Over the course of time, just one fleeting glance at their helmet was enough for fans to know who was wearing it, be it the tartan of Jackie Stewart, the London Rowing Club colours of Graham (and Damon) Hill or the yellow, black and green of Ayrton Senna.
In recent years however, as the cars, overalls and pretty much everything else appeared to look the same, drivers sought to personalise the one thing they felt still identified them, their helmets.
During his Red Bull days, Sebastian Vettel would sport a different helmet livery at every race, sometimes changing the look over th course of the weekend, but as is so often the case, the spoil sports at the FIA chose to interfere, ruling in 2016 that drivers were only allowed to change the look of their helmet once over the course of the season.
While some, most notably Vettel, have continued to make subtle changes, occasionally opting for a whole new look, the debate kicked back into life over the Russian Grand Prix weekend when Daniil Kvyat was refused permission to wear a special design.
Last week, Lewis Hamilton took to social media to ask fans their thoughts. "How many of you think it’s BS," he asked in a poll on Instagram, “who thinks we should be free to express ourselves and have more changes?” 90% of those that voted agreed with the world champion.
Over the weekend at COTA, the subject arose once again, with Vettel and Max Verstappen making no secret of their thoughts on the rule.
"Well, I change it anyway," smile Vettel, who has sported a number of different deigns this year, including a tribute to Niki Lauda in Monaco, "it's our helmet and we should be free to do what we want, so I think the rule is major BS.
"We have very little room left to sort of express ourselves," he continued, "and the helmet is probably the only one and if people like it, that's great, if they don't like it well it's not their helmet so I think we should be in charge for designing which way and which colour our helmet has."
"I agree," added Verstappen. "I always loved when Seb was at Red Bull and changing his helmet every race, almost, more or less.
"It was cool because you were just like 'what is he coming up with now?' I do a few but I'm not going to say I will do a different helmet every race because it's just too much effort in designing the helmet but I think if you want to make it blue or red, the next race, why not? It's your crash helmet and you should be able to do what you want and of course in the past, there have been drivers who have always had the same helmet and then they say 'yeah, but that's how we can distinguish the drivers' but at the end of the day we have massive numbers on the side, we anyway have a halo on the top so let us do what we want with the helmet now.
"I think it's very nice to have a different design every year because it's a bit boring always to keep the same helmet."
"I don't know," admitted Valtteri Bottas, who has retained the same basic design ever since he entered F1. "Sometimes it's nice to keep the same helmet but for sure sometimes it would be nice to do something special, every now and then and obviously everyone might have a special occasion, you know, whatever, or a special connection to some certain country where you want to do something special or pay a respect to someone you know or whatever.
"It would be nice to see a bit more freedom because like both of them have said, it's our personal thing. We should be in control of that rather than anyone else."