Rai Caldato: The Brazilian behind F1 great Lewis Hamilton’s helmet designs

By Carlos Meneses

Sao Paulo, Dec 10 (EFE).- The man behind Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton’s stylish helmet designs is a 45-year-old Brazilian native who lives in Campinas, a laid-back city 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the hustle and bustle of Sao Paulo.

His name is Rai Caldato and, like his famed British client, he is a great admirer of legendary Brazilian F1 champion Ayrton Senna, who died in 1994 in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix.

Since 2017, Caldato has been the artist behind the lines, colors and shapes that decorate the protective head gear of the seven-time F1 drivers’ champion, who will seek a record eighth title this weekend in a down-to-the-wire battle against Belgian-Dutch Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi.

The Brazilian said in an interview with Efe that he has designed between 10 and 15 helmets in total for Hamilton, including the official one for each season and several commemorative varieties, including the latest helmet the Briton used in Qatar and Saudi Arabia in honor of the LGBTIQ+ community.

Caldato landed the gig via social media in January 2017, when he won a contest Hamilton had launched on Instagram to design his helmet for that season, thereby earning the chance to meet the Mercedes driver in person.

“I sent in four designs among the more than 8,000 worldwide, and thank God I ended up being the winner,” Caldato, an industrial designer with a master’s degree in marketing recalled with pride, noting that the key for him was drawing a connection between Hamiliton and Senna in those initial proposals.

The two met in November of that year at the Brazilian Grand Prix, and Caldato cut right to the chase. “Look, Lewis, if it’s OK with you, I’d like to design for you for the rest of your career.”

That confidence then paid dividends in January 2018, when he received a call from an adviser to the F1 star inviting him to design the helmet for that year’s season.

And their professional relationship continues to this day.

Passionate about drawing and auto racing since he was a young boy, Caldato won an earlier contest in 2010 to design a commemorative helmet marking the 50th anniversary of Senna’s birth.

Two years later, he began working in the studio of Alan Mosca, son of the late Sid Mosca, an acclaimed graphic artist who designed helmets for Senna, Emerson Fittipaldi, Michael Schumacher and other F1 stars.

Being the designer for someone in the public eye like Hamilton takes time because the helmet is the “driver’s identity when he’s in action” and needs to capture his “essence,” Caldato said.

The designer said he tries to showcase Hamilton’s spiritual side when presenting new models. For example, that aspect of the driver inspired him to choose the color purple in 2020 and later combine it with black in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“There are years he asks for something more aggressive and others something calmer, but generally he likes more simple lines, a more refined, cleaner design,” Caldato said.

The Brazilian said he presents the Mercedes driver an average of “20 designs per year.” For 2022, he noted that he already has “four or five” sketches ready.

Referring to the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Caldato said he hopes the winner of this year’s F1 title is decided on the track and not with a crash, which would favor Verstappen since his greater number of victories would give him the edge over Hamilton if neither finishes the race.

Hamilton has one clear edge, however, heading into Abu Dhabi: since Caldato began designing his helmets he is undefeated, having claimed the championship in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. EFE


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