Bottas' helmet leaves slightly bitter taste

22/02/2018
NEWS STORY

In days gone by, whatever they were driving, most drivers were instantly recognizable by their helmet livery. Be it the tartan that adorned Jackie Stewart's lid, the iconic yellow, black and green of Senna, the London Rowing Club motif of Graham Hill or the plain red, white and blue of Chris Amon and Pete Aron.

As the sport went more corporate however this was reflected in one of the few areas that remained personal to the drivers, his helmet, and the familiar colours sported as they made their way up the ladder were ditched in favour of something that reflected their new team and sponsors.

As some drivers insisted on making recognition even more difficult by changing their liveries on a race by race basis, the FIA stepped in and introduced a rule - as it so often does - restricting the practice.

As a result, at a time when car launches have lost all the excitement and anticipation of the glory days of the 90s, when the teams appeared to be in competition to find the most outlandish venues and support acts, fans are now treated to the ritual unveiling of their hero's new helmet, even though it is usually just as uninspiring as the previous year's.

Over the past two years Mercedes has taken things a step further, inviting fans to design the liveries its drivers will sport over the coming months. Last year it was the turn of Lewis Hamilton, while this year fans were asked to provide a new livery for teammate Valtteri Bottas.

After weeks of, no doubt, painstaking thought, Valtteri Bottas has chosen a winner.

"For drivers, the helmet design is the only thing that is visible to the outside," he told the Mercedes website. "It is your personal design and tells a little bit about yourself. Many, many drivers have been carrying similar designs for their whole career. It's your own trademark."

"Putting that power in the hands of the fans was no easy task for Valtteri," adds the team, "and choosing a winning helmet design - which he'll use at the majority of races this season - proved to be a new and challenging experience. Valtteri's supporters drew up design ideas for his primary 2018 helmet design, taking inspiration from the man himself while putting their own unique twist on it."

"I was pretty open-minded," insists Bottas. "I was ready to do small modifications and, if I found something nice, I was prepared to change it completely.

"Each year, I have tried to change it somehow," he adds. "I've never had two seasons with exactly the same helmet."

"That's why, this year, he opened it up to the fans," adds Mercedes. "He was on the hunt for something distinctive and unlike anything on the F1 grid. The winning entry certainly delivers that."

"I was really impressed with how many good designs there were," says the Finn. "People really committed to the competition and it was nice to see, because it is not like you just click one button to enter. You actually needed to spend time on it, so I was very, very impressed and grateful to the fans."

Talking of the selection process, he reveals: "Initially, I got it down to about 40 or 50 pretty quickly but then it was more difficult to get down to 20 and then down to 10.

"It took quite a few days," he admits. "I was looking at them again every day and, unfortunately, I had to remove them one by one until I had the winner. I felt sorry removing the designs because they were so nice, so I think the winner is very lucky."

In the end he chose the design submitted by Andy Werner.

"Andy Werner's striking entry caught Valtteri's attention and was selected as the winner, after many hours of decision-making and deliberation," says Mercedes. "The eye-catching livery features the same sharp, modern design on both sides - but the colour schemes are asymmetrical, creating a distinctive look that sets it apart from other helmet designs on the grid."

"I really like the colours," says Bottas, "and it is quite different to any other suggestions for the design. What I really liked about it is that it is different from left to right with the colours and it looks fast. That is always important. It is not symmetrical and I hadn't seen that very much before with other helmet designs. It is a new season and I wanted a new helmet, so hopefully I will carry this kind of helmet for the rest of my career."

"I knew I was taking a rather unusual and risky approach," enthused winner Andy Werner, "either he's going to totally like it, or totally not," he says. "I'm really happy to see it all paid off, as he seems to be open-minded about different styles."

Taking to Twitter, Mercedes congratulated Andy on his winning design. "His striking entry caught #VB77's attention after many hours of decision-making and deliberation!

"A BIG thank you again to all the #BestFans who entered!" added the team, along with a number of clapping hand emojis.

Somehow however, in all the excitement, it wasn't mentioned that Andy Werner is a professional livery designer, who, according to his website has designed for the likes of Adidas, Mini, BMW and Toyota Motorsport.

No problem with that, you might feel. However, let's not forget that last year's 'competition' to design a livery for Lewis Hamilton's lid was won by Rai Caldato, a professional designer who has not only worked with Alan Mosca, son of Sid Mosca, the creator of Ayrton Senna's iconic helmet, but has previously won competitions including that to design the helmet worn by Bruno Senna in the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix to commemorate his Uncle in what would have been his 50th year.

In a sport that regularly sees the latest addition to the calendar pick up the prize for best organised race, maybe we should take it for granted that 'fan' competitions will be won by professionals, and while we congratulate Andy Werner on his winning design the whole thing seems just a tad cynical.

Much like those 'ordinary' fans that will never get the chance to stand on the grid alongside their heroes as the sport abandons grid girls for 'Grid Kids', so the fan working late into the night on their amateur, yet impassioned, concept of a lid for their hero is kidding themselves, they never stood a chance.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 22/02/2018
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