Bahrain: Eight Formula One drivers, including three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, will be wearing helmets manufactured by a Bahrain-based factory this season.
The Bell Helmet designs will incorporate different decals representing corporate sponsors of F1 drivers Kimi Räikkönen, Marcus Ericsson, Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean, Esteban Gutierrez, Jean-Eric Vergne and Esteban Ocon.
Bell Helmet Chief Executive Martine Kindt told Gulf Digital News that the drivers will wear the helmets throughout this FIA (International Automobile Federation) Formula One World Championship season, which includes the Bahrain Grand Prix from April 1 to 3 at the Bahrain International Circuit.
“The best drivers, in my opinion, are representing Bell Helmet this year,” said Kindt.
“With current regulations in F1, the drivers get to come up with one livery and they have to stick to that one livery for one year,” she added.
Over the last 12 months, Bell Helmet has gradually moved its manufacturing headquarters from China to Bahrain.
Production at the Sakhir-based factory is also on the rise with an output forecast of 30,000 helmets per year.
Several thousand mini versions of world champion Hamilton’s helmet are also currently being produced in Bahrain.
“We are not fully up and running, but the start-up essentially began four or five months ago when we had the closing of the factory in China which was gradual, so the final machines reached here in November 2015,” Kindt said.
“Now bit by bit the staff need training and the staff need to get up to speed and get used to what we are doing here. “We’re not quite there, but we made very good progress,” she added.
There are 120 people on staff at the factory in Sakhir.
“Around 40 per cent of our workforce is Bahraini,” Kindt said.
She added it was essential to provide on-the-job training because there were no other helmet manufacturing factories in the gulf states.
“In China when you open a factory, there are so many helmet manufacturers so the staff you can get is already trained and you are privileged to hire people who came from previous employment in a helmet manufacturing company,” she explained.
“Here, you need to start from zero and you really need to provide full training on the job,” Kindt added.
The factory comprises several industries under one roof, with the helmets being produced from the design stage all the way through to testing and export.
Production begins with engineers who complete 3D computerized drawings of the helmets. An Expanded Polystyrene plant that is incorporated into the factory forms the protective part placed inside the shell of the helmet.
Carbon and fiber glass are imported to the factory to be mechanically cut and molded to form the shell of the helmet.
Following this process, the shell is trimmed and drilled to form the holes and vents, and then primed before it is put in a painting booth and sent to the final assembly.
Once the helmet’s visor has been inserted, it goes through final quality control, the accessories are added and it is boxed and moved to the warehouse for export.
The Bell Helmet Factory in Bahrain also has printing machines that are used to print all the labels and stickers along with the screens for the helmet designs.