Bell Helmets, which supplies 12 of the 20 Formula 1 drivers, provides them with three helmets for each race weekend. Over a season, drivers may use as many as 25. Helmets can be reused, but “everything has to be as light as possible, so if there is a stone chip, we are not going to repair it and add weight — we’ll go and use a new helmet, ” said Stephane Cohen, chief executive of Racing Force, Bell’s parent company.
And, like with overalls, used helmets sometimes are auctioned for charity. A helmet Max Verstappen of Red Bull wore at the Austrian Grand Prix this year was auctioned, along with other items, for 250,000 euros, or about $243,000.
A basic carbon-fiber Formula 1 helmet can cost $5,000, but for Formula 1 drivers Bell scans each head for an ideal fit, meaning it can reach $15,000.
Bell must also consider visibility; Formula 1 races are held during the day, at night and at twilight, while weather conditions vary. It means there are different visors for different conditions, which can be affixed and removed midrace.
“Imagine driving on a partly wet racetrack under a cloudy sky, then the dry line,” where the track will look slightly different as it dries, “starts appearing. It is very important for the racing driver to clearly see with the highest possible level of contrast where the best lines are and how the track is evolving,” Cohen said. “It is a personal choice; some will prefer lighter, some will prefer a darker visor.”
Attached to the protective padding inside the helmet is a camera weighing 2.5 grams. It is at eye level and shoots video from a driver’s perspective.
“The purpose was to give to the viewer the exact view of what the racing driver sees through his helmet’s shield,” Cohen said. For example, he said, “some oil comes on the visor, we want the viewer to see it and to feel it.”