Call of Duty, Rugrats, The Coronation: Every special helmet design for the Indy 500

Racing helmets are one of the most fundamental ways for drivers to express their true personality.

Drivers have unusual relationships with their helmets. It is something that will save their life through their career. It’s also one of the purest forms of fan identity. If I say Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher, as well as thinking about their cars, it won’t take you long to think about their helmets.

The Indianapolis 500 is the biggest race on the motorsports calendar for many, so it’s no surprise we’ve seen a ‘go big or go home’ mentality when it comes to new helmet designs. 

We’ve outlined the special liveries here, in order of the grid for the race. Any absentees are running their usual helmet design or haven’t announced a new one yet.

Alex Palou

The 2023 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Alex Palou has swapped his traditional yellow/green base colour with orange and blue accents for black, white and gold at the event this year.

It follows the trend of many other drivers in the field sticking to a similar or the same design they use regularly but swapping the colours.

There’s also a theme you’ll see develop here – bricks – as they run along the top of the helmet on top of a matte-effect black coat that really catches the light. It has a texture a bit like a racing tire.

It’s also interesting as Palou is one of the few Arai drivers in the field, with most using Bell.

Rinus VeeKay

Rinus always pulls out all the stops when it comes to his helmet. This one may divide opinion but it’s certainly distinctive.

The orange Nike Dunk high-tops might be the most obvious part, but it certainly has a lot going on. Luckily VeeKay’s posted a 360-degree view above.

Felix Rosenqvist

Rosenqvist has one of those helmets that needs a close-up look to appreciate it, and while some of the colours may typically clash, this all seems to work quite well.

The starring element is the Swedish flag which has a ski-map of where Rosenqvist grew up ghosted into the blue.

After using a helmet in collaboration with streetwear brand Undefeated last year, Rosenqvist got permission to keep the brand’s famous font and used it to have his surname added.

It was designed in collaboration with his girlfriend’s sister. Nice job!

Santino Ferrucci

Ferrucci is never a person afraid to express himself and that always comes out in any helmet design he uses that challenge the norms of consistent design and throw helmet livery normality out of the window.

This floral and wave design is relatively simple but paired with waves and deep metallic paint colors it really stands out.

Watch above for bonus dog content.

Pato O’Ward

Even though O’Ward’s helmet reflects his usual design, this might be the best design in the field this year.

Pato says he wanted to do something “a bit more me” with his lid this year, and it was designed in Mexico with all the ghosted detail designed 100% by hand.

The outcome is a helmet that looks similar to normal at a distance but get up close to this thing and it’s absolutely spectacular.

Alexander Rossi

No explanation on Rossi’s design in the video above but it’s a lovely take on his typical design.

The ghosted skeleton detail of the Tag Heuer watch and the Indy 500 logo repetition allows Rossi’s usual design to shine through but with enough unique twists that it makes a really nice package.

Marcus Ericsson

Where to start with this one! It’s the same design Ericsson used last year but he’s used the inspiration of his hero Ronnie Peterson to flip the colours.

The result is a homage to Peterson’s time driving JPS gold and black liveried Lotus Formula 1 cars. It’s a bit more ‘flashy’ with a shiny gold element and sparkles in the black base.

It’s about as simple as any lid in the field gets, but with so many complicated designs out there, it stands out through being low-key. Spectacular.

Benjamin Pedersen

A bit of a similar vibe to Rossi using Pedersen’s normal design with Indy 500 logos ghosted in.

It’s more spread out than Rossi’s, and the switch to a white base colour gives this a cleanness even though the design is quite busy.

It’s a nice design, but it’s been outdone by Pedersen’s race suit, which is an ode to AJ Foyt and has old-school detailing like fake pockets and zippers to give a real retro feel.

Scott McLaughlin 

This is another of the Ericsson mould. Very simple, a homage to Rick Mears’ Indy 500 yellow submarine Pennzoil helmet, but with ‘Scott’ on the side instead of ‘Mears’.

It’s another design that symbolises and pays homage to the past via the stars of the present.

There’s something very cool about car and driver livery and helmets being identical now as they were in the 1980s when Mears became one of the greatest drivers in the race’s history.

Kyle Kirkwood

IndyCar’s newest race winner Kyle Kirkwood came to play with this design.

The Andretti driver has gone with something close to his usual design, but given it a boost. He describes the silver as like a tin-foil style, and it’s definitely a bit more metallic than usual.

The starring element is the names of his crew included on the back, and the yellow and red at the front give IronMan vibes although Kirkwood doesn’t say that’s the intention in his reveal.

Conor Daly

Welcome to the 1990s!

Daly has featured all sorts of pop culture references on his helmet before including Pokemon. This year it’s a ’90s theme with Blockbuster, Rugrats and slime all part of the design.

It’s a lot, but it’s difficult not to bask in the nostalgia.

Romain Grosjean

This is a similar design to Grosjean uses, but might be one of the most modified of the drivers sticking with the same design.

There’s Indy 500 graffiti, the bricks “because that’s what you want to cross first”, and perhaps best of all, a map of the season so far which includes Grosjean’s plane. He got his pilots’ license earlier this year and has been flying to races.

The sheet metal and rivet element points to the early days of the 500, and on the top, his now trademark drawings by his children.

Marco Andretti 

This is a beautiful design from Andretti. The silver really makes the colours of the American flag and the stripes pop and the bricks are really subtle.

Bricks sometimes get to be a bit repetitive in designs at the Speedway but this is a great way to get them without it being ‘too much’.

The ‘Marco’ on the side is in the same font as John Andretti’s helmet, Mario’s uncle who passed away from cancer. A lovely mark of respect.

Devlin DeFrancesco

Devlin runs quite a few different liveries in IndyCar and tends to keep his designs the same and use the primary colour from each car on his helmet.

This still features the Indy 500 logo and a lovely glossy paint to finish, and some sneaky bricks in the blue elements.

Katherine Legge

Legge has used a white helmet with pink and purple accents among other colors in recent times, but this is certainly something different.

It’s blue and white – perhaps to reflect sponsor United Rentals – which was bumped out of the race as Graham Rahal’s sponsor so it’s good to see it’s still being represented as a strong backer of Rahal and IndyCar.

The white stripe curving at the back with a blue stripe inside has a lovely retro feel to it, too.

Jack Harvey

He may be starting last, but it’s hard to see how he’s anywhere but first in the helmet rankings.

Harvey celebrates Britain with a picture of the late Queen Elizabeth II and recently crowned King Charles, with a crown design on the top and regal purple accents.

You don’t really need any words for this one, just look at the video.