Seeing drivers wandering around wearing masks is something we’re going to have to get used to in all motorsport for the time being. With months to plan their PPE solutions, we were rather excited to see what the teams have come up with and what the different mask-wearing strategies appear to be. So, join us for a brief look at the masks of the 2020 grid.
Esteban Ocon played Renault’s hand as early as Australia, showing off a sturdy, smart, black design. In the months since, he appears to have upgraded to a bespoke Renault mask, hinting at the development potential within the French team. Weight has been shed through the use of thinner ear straps, while a closer-fitting nose-line should be more accommodating for Ocon’s taste for big round sunglasses.
With Renault showing such signs of progress over the past months, will Daniel Ricciardo begin to regret his decision to join McLaren? Because if this mask isn’t proof that Renault is serious about its investment in Formula 1, I don’t know what is.
Ferrari has stayed on-brand and gone for a nice red mask – and a very different design philosophy to that of Renault. While Renault has maximised face coverage with shorter ear straps, Ferrari appears to have integrated the straps into the overall design, resulting in slightly less coverage but a much more aero-efficient design.
The higher nose-line and more exposed cheeks could be an effort to direct the driver’s breath sideways and back towards the ears, mimicking the effect of an exhaust-blown diffuser to try and generate more downforce. Sebastian Vettel was a master of exhaust-blown diffusers at Red Bull – does this mean he’ll be a force to reckoned with in his final year at Ferrari?
The fact he appears to appears to have the same mask design as Charles Leclerc shows that Ferrari is committed to giving its drivers equal treatment at the start of the season. With the engineers also sporting similar masks, Ferrari is leaving no stone unturned in its quest for success.
Williams has gone down the Ferrari route with the integrated ear straps, but has decided to pair that with a very high nose concept. This should do an excellent job in containing the driver’s breath but could make it awkward when it comes to wearing sunglasses with the mask.
Unfortunately, despite the branding on the mask, Williams’s financial issues are highlighted here, too: while the race drivers get nice custom designs, other team members and reserve drivers have to make do with disposable units.
The disposable masks do an adequate job but reliability is a concern – Jack Aitken has already been spotted making last-minute readjustments in the paddock.
McLaren’s design also looks very similar to Ferrari. The ear loop is very aggressive, but in terms of fit and the way the high nose-line integrates with the glasses, the design doesn’t look to be completely optimised just yet. The fundamentals are there though, and the potential for development throughout the year is high.
Racing Point has always been very good at making the most of its resources. As a customer team, it appears Racing Point is making the most of the listed parts rule to get off-the-shelf disposable masks, but there’s another reason behind the mask.
With the team morphing into Aston Martin for 2021, there’s a belief that the team has decided to sack off its 2020 mask design early and go all-in with the 2021 concept. It could make for a frustrating year for Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez as they constantly have to pop to the shops and buy more masks with their pocket money but the trade-off for next season could be worth the wait.
Red Bull traditionally likes to leave things late before unveiling its creations on the world, but it’s surprising to see one of F1’s top teams turn up with no mask solutions – Alex Albon has had to make do with a disposable unit for Thursday’s track walk.
Rumour has it that the team is currently using all of its rapid prototyping equipment to produce a new design which will be flown to the circuit overnight in time for FP1. However, it’s a massive risk for drivers to head into Friday’s media sessions with an untested design and the rushing could have a negative impact on the entire weekend if it doesn’t work straight out of the box.
It’s also believed that only one mask will be available for each driver, so if they make any mistakes in practice (like dropping it on the floor), they’ll have to revert to the disposable masks for the rest of the weekend.
Alfa Romeo is another team to go down the disposable route and updates aren’t expected for a while. The rumour is that that the team doesn’t want to commit to a design until it knows which drivers it’s designing them for. Apparently, regardless of which type is used, Antonio Giovinazzi’s mask doesn’t fit especially well, with reports from Italy claiming that Mick Schumacher has been to the factory for mask fittings.
If you’re disappointed that fashion brand Alpha Tauri has made no effort whatsoever with its mask design, don’t be. Rumour has it that the team has developed a very radical, effective, and attractive solution but, as Red Bull’s junior team, isn’t allowed to introduce them until Red Bull has come up with a better one.
Another team to go down the disposable route, Haas has done this for practical reasons. Apparently, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen kept knocking their masks into each other and damaging them, making it difficult for the team to justify designing expensive custom ones which need to be replaced as much as disposable ones would anyway.
When it comes to the mechanics and engineers, it may look like Mercedes has gone for the simplistic approach with disposable masks. But under the skin, there’s a lot more going in. When the wearer breathes in, the sides of the mask moves slightly, improving airflow and reducing wear on the seams. Mercedes calls this system Directional Airflow Sucking, or DAS for short.
Reliability of the system isn’t quite there yet and Mercedes may choose not to run the system yet, but if it works then the team will have clearly stolen a march on the rest of the grid when it comes to PPE.