A brand new, limited edition coffee table book – Formula Helmet – chronicles 18 Formula 1 drivers between 1969 and 1999 by examining their helmet designs and offering facts, anecdotes and background behind the designs and the drivers who wore them.
Unwrapping Formula Helmet from its packaging was the most excited I’ve been about a book in some time, and well… I don’t know.
On the plus side, it features endless gratuitous, luscious shots of F1 driver helmets from the 1970s-1990s, together with interviews and insights from helmet manufacturers, livery designers and drivers. Open the book on any given page and, provided you’re a fan of motorsport helmets – and not, say, lawn bowls – there will be something to enjoy.
The problem is that the book just doesn’t fit together as a whole – frustratingly teasing a few directions that, if followed through, could have been far more satisfying. For example, an encyclopaedia of driver lids from that era would have been superb, organised by year or manufacturer.
Likewise, a structure akin to John Devlin’s hypnotic “International Football Kits”, showing the evolution of the main drivers’ helmet designs year on year would have also been deeply enjoyable. This is partially done for a handful of drivers, but again not sufficiently followed through to be comprehensive.
Instead, there is a bit of everything thrown in – some decade summary pages, nods to the different manufacturers, highlighting key rivalries, but none of it exhaustive. The text, which is presented in both English and French, is at times frustratingly vague – for example a Francois Cevert helmet captioned ‘Watkins Glen 1973’ is shown, but nowhere is the deeply poignant context and history definitively explained.
I wanted to love this book so much, and there is lots to enjoy, but the inability to comprehensively execute any of the many ideas presented left me wanting so much more. There is a fantastic coffee table book about F1 helmets to be produced, but sadly Formula Helmet isn’t quite it.
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Author: Bruno Bayol
Publisher: Red Runner
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