W How many employees do you have in your company in Salzgitter and how is the corona crisis affecting you?
Munser: We currently employ 14 people. Home office is difficult with our divided processes. But of course we adhere to the known recommendations on distance and hygiene. We try to avoid each other a bit and when painting we have masks with activated carbon filters on anyway. It is important that employees also adhere to the rules privately in order to avoid introducing infections.
And how has the order situation changed?
Munser: We are currently still busy. Many of our customers' racing series should not start until May or early June and have not been completely suspended. Fortunately, not much has been canceled so far. Everyone expects that it will hopefully start again soon. In spring, the waiting time for customers with us is always relatively long. That should be reduced a little soon. In the long term, however, I expect effects. If Formula 1 races are cut now, the drivers will of course also need fewer helmets. Although I cannot say whether the agreed number of races is necessarily linked to the number of helmets.
What happens if the F1 drivers order fewer helmets?
Munser: For us, the work is divided into graphic development and production. The Formula 1, with the many replicas of the same design, is part of the production. If the break lasts longer, then the creative graphics department must be even more creative in order to utilize the capacities with more individual paintwork. But that can't be scaled forever because the planning effort becomes too high.
According to current plans, the season with several races could be back in the summer in a short time start. Do you expect increased stress then?
Munser: Of course we will continue to produce in stock so that we will not come under so much pressure later. Many of our employees have vacation periods in summer. We have to be prepared for this and use the time now.
Do the drivers report new design suggestions during the break?
Munser: It's very quiet at the moment. I think that there will only be more contact again when you know when the next race is sure to take place. In general, the situation is extraordinary. Usually we schedule our helmets down to the hour, and suddenly you have three months to spare. That is very unusual!
For the first time this year, the pilots are allowed to freely switch designs. Do you expect more work in the creative department as a result?
Munser: I don't think all drivers will use this to such an extreme. Lando Norris has already announced something in this direction, but most drivers will probably only do something new for certain races. Max (Verstappen), for example, was quite satisfied with how it was before. And even with Sebastian (Vettel) the really wild times are over. The white helmet with the flag is now his identification mark and it will probably stay that way. We were able to let off steam to some extent even under the old rules. We kept playing with details without changing the basic design.
Was the end of the design change ban overdue?
Munser: I find it In any case, it is good that this blockade has now ended. The helmet belongs to the driver and he mustsimply have the freedom to choose the design of your helmet yourself. There are already the guidelines for sponsors from the team. In the end, however, nobody is allowed to talk into the design. The helmet is the only thing the driver has left to express himself individually.
Many fans appreciate the creativity that goes into the helmets. New designs are shared on social media. Are you happy about the increased attention?
Munser: Of course you are happy about the fan base who is interested in the fringe topic of 'helmet designs'. Together with Sebastian, we brought a little momentum to the topic and simply threw the old rule that a driver never changes his design overboard. It actually started back in 2001 with Michael Schumacher. At that time, after the attacks in New York, we incorporated the American flag for a race as a statement. We later continued this when we celebrated world championships or anniversaries with special designs. Back then, we already saw the helmet as a communication surface, which is now firmly established.
Is it true that Daniil Kvyat was not allowed to wear one of her helmets last season because of the ban on changing?
Munser: Yes, that's right. It already had a different design in Monza. And we made another special helmet for his home game in Russia. It was painted in a brushstroke look in Russian colors. In this case, the FIA was officially asked whether the new version corresponds to the normal design. When asked, they couldn't answer anything other than 'no'. In other cases, where there was no request, they just didn't look too closely. There are generally more important rules than helmet design. Then the topic was re-examined and the law changed.
Are there any current trends in helmet design?
Munser: There are no big trends. Personally, I am no longer into such very small-scale designs with lots of lines and jagged edges. Maybe that's itthe fact that I'm no longer 20. I prefer clear designs with large areas or lettering that is easy to recognize. The colors or the effects can be a bit more unusual. I think you should be able to recognize the design while driving and simply be able to trace it on a sheet of paper from memory. In the kart scene today, the designs are sometimes very playful. At first glance, you only see something colorful driving by.
What does Jens Munser Designs do when the riders no longer need new helmets due to the crisis?
Munser: Fortunately, we have other pillars. In addition to the helmets, we also offer high-quality merchandise and collectibles. For example, new works of art are created from original products that were used in races. For the so-called 'Racing Artwork' we process helmet visors, suits or gloves. We also manufacture 50 percent replica helmets in the original design as a 3D image. In the end, the products always have a handmade character. It's all high-quality work and no normal giveaways like caps or T-shirts.