No 1 With A Bullet
January 31, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Here are a couple of examples.
Formula One world champion, Michael Schumacher will have a bullet-proof helmet this year, and rookie Juan Pablo Montoya is battling a weight problem.
While safety is a very serious issue, don’t you wonder why a driver needs a bullet-proof helmet?
A Ferrari spokesman answered "It's made of bullet-proof materials, but it's not designed specifically to be bullet-proof."
The German driver had to have his head scanned for the helmet, which is made from Kevlar and carbon fiber.
The question remains, do drivers need bullet-proof helmets? Well, if they ever race in Moscow, it could be required of all drivers. Wasn’t the driver of the mayor of Moscow, a proponent of a Formula One race in the former Soviet country, gunned down in an attempt on the mayor’s life?
Years ago, in Italy, kidnapping was the number one participant sport. Maybe that’s why a driver needs this type of protection.
In addition to its number one defense, the helmet purifies air and its visor has a specially designed device to prevent accidental opening in case of heavy impact.
Maybe it also cuts out the frequency of the Italian fans’ voices who want an autograph as the world champion meanders through the paddock.
Since the helmet is noticeably lighter than the one it replaces, it got me to thinking... How about air conditioning?
If it already has an air purifier, why not let it blow cool air on the driver’s brow. You won’t have to worry about a rock breaking the cooling system since it is bullet-proof.
If it can have air conditioning, why not an MP3 player, so that Schuey won’t get bored, lose concentration and spin, like he did while leading the U.S. Grand Prix last year
Since an MP3 won’t skip like a CD, they can put anything on the computer chip to keep the champ focused, so maybe they could put a computer race simulation on it, too. That way, if the race is really boring, he could program the race and do something else.
In the Formula One world, where it’s said teams manage to overspend unlimited budgets, anything is possible, just like bullet-proof helmets.
Juan’s battle of the bulge –
Long ago, race drivers were men’s men. They drank hard, stayed up late, cursed and ate red meat. A big belly didn’t affect the throttle pedal or steering. Cars then were very heavy, had no power assists, there was little sophistication in driving.
Today’s drivers look like they could be pushovers for audio-video club in high school. When I heard that some of the Formula One crowd were acting like little junior high school kids calling Juan Pablo Montoya pudgy, it was a shock.
This guy, only 24, went around in jeans and a tee shirt on his Razor scooter in the paddock indistinguishable from his teenage fans.
Yet over in England, Patrick Head, technical director of the Williams team, said the 1999 CART champion had to lose weight to get down to his fighting trim as test driver for the team previously.
"He had the old roll of fat around the middle and was five kilos (11 pounds) heavier than he was two years ago," Head told the British papers.
Montoya was compared to another driver, once a rookie at Williams, who went on to become a world champion.
"I think he's been into the burgers and chips. He will have to raise his game enormously, the way Jacques Villeneuve did," Head said in September. It’s been said that Williams told Montoya he wouldn’t let him in an F1 car unless he started out each day in the team’s gym.
Montoya took these remarks seriously and has been working out, and watching his diet.
"We were concerned," Williams said. "He's a little overweight, but the weight is disappearing very quickly."
With about five weeks to go before the opening race in the Formula One series, isn’t it great to see they find something to say other than "this year will be better than the one before?" Everyone has conceded the title to Ferrari or McLaren, and the rest are fighting to be the best of the race.
That’s why Formula One "people stories" are more interesting than Formula One races.