EXCLUSIVE – McLaren: Bling won’t slow Lewis down

lrg-import-steinmetz-2The diamond encrusted helmets that Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen will sport in today’s Monaco Grand Prix have been rigorously proofed for aerodynamic efficiency, Forumula1.com has learned.

The McLaren-Mercedes duo will make the dash around the Monte Carlo streets this year in special personalised helmets; their signatures paved in a line of hundreds of Steinmetz diamonds.

To ensure that the rocks don’t interfere with the optimal airflow over the MP4-23, McLaren have subjected the helmets to meticulous aerodynamic testing in order to place the diamonds in the least obtrusive position on the curvature.

“No matter how pure or sparkling Steinmetz’s diamonds are, lap time is more precious to us,” Jonathan Neale, McLaren’s Managing Director, told Forumula1.com.

Aerodynamic efficiency, chassis and engine performance, and even potential noises that might distract the drivers were all taken into account when considering whether to allow the promotion to go ahead.

“It was all done in a careful, millimetre-perfect way,” says Neale. “The location of the diamonds on our drivers’ helmets has been carefully checked so as not to present a turbulent flow that would be either detrimental to aerodynamic performance or engine intake performance, or distracting in terms of noise experienced by drivers.”

McLaren acknowledge that the diamonds, which protrude by a millimetre or so above the curvature of the helmets, do of course have an effect on the aerodynamic performance of the car, albeit in a very small way.

At a high-speed circuit such as Monza the effect may have been too great to allow the promotion to go ahead. But at Monaco, where speeds are comparatively low it was less of a problem for the Woking-based outfit.

Indeed, one of the myths of Monaco is that it is a high downforce circuit because of the volume of slow corners that the drivers have to negotiate. In fact, because downforce is so closely linked to velocity – it increases with the square of the car’s speed and needs a certain minimum speed to have any effect at all – the benefit of high levels of downforce in slow corners is actually quite small.

The real advantage, even more so this year due to the ban on traction control and electronic aids, is in the braking and acceleration zones; being able to brake as late as possible into the corners while getting good traction and launch out of them.

Lewis Hamilton meanwhile is delighted with the outcome of his creative input into the design of his helmet.

“I really like what Steinmetz has done this year,” said the British driver, “as some people might know I am very particular about my helmet but it looks great and will add some extra sparkle to the event.”

With a face full of Ferrari gearbox guaranteed for a large proportion of today’s race, the McLaren driver will be hoping his diamonds afford him even greater luck around the Principality.