ART Grand Prix driver Victor Martins sported a tribute helmet for Round 1 of the season in Sakhir, with the Frenchman paying homage to his first world championship victory, back in go-karts.

Martins won the 2016 CIK-FIA World Championship with VDK Racing and his helmet told the story of that victory and what it meant to him.

“My first designed helmet was back in 2014,” recalled Martins. “That was the year of my first national championship and the design is almost identical to the one that I have now.

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“The first one was orange, black and white because my team used those colours. I switched to orange, red, blue, and white in 2016 because VDK used these colours.

“This special version of my helmet is a memory of the world championship I took with them in Bahrain in 2016. It is a thank you to the team for what they have done for me. That championship win is the reason why I had the opportunity to move into single-seaters.

“If you remove the drawing, the design for this helmet is the same as my helmet in that season. I added CIK world champion onto it, of course. I wanted the design to tell the story of the win. The drawing on the back of the helmet comes from real pictures that I have on my phone - they are the same.

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“I was on the final lap at the last corner, and I was saying to myself ‘I hope I’m not dreaming,’ and I wanted that to feature on this helmet. Then there is the celebration and the podium photos. Two brothers were the team managers, and they are on there. One was with me in Bahrain and the other was in Las Vegas for a different race.

“It was their first world championship too and they called each other when I crossed the line, but they couldn’t properly speak to each other at first because they were crying and saying ‘we did it!’ It was a huge achievement for us all. There is also a picture with people celebrating where you can see the grandstand on the F1 track.

“The drawing was the idea of my big brother, Nicolas. We were at home speaking about the design we wanted to do, and I thought that it would be a great idea to put some pictures on the helmet, but he suggested we use drawings instead, with fewer details.

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“I knew in 2016 that becoming world champion was the only way to continue in motorsport because I didn’t have any money left to continue. This was my last opportunity to find someone to support me in my career, which is what happened. Renault came to me, and it was the beginning of my career to date.

“I wanted to make this helmet as a thank you to the team. It will now go to the team as a present. The two managers always wanted my helmet from that season, but for me, I wanted to keep it as that was my first world championship, it was special to me. So instead, I told them that I would have a special one made, which they could have.

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“Round 1 this season was the first time that I have raced in Bahrain since. Pre-season testing was the first time I had even been back, and it brought me so many memories. I was there at 15 years old, dreaming about racing one day in Formula 3. It’s so powerful and inspiring.

“Maybe in a few years, I’ll be in Formula 1, and I will come back here and remember winning at Bahrain in Formula 3. It brings you back down to earth.”