Formula One helmets are tougher than bad steak at a cheap restaurant you knew looked sketchy but went to anyway, as shown by YouTube video upon YouTube video of people trying to break them with sledgehammers and other weaponry. But they don’t get to that point without some ridiculous testing requirements.
The FIA, the governing body for F1 and dozens of other international racing series, announced Wednesday that there will be a new mandatory helmet for the F1 in 2019 and that it’ll be required in other championships soon after.
The FIA said it worked with multiple helmet manufacturers to come up with the new helmet standard, “including advanced ballistic protection, increased energy absorption and an extended area of protection for drivers.” Intense. It’s now up to those companies to make production versions in time for next season.
To meet those standards, the helmets had to go through a thorough beating by hand tools, weights dropped from high above and actual weaponry. There don’t appear to be any videos of testing on the new helmet online—only the typical overdramatic reveal, which is above—but there are plenty of informal attempts to destroy older F1 helmets on YouTube.
But words definitely do the testing justice. Here’s what the 2019 helmet had to go through, from the FIA, emphasis ours:
- Standard impact: Helmet impact at 9.5m/s. Peak deceleration on ‘driver’s head’ shall not exceed 275G.
- Low velocity impact: Helmet impact at 6m/s. Peak deceleration shall not exceed 200G with a maximum average of 180g.
- Low lateral impact: Helmet impact at 8.5m/s. Peak deceleration shall not exceed 275G.
- Advanced Ballistic Protection: A 225g metal projectile fired at 250km/h. The peak deceleration shall not exceed 275G.
- Crush: A 10kg weight falling 5.1 metres onto helmet. Lateral and longitudinal tests. The transmitted force should not exceed 10 kN.
- Shell penetration: A 4kg impactor dropped onto helmet at 7.7 m/s.
- Visor penetration: Air rifle fires 1.2g pellet at visor. Pellet must not penetrate the interior of the helmet.
- Visor coating: Transmitter test to ensure colouration and vision is not significantly changed or distorted.
- Retention system: Roll-off test and dynamic test to ensure strength of chin strap and its attachments.
- Chin guard linear impact: Impact test with full headform at 5.5m/s. The peak deceleration shall not exceed 275G.
- Chin guard crush: Hammer hits chin guard and measures ability to keep impact away from the head.
- FHR mechanical strength: Test to ensure high strength of attachment points for Frontal Head Restraints.
- Projection and surface friction: Test to ensure helmet surface uniformity and that friction is minimised. Shell surface also subjected to BARCOL hardness test for resistance to penetration.
- Flammability: Helmet exposed to 790 C° flame; it must self-extinguish once flame is removed.
Hammers, fast projectiles, weights, air rifles and flames nearing 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit—props to the helmet for surviving all of that, but more importantly, where can us normal folk sign up to try to destroy F1-spec race helmets with hammers and giant weights all day? That sounds like a real stress reliever.