‘Helmetgate’ is just the latest storm in a teacup for F1


Earlier this week, the F1 Commission met in Geneva to discuss the future of the sport. Up for discussion were louder and bigger engines, new aerodynamic designs and a far more radical path for the future.

Ultimately though, none of that was actually agreed on, ratified or confirmed, with the decision being to have another meeting in one year’s time and re-evaluate the situation.

Instead, what was actually agreed on was a blanket ban on helmet design changes across the course of the season. Sebastian Vettel’s tendency to bring a new one to each race did irk a few people in 2014, and has prompted a widespread change in F1 to prevent a repeat occurrence.

There was an immediate outcry from the F1 community, with a number of ex-drivers and pundits having their two cents and making their bemusement clear. The ‘issue’ of changing helmets was more of a minor annoyance or tick than a serious problem that really needed to be dealt with.

It’s just the latest storm in a teacup to come out of Formula 1. The winter has been a particularly turbulent one, with two teams fighting tooth and nail to survive, one collapsing completely, and the big questions about the cost crisis that engulfs the sport still being asked with very little in the way of a firm answer.

The benefits of forcing the drivers to stick with the same helmet design are quite obvious. Much like a number, it makes them instantly recognizable for fans watching on TV or in the grandstands. Throughout the history of the sport, many drivers have sported an iconic design throughout their careers that has become a part of their legacy: think of Ayrton Senna, Gilles Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher, to name but three.

It is certainly something that has been lost in recent years. Lewis Hamilton traditionally ran with a bright yellow helmet during his karting and junior racing days, but dropped it upon his move to Mercedes in 2013. Vettel’s constant chopping and changing of designs mean that you cannot possibly explain what his helmet looks like – there are too many to choose from.

A very pertinent comment came from ex-F1 and now-WEC driver Alexander Wurz on the subject: “It shall remain our free right of expression”. It is one of the few things that a driver can control. Fernando Alonso traditionally has yellow and blue on his helmet, the colors of Oviedo, his hometown. Others all have certain symbols and messages that are important to them and them alone.

But for some races, they will want to make a change. Home grands prix and special events such as Monaco are particularly popular for drivers who want to make alterations to their design. Kimi Raikkonen famously ran with a James Hunt design on his helmet in Monaco a few years ago, whilst Romain Grosjean less famously paid tribute to actor Matt Le Blanc with his helmet in Austin last year. Again though, it is their freedom of expression.

It is strange that issues such as these sit on the agenda list. In reality, it is such a menial and minor thing that it shouldn’t even come into the F1 Commission’s remit or sphere. The task is to improve the show and to make F1 a generally better sport. It certainly needs improving, but fans will be more deterred from going to a race by extortionate ticket prices than the fact that their favorite driver might have a different helmet.

Yet again, F1 appears to have missed the point. Double points was another example of a storm in a teacup: a measure that was introduced as a knee-jerk response to a problem that was not fully explained or explored.

The fact that drivers are changing helmet design every other race is neither here nor there if we are to look at the big picture: it just is what it is. It doesn’t deter fans’ enjoyment of the sport; it’s merely something the cynics will moan about because they need something to slate.

After all, there’s no need to make mountains out of molehills. F1 should focus on the actual problems at hand and try to make real progress in improving the sport, instead of picking on the minor annoyances that we can quite easily live and race with.

Beta Motorcycles joins SuperMotocross in 2024, Benny Bloss named first factory rider

Beta Motorcycles 2024 Bloss
Beta Motorcycles

Benny Bloss will race for the factory Beta Motorcycles team in 2024 as that manufacturer joins SuperMotocross as the ninth brand to compete in the series. Beta Motorcycles will make their debut in the Monster Energy Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California in January.

Benny Bloss finished among the top 10 twice in Pro Motocross, in 2016 and 2018. – Beta Motorcycles

“The wait is over and we can finally share everything we have been working towards,” said Carlen Gardner, Race Team Manager in a press release. “It has been a great experience being a part of this development and seeing the progression. The only missing part was finding a rider that would mesh well with our Beta Family.

“After a one phone call with Benny, we knew it would be a good fit for him, and for us. We are happy to have him on board for the next two years and can’t wait to see everyone at Anaheim in January.”

Bloss debuted in the 450 class in 2015 with a 15th-place finish overall at Ironman Raceway in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Bloss has a pair of top-10 rankings in the division with a sixth-place finish in the Pro Motocross Championship in 2016 and a seventh in 2018. His best Supercross season ended 15th in the standings in 2018.

“I’m extremely excited to join the Beta Factory Racing team,” Bloss said. “It’s cool to see a brand with such a rich history in off-road racing to come into the US Supercross and Motocross space. I know this team will be capable of great things as we build and go racing in 2024.”

Bloss is currently 22nd in the SuperMotocross rankings and has not raced in the first two rounds of the Motocross season.

Testing for Beta Motorcycles is scheduled to begin in August and the team expects to announce a second rider at that time.

The family-owned brand adds to the international flare of the sport. The company was founded in Florence, Italy in 1905 as Società Giuseppe Bianchi as they built handmade bicycles, The transition to motorcycle production in the late 1940s.

Beta Motorcycles competed and won in motocross competition in the late 1970s and early 1980s with Jim Pomeroy and other riders.

Beta will join Triumph Motorcycles as a second historic brand to join the sport in 2024. First established in 1902, Triumph has won in nearly every division they have competed in, dating back to their first victory in the 1908 Isle of Man TT. Triumph will debut in the 250 class in 2024 and plans to expand into 450s in 2025.