or the other.”

Max Verstappen is one driver who has used a number of different coloured helmets this year, but Masi said that he had not been informed beforehand about any change of helmet design.

“No, the team has not sent me a request,” he said.

It is, apparently, only a problem for the drivers who ask in advance to run more than one one-off. Which is a pretty big flaw in already very absurd regulations.

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It’s frustrating to see drivers punished for breaking a really dumb rule. One of the main reasons why the rule was implemented in the first place was to make it easier for fans to recognize drivers by their single helmet. Sebastian Vettel, for example, had used something like sixty different helmets at the point the regulation was introduced.

However, the addition of both permanent career numbers for drivers and the halo make the helmet rule incredibly pointless. Fans can easily identify drivers by number since it’s tough to even see helmets nowadays. And drivers are still finding ways around the regulations.

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Kvyat slammed the rule as “a joke” while his teammate Pierre Gasly called it “bullshit.” And it’s hard not to agree. This is one of those rules that has proved time and time again to just not be worth the hassle it causes. It is, honestly, absurd.

It might just be time to scratch this one out of the regulation handbooks.

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About the author

Elizabeth Blackstock

Staff writer. Motorsport fanatic. Proud owner of a 2013 Mazda 2.