One of the most important pieces of safety gear in F1 is the driver’s helmet, and this is the case in all other motorsports too. Modern racing helmets have some truly amazing technology in them, but how much does a Formula 1 driver’s helmet actually cost?
Formula 1 helmets cost around $4,000-$6,000 each to make. However, over the course of a full season, a single driver might require 10+ helmets, adding up to a total of $40,000+. If you’re looking to buy one, helmets can cost hundreds of dollars for replicas and tens of thousands for race-used ones.
The standard for these helmets is incredibly high, and they are designed to protect the driver against many different scenarios. Below, I’ll take a closer look at these helmets and why they’re such an integral part of Formula 1.
The Importance Of Helmets In F1
With Formula 1 being the fastest racing series in the world (in terms of lap times), safety is absolutely crucial. As we have seen in the past, head injuries can be really severe, even at Formula 1 level with the right safety equipment.
In 2009, Felipe Massa was hit just above his visor by a 2-pound spring that came off the car in front of him. The spring hit the Ferrari driver, who was traveling at 160 mph (260 kph). Massa was knocked unconscious with his foot stuck on the throttle pedal before his car even hit the barriers at the end of the straight. The result was a concussion that meant Massa missed the rest of the 2009 Formula 1 season.
Accidents like these, as rare as they may be, cannot be overlooked. Since this incident, the FIA have required all Formula 1 spec helmets to include a carbon fibre strip that runs across the top of the driver’s visor.
The Cost Of An F1 Helmet
Formula 1 helmets are designed with the highest of safety standards in mind. This of course skyrockets the cost of the helmet. A single Formula 1 level helmet costs around $4,000-$6,000.
Throughout the course of a season, the drivers will need to make use of multiple helmets. This is because helmets do also wear with use, and it’s important to maintain the high safety standards. Formula 1 drivers attend race weekends with at least 3 different helmets.
Key Fact: F1 drivers might go through 15+ helmets over the course of a season
The Hidden Costs Of Formula 1 Helmets
The costs I mentioned above are basically just for the plain shell of the helmet. There are extra costs involved in preparing the helmets for actual use around a track. The first of these is the inner padding, which is personalized to fit each driver individually.
Next is the visor. Most drivers use tinted visors that act as sunglasses on sunny days. However, when it rains or if it’s a night race, drivers need to use clear visors for better vision.
The drivers also personalize their helmets based on the designs they prefer (and their sponsors). Most drivers will have their own go-to graphic designers who have designed helmets for them for years. They will all charge different rates, but some might provide their services for free in return for some sponsorship space on the helmets.
The final stage is to paint the helmets. Some helmet designers also do the painting. However, painting a helmet is a very delicate process, as it can be difficult to get the design right, and the painter also needs to apply a protective coating over the paint in order to keep the helmet strong.
The Technology In Formula 1 Helmets
Being the top tier of motorsport, there have been a lot of advancements made in the technology used in Formula 1 helmets. These helmets are much more advanced than your standard helmets that you would find down at your local kart or motorcycle dealership.
Firstly, the helmets need to connect to the team radio via a microphone/headphone system. Drivers are in constant communication with their teams during the race. At the push of a button on their steering wheel, they can talk directly to their team on the pit wall.
Drivers also need to keep hydrated throughout the race. They do this via an intricate drinks system that feeds an electrolyte drink straight to them at the push of a button as well. The helmets are designed with this drinks system in mind, with a straw that passes from inside the cockpit into their helmet.
KEY POINTS• Formula 1 helmets are very expensive, costing between $4,000 and $6,000 each
• There are more costs associated with the padding, design and painting of the helmets
• F1 helmets are also fairly technologically advanced
The Protection Offered By F1 Helmets
With the high speeds that Formula 1 cars reach, there is also the risk of dangerous impacts. Whether it’s a small or large object, they can do severe damage to a helmet at high speeds. Formula 1 and the FIA are constantly testing and updating the safety regulations surrounding Formula 1 helmets.
As I mentioned earlier, the FIA introduced a carbon fibre strip over the visor shortly following the 2009 season. This innovation would later save Max Chilton’s life in the 2014 season.
The Fire Test
In order for a helmet to be deemed safe to use in Formula 1, it needs to pass a series of tests set out by the FIA. The first of these tests is the fire test. During this test, the helmet needs to be exposed to flames reaching 1400 degrees Fahrenheit (760 degrees Celsius) for at least 45 seconds. During this test, the temperature inside the helmet cannot be higher than 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius).
This means that the helmet can resist extreme heat in the case of a fire. The helmet must also self-extinguish once the flames are removed from it. The driver’s head needs to be protected from the extreme heat in order for the helmet to pass the test.
The Penetration Test
The next test is the penetration test. In this test, a heavy, sharply pointed metal object is dropped onto the helmet from a height where it can reach a high speed, specifically 9.5 metres per second. In order to pass this test, the helmet needs to remain intact and show no signs of opening.
The Pull Test
The next test is to ensure that the helmet will stay on during an impact. The helmet is fitted to a test dummy and is pulled in the opposite direction by a force equal to 38 kg (84 lbs). This tests whether the chin straps are strong enough to keep the helmet in place, or whether the helmet will fly off on impact.
The Visor Test
The final test is the visor test. Which is still a crucially important part of the helmet as we saw with the Felipe Massa incident of 2009. Small projectiles are fired at the helmet at a speed of 300 mph (480 kph). In order to pass this test, the indentations left in the visor can be no deeper than 2.5 mm. They also test the visor using air rifles that fire a 1.2 gram pellet at the visor.
Note: There will be other minor tests performed by F1 and the FIA, but these are some of the main ones used
Formula 1 requires very advanced and incredibly safe helmets. This comes at an extreme cost of around $4,000-$6,000 each. While the helmets are incredibly strong, drivers will still use many helmets over the course of a season, bringing the total cost into the tens of thousands of dollars each year.
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