The 2019 Chinese Grand Prix will go down in history as the 1000th Formula One race. For this special anniversary, the organizers thought of something pretty cool to celebrate the occasion: every driver will wear a special helmet for this event. Miles from MDM Designs created the designs for three drivers on the grid, including the one for rookie George Russell.
The initial brief from the Formula One organizers to create the one-off designs came shorty before the season opener in Melbourne. Included were some elements that needed to be used such as some type saying ‘1000’. This left Miles with a total of three weeks to create the designs including approval by the teams and series organizers for the three rookies on the grid: Alex Albon, Lando Norris and George Russell.
The design process for George Russell was kicked off by discussing a couple of ideas revolving around “either his favourite F1 race, images of previous Williams world champions or a helmet in his favourite champions colours”, Miles says.
“With Montoya being a driver who was iconic with Williams, it is a very good combination of two meaningful reasons in the tribute helmet.”
In the end, George and Miles decided to pay tribute to one of the driver's childhood F1 heroes: Juan Pablo Montoya. “The main reason is his very first karting helmet that was based on his brother's – who had his design as a Montoya replica.”
My first ever karting helmet was an exact copy of my elder brother’s helmet— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) April 11, 2019
It was only about eight years later that I discovered the design was inspired by @WilliamsRacing legend @jpmontoya’s helmet!#F1 #ChineseGP 🇨🇳 @WilliamsRacing #Race1000 pic.twitter.com/4ogiAsjltP
Instead of just creating a modernized version of Montoya's lid, the idea was to split the design in half. One half should still feature George Russell's regular design while the other one should be a reinterpretation of Juan Pablo Montoya's design, split by the number ‘1000’ in the rear and a half-tone dot pattern in the front. “It combines his first helmet with his latest design. Also with Montoya being a driver who was iconic with Williams, it is a very good combination of two meaningful reasons in the tribute helmet.”
As soon as the idea was settled, six variations of the design were explored by Miles, differing mainly in the design around the advertising stripe of the tribute half of the design, varying between “full Montoya” and still incorporating some elements from George Russell's regular helmet. Eventually, they settled on a version that is very close to what Juan Pablo Montoya wore during his time at Williams. Curiously though, this allowed for less advertising space on “Montoya's half” of the helmet, particularly in the stripe right above the visor. However, the responsible people didn't make it too much of an issue. “Restrictions were laxed slightly for the race, just providing ROKiT was still displayed in line of the traditional halo area.”
Whether JPM's indirect influence can help boost the struggling Williams outfit in China remains to be seen. Either way, it's great to have the iconic colours or arguably one of the best drivers of the early 2000s back on the Formula One grid.