Helmet manufacturer Schuberth, based in Magdeburg, proved once again the importance of using sophisticated, high-tech materials and fabrics: The T 1000 carbon fibre protected Brazilian Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa from serious injury during his accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Schuberth specialists spent about 3,000 hours working on the development of a Formula 1 helmet. Special attention is paid to the development of carbon fibre, a material which today can be used in the production of Formula 1 helmets only thanks to the skilful application of Schuberth specialists. Today, the T 1000 represents the current state of development; presently, it is the world’s most impact-resistant carbon fibre. Millions of tiny fibres, woven into between 80 and 120 layers, form a layer that serves as the basic structure of the helmet shell. Massa’s helmet featured 18 of these carbon fibre layers, whereas a normal motorcycle helmet has only three.
In terms of impact protection, the performance of these carbon fibres remains unsurpassed. Additionally, a special coating ensures that a Formula 1 helmet can withstand the heat of a welding flame (approx. 900degrees C) positioned 5 centimetres away for 45 seconds.
Protection and safety – and also a matter of comfort
The helmet not only protects the driver in accidents, it also prevents them. To this end, the helmets have a special acoustic collar which maintains stress-inducing noise at the lowest possible level. Only muffled motor sounds of less than 100 decibels reach the driver’s ear, while just an arm-length behind his back, an eight-cylinder [motor] roars at 19,000 revolutions.
On account of the enormous inertial forces, weight also plays an extraordinary role. Braking alone exposes the driver’s neck muscles to six times normal gravitation [/a force of 6 Gs], at least for a time. The titanium chin strap clasp weighs 6 grams less than the steel clasp and this represents significant relief to the driver over the course of the race.
Eye protection consists of a four millimetre-thick, impact-resistant polycarbon panel capable of stopping an approaching particle travelling at 500 km/h. In 2008, Schuberth engineers provided their drivers with a visor that can be heated if desired, which was a totally new feature at the time; it garnered interest from other Formula 1 drivers after the notorious race in the rain at Silverstone.
Technology transfer makes involvement in Formula 1 a success
The inconceivable performance of the Formula 1 helmet is only made possible by a long period of development, which can be an expensive undertaking: helmet manufacturer Schuberth budgets six figures for the development of a new, ready-to-use Formula 1 helmet. An exemplar generated by scans is then used to adapt the helmet to the heads of Formula 1 drivers.
In any case, the company’s involvement in the most prestigious motor sport creates intellectual capital that can be used in later product lines. Many details and technical improvements employed in Formula 1 products find application in the development of helmets for construction protection, fire brigades, the police and the military. This internal technology transfer has significantly contributed to the circumstance that Schuberth’s leading development position remains uncontested, and not only in terms of motorcycle helmets. The head protection technology from Magdeburg also remains unassailed as world leader in all other areas of application.
Marcel Lejeune, Managing Director of Schuberth GmbH, emphasises the importance of Formula 1 for the development of Schuberth’s other helmets: "Formula 1 is the ideal platform to test our products at a high level technically, and under extreme conditions. We transfer everything we learn in Formula 1 to our other product lines for motorcycles, construction protection, police and military. All of our clients profit greatly from our Formula 1 experience. Our most important goal is to be able to offer optimally-adapted head protection that features maximum safety."