Do Formula 1 Drivers Keep Their Helmets? (Explained)

The most essential equipment that F1 drivers have is their helmets. Over the years, racing helmets have evolved massively. From open-faced helmets to modern helmets fitted with radios and drinks systems. Since these helmets are also custom-made, you may be asking if F1 drivers keep their helmets. 

Many Formula 1 drivers keep their helmets as they have a special meaning to them. Drivers show their personality through their helmet artwork as it’s one of the few ways that they can personalize their F1 gear and stand out from other drivers. F1 drivers often keep helmet collections.

F1 helmets are extremely expensive so drivers don’t always use new helmets. However, drivers do need to replace their helmets several times every season, and they could easily go through 10 helmets a year. Below, we go into detail on why F1 drivers keep their helmets and how they’re designed.

How Are F1 Driver Helmets Designed?

F1 driver helmets are designed by drivers working together with graphic designers who create mockups of their designs. They’re able to draw customized designs unique to what the driver wants. A painter will then use both a special paint and their skill to put the design onto the helmet.

Formula 1 helmets are designed by graphic designers using a special computer program that allows them to draw the designs onto templates of a helmet. The design will start with a template of a blank helmet with the specific shape of the driver’s helmet (Arai, Bell, and Schuberth all have different shapes).

The driver and the graphic designer will work together to design the helmet. Drivers will often request something unique to them, such as a specific emblem, phrase, shape, logo, or even image. The graphic designer will build a mockup design, which will also include the various sponsor logos as this is a crucial part of the helmet design.

Once the driver has approved the helmet design, it will then be sent to a painter. The painter will use special paint and a steady hand to replicate the design as best as they can onto a plain white helmet. The helmet is then sealed with Urethane which locks all the paint in place.

Special Helmet Designs

Some drivers like to bring special helmet designs to certain races. This has become a tradition over the years that still exists today. However, it’s become more common in recent years for drivers to bring special helmet designs to different races – not just their home race.

Monaco is a race where drivers often bring special helmet designs. Drivers will usually incorporate something unique to the special event into their design. For example, in Monaco, there are a lot of casino-related images such as poker chips or playing cards.

Drivers will also bring special helmet designs for their home race as they celebrate being able to race in the pinnacle of motorsport in front of their home crowd. Special helmet designs have been popular in Formula 1 for many years because of the open cockpit design of the car.

The driver’s helmet is the main identifier, with the colors and images on the helmet being unique to each driver. Even with the Halo, the helmet is the best way to quickly pick which driver is which, especially since drivers on the same team will have the same livery on their cars.

Rules Surrounding Helmet Designs

It wasn’t always easy to bring new helmet designs to any race in Formula 1. When Sebastian Vettel joined Red Bull in 2009, he made a habit of bringing a new helmet design to every single race. Vettel had a different helmet at every Grand Prix with a unique design.

Eventually, this started to annoy some people in the Formula 1 community, and in 2014 the FIA banned drivers from making any major changes to their helmets. A rule was implemented that only allowed drivers to use one special helmet design per season. The rule stated that drivers had to have a unique identifying color scheme and design on their helmets for the entire duration of the season.

This was done to allow the spectators to better identify the drivers while they are in the cars. With Vettel changing his helmet design every race, some people started struggling to identify who was driving the Red Bull that kept winning – according to the FIA at least.

Eventually, the rule was dropped in 2020, and drivers were once again given complete freedom in their helmet designs, and, if they wanted to, could change their design for every race. Ever since, we have seen some special helmets being used by drivers, including 3 different helmet designs in 1 race weekend from Valtteri Bottas at the 2022 Miami Grand Prix.

What Are F1 Helmets Made From?

F1 helmets are made from many layers of carbon fiber, one of the strongest lightweight materials on the planet. The inside is layered with polystyrene and foam which can mold to the driver’s head. Each helmet weighs only 2 to 3 lbs, or about 1-1.5 kg, but they are exceptionally strong. 

Creating the perfect formula 1 helmet is no simple task. The helmet needs to be both lightweight and incredibly strong. Drivers need to be sure that their heads will be protected in the event of a crash, and the average motorcycle helmet that you use on public roads simply won’t cut it.

The strong carbon fiber construction ensures that the helmet can reliably protect the driver’s head, even in a high-impact crash. The inside lining that molds to the driver’s exact head shape ensures the helmet is tightly secured and allows the helmet to better absorb any impacts.

Overall, Formula 1 helmets normally weigh between 2 and 3 pounds, which is incredibly light for their size and the amount of material that has been packed into them. There’s a good reason why the helmets need to be so lightweight though.

Why Are F1 Helmets So Light?

F1 helmets need to be lightweight because of the amount of G forces that the drivers will experience in the car. The drivers can sometimes be pulling 6 G’s when cornering, and this means that everything feels 6 times heavier for the driver in the car, including their head. 

The slightest bit of weight can be dramatic, as while a human head weighs about 11 lbs (4.9 kg), under 6 G’s of force it clocks up to 66 lbs (30 kg). With a helmet, it’s about 14 lbs (6.3 kg) but gets up to 84 lbs (38 kg) under 6 G’s of force.

While cornering at 6 G’s, adding a helmet can increase the weight of the driver’s head by almost 20 lbs (9 kg), which is a lot when you’re trying to keep your head up straight to focus on the road for up to 2 hours during a Grand Prix.

Many drivers have stated that cornering in a Formula 1 car feels like your head is being pulled off your neck due to the G forces. F1 drivers need to have incredibly strong neck muscles to withstand the weight that will be pushing against their neck while they are in the car.

How Strong Are F1 Helmets?

Formula 1 helmets are incredibly strong, and the FIA has strict requirements for the forces that they need to be able to withstand. Overall, the helmets are put through 14 different tests (per the FIA 8860-2018 regulations) to ensure that they are as safe as possible in a wide range of different scenarios. The following is a list of tests that the helmets are put through:

  • Standard impact test: The helmet is hit by an object at 31.16 ft/s. The peak deceleration on the driver’s head must not exceed 275 G’s in total.
  • Low-velocity impact test: The helmet is hit by an object at 19.68 ft/s. The peak deceleration on the driver’s head must not exceed 200 G’s with a maximum average of 180 G’s.
  • Low lateral impact test: The helmet is hit by an object at 278.87 ft/s. The peak deceleration of the driver’s head must not exceed 275 G’s.
  • Advanced ballistic protection test: A metallic projectile weighing 0.4 lbs (0.18 kg) is fired at the helmet at 155.3 miles per hour. The peak deceleration must not exceed 275 G’s.
  • Crush test: A 22 lbs (9.97 kg) weight is dropped from 16.7 feet high onto the helmet. The transmitted force cannot exceed 10 kN.
  • Shell penetration test: An 8 lbs (3.6 kg) weight is dropped onto the helmet at 25.2625 ft/s. The helmet must stay intact after impact.
  • Visor penetration test: An 8 lbs (3.6 kg) air rifle pellet is shot at the visor. The air rifle pellet must not penetrate the interior layer of the helmet, and the driver’s vision must not be impaired.
  • Visor coating test: The visor coating is transmitter tested to ensure coloration and vision are not significantly changed or distorted by external factors.
  • Retention system test: Roll-off tests and dynamic tests are conducted to ensure the strength of the chin strap and its attachments.
  • Chin guard linear impact test: Simulated impact test at 18.0446 ft/s. The peak deceleration cannot exceed 275 G’s.
  • Chin guard crush test: The chin guard is hit with a hammer, and it must remain intact.
  • FHR mechanical strength test: The helmet is tested to ensure the strength of attachment points for Frontal Head Restraints.
  • Projection and surface friction test: The helmet is tested to ensure that the surface of the helmet is smooth and that friction is minimized. The outer shell surface is also subjected to a BARCOL hardness test to test resistance to penetration.
  • Flammability test: The helmet is exposed to a 790 degrees Celsius/1,454 degrees Fahrenheit flame, and the helmet must be able to self-extinguish.

Only after passing all of these tests will a helmet be deemed safe for a Formula 1 driver to use. All of these different scenarios are possible when the driver is in a Formula 1 car, so the FIA needs to be sure that the drivers will be safe if anything happened.

Do F1 Drivers Use A New Helmet For Every Race?

F1 drivers do not use a new helmet for every race. Instead, they’ll have 3 or more helmets brought to a Grand Prix that they swap out depending on the conditions. They can also swap out their helmets for one another between races, due to wear or damage that may accumulate.

Driving at 200 miles per hour without a windshield will inevitably cause some damage to the helmet as small stones and various other particles impact the helmet. Not only does it scratch the paintwork, but it can also cause structural damage to the helmet over time.

Drivers often have at least 3 helmets that they bring to each Grand Prix, and each one is set up for specific conditions (such as low light with a clear visor for example). This allows drivers to quickly swap helmets if the weather takes a turn or if they have been in a crash.

Drivers can also swap these helmets between races, as they sometimes do not use all of these helmets during a race weekend. The unused helmets would then carry over to the next Grand Prix, and the one that has suffered the most wear and damage will be replaced with a new one if needed.

Do F1 Drivers Get To Keep Their Helmets?

F1 drivers do get to keep their helmets, but don’t usually keep every helmet. They’re allowed to keep their helmets as much as they please, but because many helmets get swapped out throughout the season, in practice many do not keep all of them. They often donate their helmets or give them as gifts.

The helmet is something special for an F1 driver, and many are proud of their helmet designs and the memories that come with them. So, drivers often have their helmets on display at their homes, specifically the ones that have a meaningful story behind them – such as winning the world championship. Drivers often have display rooms filled with trophies and helmets that they have collected.

However, with so many helmets being used throughout the season, many drivers do not keep all of their helmets. Some drivers swap helmets with other drivers – this is a tradition that goes far back between Formula 1 drivers and it’s often used as a sign of respect, much like football players swapping jerseys with one another.

Drivers can also give their helmets to friends and family members as special gifts, donate their helmets to charities that will sell them at auctions, or they can give their helmets to the team who will put them on display at their factory in their museum.

What Happens To Old F1 Helmets?

Old F1 helmets will often go into museums, which there are plenty of across the world. Alternatively, they’ll get auctioned off, with the funds from the auction going out to charity. They’ll also go up for display at the team’s specific factories and museums, available for all to see.

The helmets of F1 legends such as James Hunt, Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, Niki Lauda, and many more are still remembered to this day. Many of these old helmets go into museums. From Ferrari museums to F1 museums, there are many originals and replicas around the world. These helmets will remain on display for years to come.

Some Formula 1 drivers auction off their helmets, with the funds raised from the auction going to charity. Helmets are also auctioned on the F1 Authentics website which is a great place to go if you’re looking to buy a real Formula 1 helmet.

Old Formula 1 helmets are also often put up for display in the team’s factories and museums. Teams like McLaren and Ferrari always honor the drivers that have driven for them by putting their helmets up in glass display cases that people can look at while doing factory tours.

How Much Does An F1 Helmet Cost To Make?

F1 helmets cost around $4,000 or more to make. However, there’s a lot that goes into these helmets, from the durable but lightweight materials that keep the driver safe to the customized painting that’ll go on the helmet. All of this and more can increase the price to well over $5,000.

Because of the complexity and the materials that go into building Formula 1 helmets, they can come at a high price. Carbon fiber is light and durable making it the perfect material to use, but it’s also extremely expensive. With around 17 layers of carbon fiber, there’s no way to produce these helmets at a cheaper price.

However, since Formula 1 uses state-of-the-art technology there’s a lot more that goes into the helmets. From drink straws to radios and even the painting of the helmets, these extra features are necessary for Formula 1, and there’s no way around the extra costs involved.

All in all, you’re probably looking at around $5,000 for a fully built Formula 1 helmet with all the bells and whistles needed to compete in a Grand Prix. However, this is a cost price, and manufacturers need to make a profit, so it’s likely that buying a Formula 1 helmet will cost even more.

How Much Does An F1 Helmet Cost To Buy?

An F1 helmet can cost thousands of dollars to buy, sometimes going for upwards of $50,000. You could purchase a replica helmet for much cheaper, but they won’t be the real thing. You could also invest in a cheaper version of a helmet for only a few thousand and get it customized.

The costs you can expect to find when looking to buy a Formula 1 helmet will depend on a couple of factors. The first is whether it’s a genuine, race-used helmet that is on auction. If that’s the case, you can expect to pay thousands of dollars, as there are collectors out there who are willing to pay top dollar for these items.

If you’re buying a replica helmet then it will be much cheaper, however, it’s far from the real thing. Replica helmets are usable (if that’s what you want to buy one for), but they likely won’t get you into any kind of professional racing (except karting and junior single-seaters) as manufacturers tend to use the cheaper range of materials when it comes to creating replicas.

You could invest in a cheaper version such as the Arai GP7 SRC (Super Racing Carbon Fiber) which is the exact helmet that some Formula 1 drivers use (those that are partnered with Arai). All you need to do is take your helmet to a painter and ask them to paint your favorite driver’s design. Painting can vary in price, and it completely depends on the paint shop that you decide to go with.

Final Thoughts

Formula 1 drivers get to keep the majority of their helmets if they choose to, but many will be swapped out throughout the course of the season, and many helmets will not be kept. Drivers can keep them, give them to museums, sell them to charities, auction them, or give them as gifts.