F1 Drops Rule Restricting Helmet Design Changes
In and amongst the controversy surrounding Ferrari’s allegedly-possibly-not-quite-legal 2019 engine (hey, we don’t want to get sued), it almost slipped without notice that the FIA has scrapped the regulation restricting the number of helmet designs a driver can use during the 2020 season.
The original rule, article 9.1, stated that, “In order for drivers to be easily distinguished from one another whilst they are on the track, the crash helmet of each driver must, with the exception of one Event of the driver’s choice, be presented in substantially the same livery at every Event during a Championship season.” A rule that proved unpopular with large quarters of Formula 1’s fanbase and many of the drivers themselves.
Sebastian Vettel, who infamously swapped helmet designs on an almost race-by-race basis during his time at Red Bull Racing, was a particularly strong critic of article 9.1, calling it “major BS” on the eve of last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Following the first meeting of the year for the World Motor Sport Council though, the FIA has confirmed that “a change to the 2020 Sporting Regulations was approved to allow for unrestricted variations to driver helmet designs between races.”
Is this move a good rule? For one erudite member of the Petrolicious office who made his thoughts on article 9.1 quite clear last October, absolutely not, though admittedly, given the response on social media, this particular writer appears to be overwhelmingly in the minority. Oh well, a good year while it lasted!
A reversal of article 9.1 was only one of the tweaks to the sporting and technical regulations released by the FIA on Friday though. Owing to the “addition of new elements to monitor the Power Units”, minimum mass has now been increased by 1kg from 745kg to 746kg (every little helps). The end of season test in Abu Dhabi will use Pirelli’s new 18in tyres, which will be implemented for the 2021 season. Revisions have also been made to the front wing endplates, top bodywork and rear wing endplates to allow teams more commercial space for sponsorship logos, and, perhaps most crucially, changes have also been made to front wing profiles in order to reduce downwash and, hopefully, incrementally increase overtaking opportunities this season. Tethers for the rear wings and “rear impact structures” have also been mandated.
*Images courtesy of Ferrari, Red Bull Content Pool, Renault and Mercedes-AMG F1