Agnieszka Wienand: Painting helmets for F1’s stars

The world of motorsport allows individuals to express their creativity and talent in various ways, whether it be on-track, behind-the-scenes or in an area of the sport that others may not even realise exists. In recent seasons, we have seen the designs for drivers’ helmets becoming more elaborate, detailed and creative with spectacular odes to the host countries of each Grand Prix along with meaningful tributes to home races. To keep creating more intricate designs can be quite a challenge, but for Agnieszka Wienand, that is exactly what she does. Having designed and painted helmets for Sebastian Vettel and Lando Norris, I spoke to Agnieszka about art, Formula One and the pride of seeing her ideas come to life.

From a young age, art and design were passions of Agnieszka’s with her starting to draw as a little girl. “Later I completed the School of Arts in Poland. Since moving to Germany, I have been performing art. I receive various orders from all kinds of customers, mainly working on canvas. My first order was a big portrait of a fisherman for the purpose of a commercial,” she said. Working in art, there isn’t a huge crossover with the world of motorsport, in fact, her interest in the sport didn’t come until she moved abroad. “I started to be interested in motorsport in Germany, very fast I became a fan of Sebastian Vettel,” Wienand told me.

Agnieszka’s involvement in motorsport came when she gave some of her designs to a racing driver. She was then approached by one of the most renowned companies in the sport specialising in driver helmets. “I finished a portfolio with several designs. These I handed over to Sebastian (Vettel) who was then driving for Red Bull Racing in 2013. Some time later, I got a call from JMD (Jens Munser Designs). That is how I got involved in motorsport,” she explained. JMD has been creating helmet designs for F1 racers for 20 years working with drivers such as Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and of course, Sebastian Vettel. Since 2013, Wienand has been working alongside JMD to design some of Vettel’s most intricate and impressive helmets. “I have been creating the helmets for Japan since 2013. In addition, I designed the 2019 Japanese GP helmet for Lando Norris. Besides this, I also create the drinking bottles for Sebastian and stickers for the Japanese fans,” Agnieszka described.

lando helmet

The process from ideas to being worn at the track involves a lot of discussion between designers such as Wienand and the drivers themselves. “It starts with creating first drafts, which are sent to the Formula 1 drivers directly,” she said. “They decide in communication with us which design will be the final one. After finishing, we pass on the helmet for further assembly. This whole process takes about 2 weeks.” However, there is much more to it than just creating something that looks good, with practicalities having to be taken into account. The basic design must be maintained with only slight differences permitted at each Grand Prix, with an exception of one race per year where drivers can wear a one-off special design. “Sebastian’s helmet must be white with the German flag on it and Lando Norris’ has to be yellow with blue stripes,” she told me. When it comes to some of Agnieszka’s most challenging designs, it is one of her most recent pieces that has been the most intricate, with her including many complex and traditional details. “The most complicated was the design for Lando Norris’ helmet. I had to integrate my Japanese symbols within the basic design, which has to kept original,” she explained.

Lando Norris’ 2019 Japanese Grand Prix helmet designed and painted by Agnieszka, credit: Jens Munser Designs

Though for Wienand, the design she is most proud of is the first she created for Sebastian Vettel back in 2013. Speaking of her pride, she explained: “solely my Japanese designs were used. I associate this piece with a lot of work, willpower, patience and emotions.” After continuing to design helmets for use at the Japanese Grand Prix, Agnieszka created a character that went on to feature for 3 consecutive years. It is this that has become her favourite design. “The fighting Ninja,” Wienand said. “It was used on Sebastian’s helmet for Japan in 2016, 2017 and 2018.”

Agnieszka’s ‘fighting ninja’ design used on Vettel’s helmet, credit: JMD

The designing process allows Agnieszka to be creative, though it can be a challenge. Working with and having to take on-board many people’s opinions as well as factor in the regulations of maintaining the original design, adds to the difficulty. “The biggest challenge is to meet the taste of the drivers and have to change the design again,” she told me. Though the practicalities of not painting on a flat surface can also be tricky, with a helmet being unforgiving. “Painting on a helmet is much more time consuming. Mistakes should better not happen. Retouching is much more complicated than on a canvas,” she explained. Despite this, any difficulties are hugely outweighed by the joy Wienand feels when she sees her design being used at a race weekend. “(I feel) just great! The tension is all gone and I am just happy and grateful for the positive feedback and of course quite proud,” Agnieszka said.

Sebastian Vettel’s Japanese Grand Prix helmet for 2019, credit: JMD

Looking to the future, Agnieszka is hoping to continue designing for drivers such as Sebastian Vettel and Lando Norris, but does have dreams of working with others in the sport, with her saying: “I would love to paint helmets for Robert Kubica and Lewis Hamilton. That would be a great new challenge for me.” Wienand’s career started in art on canvas, and although this is still a large part of what she does, she is able to combine it with a love for motorsport and create iconic pieces that are instantly recognisable by fans. This, the pleasure of seeing kind responses, and also the challenging, yet rewarding nature of her work is what keeps Agnieszka pushing forward.

Photo credits: Agnieszka Wienand and Jens Munser Designs