My job in Formula 1: The helmet manager
There are people fans don’t see on TV, but who help the F1 circus to perform the show. Motorsport.com brings you their personal stories. Here, we speak to Michael Aumento, the manager of Bell helmets.
My job is…
I am a racing manager at Bell Helmets, working with F1 drivers. My job is to prepare helmets for all of our drivers and try to find new ones, who want to use Bell helmets in Formula 1.
This year we work in F1 with Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi, George Russell, Nicolas Latifi, Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez.
We work closely with drivers on an individual basis to give them the best package possible regarding cooling and visibility. Plus we liaise with the teams, always trying to improve the aero package and make the car faster, even using small spoilers and wings on the helmet. We can even develop some aero parts together with engineers.
My race weekend schedule…
Usually I leave home on Wednesday night to make sure I’m at the track early in the morning on Thursday. Most of the time I carry up to eight of the drivers’ helmets with me, which we couldn’t send to the track with their teams for various reasons.
My first job is to prepare all the helmets for the weekend. Normally I would ready for each driver two helmets for dry weather and one for wet. If the forecast says it is going to be rainy weekend, I’d make it the other way around.
The two dry helmets have different visors, one of them is dark. For example in Barcelona when the sun is very low, you just cannot see the track properly with a normal one.
The helmet of Lando Norris, McLaren
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Every day I arrive to the track two hours before the first session to make sure I can help fix any problem that has emerged. After each session, I clean all the helmets, dry them up, change air intakes, vanes and aero parts, if needed. There can be a lot of dust sometimes. Straight after qualifying I start prepare helmets for the race.
I need two helmets with the same spec before the race, so if there is any problem, like with the radio or drinking tube, we can immediately swap the helmet. After the race is finished I clean all the helmets and refresh them again, so they are prepared for the next weekend straight away. Every second race I will change one drivers’ helmets out of three.
Most important thing in my job…
To always have an answer. When the driver calls me and tells he’s got a problem or he needs something, I need to have a solution at that exact moment. As soon as he calls, you can’t waste time thinking about it for 10 or 15 minutes. I have to have the solution immediately.
I see it as my main strength. When the driver or his physio calls me and tells me he needs something, I always know immediately what I will do. For example, if the guy wants more ventilation, I have tools to improve it. I know by heart all specs of my drivers’ helmets. So I can go straight away and fix it.
Three tools I can’t do my job without…
The first one is my key for the visor. One side is for the screw of the visor and the other one to make it tighter or looser. My second most important tools is scissors. Sometimes we need to close some air intakes with the tape, so I need to have scissors all the time with me. And the third one is a set of tear-offs. If a driver needs them, he should get them straight away. So I always carry some with me.
Photo by: Oleg Karpov
People I’m always in contact with…
Drivers and their physios. It is very important to have direct connection. I always prefer to speak to the driver himself, because he always knows exactly what the problem is, and I always know how can I help him. Sometimes we work with their physios as well, but they can not always give you the feedback you need.
When not at the track…
I work a lot at the factory. Before each race I prepare all the visors and tear-offs and so on. But I am also involved in research and development, working directly with engineers to make our helmets even better. Nowadays it is very important to have light helmets, because of the increased cornering speed and g-forces. Our new helmet is just 1.3 kilogrammes. This is very light. And this is very important.
Everyone is replaceable. I think I do a good job for Bell and our drivers. I like my job, and always do the maximum. One of my favourite challenges is to work with new drivers. You want them to be happy with your job and comfortable as soon as they start working with you. And I think if you ask drivers about me and my job, you will get a lot of positive responses. Because I always try to do the maximum.
Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo with Michael Aumento, Racing Manager at Bell Helmets
Photo by: Alfa Romeo
Formula 1 is…
Perfect. But it’s not a holiday. I think many people, who are not from this world would like to have same job that I have, but it’s not just a job. It’s lot of responsibility and sacrifices. It is difficult to work in F1, because it takes almost all your time. My family sees me 30-50 days a year.
It is a great world. I love it, but it’s also tough. Because I see people from F1 more often than my son. And when I’m at home I try to spend all my free time with him. But I also like motorsport and people from F1. This is also in a way my family.
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