Any racer will tell you their helmet is much more than just a hard-hat. For some, like the wearers of these nine iconic designs, it even defines their persona.
1. AYRTON SENNA
During the 80s and 90s, when the F1 TV cockpit-cam showed Senna’s Brazilian-flag-themed helmet, you knew you were going to see some spectacular and ruthless wheel-work. It was designed by helmet-painter and fellow Brazilian, Sid Mosca, during Senna’s early karting days. It changed little besides the addition of sponsor labels.
2. NELSON PIQUET
The design of Brazilian F1 legend Nelson Piquet’s helmet was so unique he could never have been mistaken for anyone else. His headgear always featured a red teardrop – except for 1988 and 1989 when he drove for Lotus and it was yellow – on a white background with red stripes. It protected him through 14 F1 seasons.
3. JAMES HUNT
Known for his antics off-track as well as on it, Hunt’s ‘sex, the breakfast of champions’ racing overalls were perhaps even more iconic than the Brit’s helmet – which was plain black with his own name plastered across it. He won the F1 World Championship in 1976, and his story, and championship rivalry with Niki Lauda, remains one of the sport’s most colourful.
4. CHRIS AMON
Amon is often referred to as F1’s unluckiest driver, though the fact that he survived when so many of his contemporaries didn’t means he might not have been so unfortunate after all. While an F1 race victory eluded Amon, he had plenty of success in sports cars, and throughout it all his signature white, red and blue Bell helmet was a constant presence.
5. SIR JACKIE STEWART
A Scotsman born and bred, it’s only that Sir Jackie Stewart’s helmet should heavily feature Scotland’s national pattern. More often associated with kilts or caps, both of which Stewart also regularly appears in, the signature ring of tartan on an otherwise plain white helmet served as a warning to other drivers they were about to be overtaken.
6. VALENTINO ROSSI
We’re not a motorcycle magazine, but we couldn’t leave out Rossi’s hilarious ‘face’ helmet. The MotoGP star presumably wanted to distract his opponents, so he had a comical image of his own face plastered across the back of his hard-hat. There was also a period where he had a donkey’s head on his helmet – must be an Italian thing.
7. NIKI LAUDA
Just like that of his 1976 rival, James Hunt, Niki’s helmet was simple and consistent. The vibrant masses of red helped – as did his name plastered on the helmet’s side – to identify the three-time world champion on track. When Lauda returned to F1 with McLaren, however, the helmet was more white-heavy, but this was eventually reversed.
8. DARIO FRANCHITTI
As a Scotsman of Italian heritage, Franchitti’s helmet combined both the Italian and Scottish flags on a dark-blue tartan background. Stylistically, the helmet clashed with his all-red Target-branded Indy car in 2009, but we doubt anyone at the team was brave and/or stupid enough to argue with a Scotsman with Italian blood.
9. HENRI PESCAROLO
Better known for his dominating presence in endurance racing than for his brief career in Formula One, Pescarolo competed in 33 Le Mans 24 Hour races as a driver, winning four of them – he also won 15 as team director. For each race he competed in as a driver, he was guarded by his iconic green helmet, always matched with a beard.