The new ban on helmet livery changes was actually a compromise measure, it emerged on Friday. So far, news that drivers will be limited to just a single helmet livery per season has been highly controversial.
Felipe Massa, however, is not sure what the fuss is about. “The helmet is your second face,” said the Brazilian, who rarely races without his familiar dark blue and incandescent design. “I don’t understand why you need to change it all the time.”
From now on, drivers will not be allowed to. Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport claims that the measure was a desperate attempt to make the drivers more easily recognisable from the grandstands and on television. Reportedly, Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone pushed for bigger race numbers on the cars, only to be met with opposition from teams who argue the space is needed for sponsors. FIA president Todt then proposed at the recent F1 Commission meeting that cars be mandatorily fitted with a large, Le Mans-style fin on the engine cover, making room for a big race number, driver name and nationality flag.
The helmet livery ban was Todt and Ecclestone’s compromise solution. “I think the rule makes sense,” said F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda. “Sometimes I can’t recognise even my own drivers in the car”.
Sebastian Vettel says Formula 1’s move to ban helmet design changes may not be enough to deter him from tweaking his colours still. As AUTOSPORT revealed, the F1 commission voted earlier this week to outlaw drivers from changing their helmet designs during the course of the season. F1 chiefs believe that having drivers use the same helmet design all the time will be better for those who follow the sport as it will be easier to recognise drivers. Vettel is the person who has changed his helmet more than any other in F1, having used more than 90 different designs during his career. And although he intends to not change as much this season, he said at Barcelona on Saturday that if the penalty for using different colours is just a small financial one then he may be willing to pay it.
“The plan was to calm down a little bit,” said Vettel, who is using a white helmet with the colours of the German flag. “It seems in these difficult times, it [banning helmet changes] is the only thing that people can agree on! I don’t know what is the penalty. If it is a little fine with money for charity, then I am happy to keep changing my helmet.”
Vettel’s former Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo joked that the German was probably responsible for the ban in the first place. “I think Seb started it all – it was ironic that they used him in the photo,” he said. “I’m not fussed. The helmet novelty has worn off a bit so if I have to keep the same one I will. I think someone like Seb will suffer a bit more!”.