In April this year, TJ13 reported Lewis Hamilton had ended the life long relationship he had with his helmet supplier, Arai.
Hamilton explained, “As a driver you want to improve everywhere, and the [Arai] helmet’s not been in the wind tunnel”.
Arai were miffed as Lewis tested out a new Bell helmet and responded: “The ‘undeveloped’ [in a wind tunnel] helmet won the last five World Championships.”
The tiniest margins in Formula One matter. In 2015, Nico Rosberg lost out on pole position to Hamilton in China by 4/100ths of a second. Shanghai is a circuit where Hamilton has dominated qualifying in recent years. And it appears Hamilton’s switch of helmet supplier was not without good reason.
Open cockpit racing has always meant the drivers can feel the effect of the wind buffeting the head as they hurtle down the straights and through the high speed corners. So now as with all other aspects of the car design – which pass under the aerodynamic microscope – the driver is being scrutinised for his impact on the car’s aerodynamics.
Michael Schumacher pioneered certain investigations into helmet design and aerodynamics and Sebastian Vettel has taken up the mantle.
A close examination of Vettel’s Helmet reveals a small ‘front wing’ kind of arrangement. This is designed to produce downforce as does a wind on a car – and prevent the airflow over the car lifting the drivers head at high speed.
Also at the rear of Vettel’s helmet is a scoop designed to smooth the airflow behind the drivers head and attach it to the main flow of air without creating any turbulence.