Formula 1: The man of helmets

Bianca Leppert
Formula 1 helmets
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P eter citizen holds his ticket to the door of the Force India truck and whoops the door opens. In front of him is a shelf with four helmets by Adrian Sutil. Sanctuaries for the pilots: 'The helmet is the only personal part for the driver in the car,' says Bürger. His job is to keep this sanctuary in good shape. Bürger is the extended arm in the paddock of helmet manufacturer Arai. Twelve drivers from the current Formula 1 starting field rely on the Japanese brand when it comes to protecting their heads.

Peter Bürger prepares the Formula 1 helmets

Bürger takes care of them the fact that the helmets are always prepared. 'That includes cleaning,' he explains. 'That may not sound particularly exciting, but it is part of it.' When he starts his work on Thursday afternoon, Adrian Sutil's dirty helmet from Monaco is the first thing on the program. 'When I clean, I check everything right away. For example, whether something has loosened or something is damaged. It is comparable to palpation at the doctor's', explains Bürger.

In addition to cleaning and checking, there is the Arai -Men is also responsible for installing the drinking tube and the radio and preparing the helmet for the corresponding training session or the race. This includes choosing the right visor, for example. 'There are different visors for every weather situation. For example, a black visor for sunny weather like here in Istanbul. For cold rainy days we even have an electrically heated visor.'

Formula 1 drivers do not have to wear helmets Pay yourself

Every race weekend, every driver has around three helmets with them. Everyone is prepared for a different weather situation. That's why the shelf is well stocked with Sutil's helmets. The pilots do not have to buy the high-tech helmets, which cost around 5,000 euros including paintwork. Arai sponsors around eight to ten helmets a year including service and spare parts.

Spare parts for a helmet? If you think of conventional head protection for motorcycling, you may not be able to imagine what that means. But there are plenty of them in Formula 1 helmets. For example the wings, which can also be attached. 'The wings are essential,' explains Bürger, 'because when the air flows over the car and the helmet towards the airbox, the helmet is pulled up. And the faster it does.'The more suction there is on the route. 'This can be remedied by a wing on the top and at the height of the chin, which press the head protection back down with their effect.

In Istanbul, the variant for fast route characteristics is used But not every pilot drives with exactly the same wing combination. 'That depends on the size of the driver and how high he is in the cockpit. The aerodynamics of the car also play a role. There are around six different possible combinations. '

A Formula 1 helmet is a high-tech product

The shell of the helmet has been made of carbon, as has been prescribed since 2004. There is a layer underneath made of polyesterol foam and a fireproof lining. In addition, the drinking tube and the radio system are located in the helmet. Air conditioning for hot races like in Turkey, however, does not yet exist. Many large openings are not the solution either, because then the hot flows Air enters the helmet and the driver feels like under a hairdryer. 'Instead there is a ventilation system with chin ventilation, three entry openings at the level of the forehead and two exit holes at the back of the head through which the air is sucked out again by negative pressure.'
Bürger is now a real professional. He has not missed a race in 14 years. He speaks to the drivers almost every hour. He now knows exactly how to assess his flocks and their wishes. He has known Sebastian Vettel for ten years.

But doesn't work get monotonous at some point? Bürger only thought of quitting once after three years, but then carried on. 'I thought about whether cleaning helmets and keeping them in good condition is really fulfilling,' says Bürger. 'But then I realized again what a great job it is in Formula 1. Not everyone has the chance to work in such a high-end area. But you need the fascination and passion for it. ' Peter Bürger still has it after more than 14 years. Even to clean your helmet.


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