How strong are F1 helmets as Lewis Hamilton sports new design in Qatar?

Jake Nichol November 19, 2021
How strong are F1 helmets as Lewis Hamilton sports new design in Qatar?
Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton is sporting a new helmet design for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, but what are the rules around helmets in F1? How strong are they and how many designs can drivers have?

Hamilton, who has been pushing for greater diversity and inclusivity in Formula One and around the world is running a new helmet for F1’s first-ever trip to Qatar.

The design features the rainbow colours of the LGBT movement, in reference to Qatar’s stance on homosexuality.

As well as Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel also wore a rainbow T-shirt at the Hungarian Grand Prix in response to that country’s strict homosexuality laws.

But just how strong are helmets in F1 and what are the rules around the design of them? How many are drivers allowed?

Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

How strong are F1 helmets?

As the only part of a driver exposed when the car is out on track, an F1 helmet must be remarkably strong.

The FIA mandates the strength which they must be, with the current standard 8860-2018.

Mandated in 2019, the current helmets must pass ballistic testing before they are used.

It must survive a 225g projectile being fired at 250km/h.

This is in response to Felipe Massa being severely injured in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.

A spring from another car hit him above the left eye, before Massa could react.

The visors are tested with pellets being fired from an air rifle and the helmet must survive 790 degrees C in a fire-test.

Current helmet manufacturers in F1 include Bell, Arai, and Schuberth.

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Are there limits on helmet design?

The design rules around helmets in F1 is simply limited to the imagination of the driver.

In 2020, a rule limiting the drivers to one normal design, and a one-off special, was dropped.

Introduced in 2015, it was designed to allow fans to more easily identify drivers.

Despite the rule, Sebastian Vettel often still changed his design, albeit keeping to the same standard base design.

Photo by Florion Goga – Pool/Getty Images

Vettel is a keen exponent of changing his F1 helmet designs, switching to a white base with the German flag in stripe form in 2015.

Before that, some of his more memorable designs include the 2012 Italian and Singapore Grands Prix.

At Monza, he ran a design where it looked like marks on a prison wall counting down the days – to celebrate 50 helmet designs in F1.

In Singapore his design featured lights on top during the night race, which he went on to win.

Photo credit should read OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/GettyImages

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.