Whilst watching FP1 it was mentioned that Sebastian Vettel was on his 50th helmet design so if we assume that for each design there are four helmets and each helmet costs $20,000 that's an outlay of $4.000,000 on helmets alone...
I prefer it when a driver sticks to one design, you could never mistake Graham Hill or Damon Hill for anyone else and Josh Hill has adopted the same design albeit in a lighter blue, much better in my opinion...
If there are to be special helmets then they should be for special occasions - I don't mind Schumacher's 299th GP special from last week. But, surely the colours on a helmet are the drivers' livery - it makes them recognisable.
Felipe lime green, Fernando light blue. Michael red, Nico yellow. Jenson blue, Lewis yellow. It works. Take a look at the iconic Senna images and say his "brand" wasn't helped by the recognisable yellow with those two stripes. It beggars belief that Vettel changes his so often.
Helmet designs were so much clearer before they became just another place to slap sponsorship stickers though. If you look at Graham Hills instantly recognisable design and then compare that to how much of it you can actually see in Damon's, thanks to the number of stickers.
Just to build on the point Speshal made, apart from not paying for them the days of drivers turning up with stone chipped paintwork on their helmets is long gone which would lead me to believe that they probably have a new crash helmet at every race, so why not have it painted in a different colour scheme?
This is what I found on the price of helmets whether the drivers pay for them themselves is irrelevant.
Massa’s helmet maker, Schuberth, has had a long relationship with Michael Schumacher and for his comeback at Valencia in 12 days time he will be sporting a new model costing £12,000, according to German newspaper Bild, which always has the Schuey stories first.
I am a big fan of helmet designs. I have always found them to be very interesting, cool, and a great tool for recognizing each driver (especially when the number can be so darn hard to spot).
I guess Vettel's iconic helmet design is that he doesn't have one set. No one has done that before. I would prefer it if he chose one and stuck with it, but as long as his teammate doesn't do the same thing you can always tell the difference.
I have no problem spotting Vettel. Simply just assume it's Vettel if Webber's helmet can't be seen. Of course I appreciate that not everyone has good eyesight.
I agree though that drivers should stick with an overall theme, I don't mind them abondoning it for special races such as Schumacher's 300th (or 299th if you want to nitpick), prestigous races such as Monaco, or adding a small theme for a particular event.
(I particularly like Hamilton's Italian themed helmet, he even worked the flag into his normal design.)
It might be that the drivers change their helmets at every race, or every few races, anyway, and then the extra cost is just making the design. The design not being changed doesn't necessarily mean the helmet isn't being replaced, and if you're going to regularly replace one bit of equipment then the helmet should be it (despite the cost).
Someone out there probably knows the shelf life of an F1 helmet...