nce, Sven Krieter didn’t really know what to make of Formula 1®. The past 10 years, however, have been spent at the sharp end of grand prix action in his role as protector-inchief of drivers’ craniums. He ensures they can (literally) keep a cool head and continue to see clearly even when the weather isn’t playing along. Today, Krieter is busy applying a rubber lip to the edge of a black helmet, turning it constantly, wiping away excess adhesive and pressing the elastic material firmly with three fingers as he explains the technology behind it. Welcome to the headgear specialist’s workplace in the German city of Magdeburg. The finished item will protect the head of Nico Rosberg in his next race for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Team. Helmet manufacturer Schuberth supplies five Formula 1® drivers, and Krieter is one of the company’s key figures, the face of the long-established helmet-maker’s motorracing activities. The 40-year-old travels with the Formula 1® circus to all the races and testing dates on the calendar, which means he racks up more than a quarter of a million kilometres in the air every year, and he wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Krieter, who trained as a heating and ventilation system fitter, hesitated before taking up the F1® job, such was the initially overawing nature of the assignment. However, after sleeping on it and taking an intensive English language course, he accepted the offer. “My first race was Silverstone in 2005. I’d never flown anywhere before,” he recalls, “let alone somewhere as hectic as Heathrow. Then there was driving on the left-hand side of the road without a navigation system. It was tough.” Thinking back to those early days makes him smile.
Each year, Krieter and his three colleagues make 80 helmets for F1® drivers, plus 20 for the DTM touring car series and about 150 for general sale. Amateur drivers may buy an SF1, Schuberth’s racing helmet, for €5000 (A$7630). A small workshop has been set up especially for making helmets in part of the state-of-the-art Schuberth factory. Here, Krieter and his team work on the helmets with the help of special tools, measuring instruments and high-end adhesives. It’s a fine example of the
The drivers have to feel good. We try out different variants of the helmet until everything is right. SVEN KRIETER
role still played by exclusive craftsmanship in the high-tech business of Formula 1®. The helmet shell is prefabricated from 19 layers of carbon fibre using a type of pressure oven called an autoclave. The individual layers are laid one on top of the other, placed in a vacuum and baked in the autoclave at up to six bar of pressure at 170–200°C. The monocoque safety cells of F1® cars are manufactured using the same method. Due to its ability to maximise material strength, this ultra-sophisticated procedure is also applied in the aerospace industry. Nico Rosberg uses the middle of the three helmet shell sizes produced. Krieter and his team are handed the hardened and painted helmet shells for the finishing stage. The sponsors’ logos and Rosberg’s personal designs are applied by airbrush before the team turns the shells into finished helmets. The shell protects against fire (the helmet has to withstand temperatures up to 740°C) and fragmentation, but without the right shock absorption that would mean nothing.
24 Mercedes-Benz magazine
3/02/16 1:56 PM
Mercedes-Benz magazine Issue 1, 2016