Michael Schumacher’s Schuberth RF-inspired helmet worth $20,000 once helped save Felipe Massa’s life in 2009

F1 Grand Prix of Brazil
Felipe Massa looks on in the Paddock prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 13, 2022 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Felipe Massa once walked out of a potentially fatal situation, thanks to Michael Schumacher.

Consider being struck by a metal object travelling nearly twice as quickly. That's what happened to Formula One driver Massa after he was hit by a spring during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in July 2009.

The spring had come off another car, Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP racecar. Massa's Ferrari was moving at roughly 160 mph when the spring and his helmet collided. Massa was released from the hospital after a few days.

All of this highlights the high standards to which Formula One helmets are designed. The helmet Felipe Massa was wearing was made by Schuberth. It's a German company that also made helmets for Massa's Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, Williams driver Nico Rosberg, and BMW Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld.

Michael Schumacher, who used a Schuberth helmet on the Formula One track, advertised his Schuberth motorbike helmet during his post-Ferrari motorcycle racing career.

Schuberth stated that Massa's helmet, which retails for roughly $17,000, is comprised of 18 layers of a unique carbon fibre known as T 1000. (A typical motorcycle helmet has three layers.)

It is about a third lighter than previous designs. According to Formula One, the average helmet weighs less than three pounds. Weight is important not just for decreasing neck fatigue, but also for minimizing the load imposed by g-forces during racing and collisions. Even simple braking can cause the driver's head to spin six times.

Consequently, carbon fibre is the holy grail of fabrication materials in Formula One. It's strong, but most importantly, it's light. Currently, teams make their cars and other racing equipment entirely from the compound.

Back in the day, the helmet cost roughly $20,000, a tiny price to pay for Schumacher's $780 million fortune.

“In 2004, Michael Schumacher’s Schuberth RF 1.5 helmet was a prototype made of multi-layered carbon fiber. It was so strong that they rolled a tank over it, and it stayed intact,” according to Vincenzo Landino

Schuberth has improved the helmet's visor attachment since Massa's accident. The spring from Barrichello's car had struck the visor area of Massa's helmet.

Felipe Massa cheated out of the 2008 title, while Lewis Hamilton was successful, according to Bernie Ecclestone

According to former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, Felipe Massa was "cheated" out of the 2008 crown while Lewis Hamilton got "lucky."

Hamilton won his first Formula One World Championship in 2008, finishing one point ahead of Felipe Massa. Yet it could have been a very different scenario if it hadn't been for Renault's antics at the Singapore Grand Prix. At that race, the company ordered Nelson Piquet Jr. to crash, allowing his teammate Fernando Alonso to win.

The claim was made known to Ecclestone and the then-FIA president Max Mosley that year, but it was not made public until the following season. Renault was found guilty, and the two were expelled from Formula One.

“Back then, there was a rule that a World Championship classification after the FIA awards ceremony at the end of the year was untouchable, so Hamilton was presented with the World Championship and everything was fine,” Ecclestone stated.

However, this did not influence Massa's fate because the Ferrari driver was leading the race when Piquet Jr. crashed. This resulted in a failed pit stop, with Massa leaving his pit box with the fuel hose still attached to his car, and a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release.

Felipe Massa did not score that Sunday when Alonso won and Hamilton finished third. Before the season was over, he was a point behind Hamilton in the Drivers' Championship.

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Edited by Akshay Saraswat
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