Formula One: the driver numbers are in
For the first time, F1 drivers can pick their own numbers. Here's the thinking behind this year's crop
The FIA announced over the weekend the numbers it will lease to this year’s crop of F1 drivers (or rather their marketing people and their licencees) for the balance of their careers in grand prix racing, just like they do in MotoGP and in NASCAR.
The rule change makes it easier to wear your favourite driver, no matter which team he drives for and no matter how well that team does. It should make it cheaper too; if you’re a fan of Nico Hulkenberg you’ll already have a bulging t-shirt drawer featuring three teams in four years.
Drivers were asked to nominate any number from two to 99; only Sebastian Vettel was allowed to chose ‘1’. Seb was also obliged to nominate a second number should he fail to win the right to run ‘1’ in 2015.
He chose ‘5’ for his first racing number in karts, not for Nigel Mansell (who’s ‘Red Five’ was something of a legend) and not for the number of titles he hopes to have by next year, although thankfully Rosberg, Raikkonen and Grosjean bagged ‘6’, ‘7’ and ‘8’ respectively.
Debut race numbers from karting have proven the sentimental choice of almost all the drivers, although Jenson Button went for ‘22’, the fluoro-green numeral on the all-white Brawn he took to the title in 2009. Rosberg’s father Keke also raced with the ‘6’ Nico R ran in karting.
Nico H meanwhile won the battle for ‘27’, raced for one season by Ayrton Senna, but made famous by Gilles Villeneuve at Ferrari… If this does prove to be Fernando Alonso’s last year with Ferrari and he takes his number ‘14’ to McLaren in 2015, then surely the ‘27’ will be back where it belongs. Interestingly, ‘27’ was Ferrari Academy driver Jules Bianchi’s first choice, but preference goes to the driver who scored more points last year.
Lewis Hamilton will race with the number ‘44’, also his karting number. Then again Lewis’ people are smart to this stuff and it won’t have escaped them racing’s most famous trademarked numbers all start with a ‘4…’ : Richard Petty’s ‘43’, Jimmie Johnson’s ‘48’ and Valetino Rossi’s ‘46’.
Pastor ‘Crashtor’ Maldonado showed he had a sense of humour in selecting ‘13’, while Valterri Bo77as was extremely pleased to land ‘77’ (did you see what he did there?). Showing an ironic self-awareness rare in F1, Adrian Sutil is reportedly to have been inspired by Dick Dastardly to select ‘99’ for the nose of his Sauber. But when asked for an explanation for his choice, the best response came — of course — from Kimi Raikkonen. In something of a classic of his own sulky sub-genre, Kimi is reported to have replied “It’s the number I already had last year and I saw no reason to change it.”
Here then according to race number, is next year’s entry list. Red Bull and Toro Rosso are the only teams with subsequent numbers, though Daniel Ricciardo went for ‘3’ and not ‘2’. TR’s pairing of Jean-Eric Vergne and Russian rookie Daniil Kyvat will race with the ‘25’ and ‘26’ made famous by the now defunct French Ligier team.
There are no Caterhams on there as they have yet to nominate drivers and no Max Chilton who Marussia confirmed over the weekend. He’s yet to pick his number. Any suggestions for Max (and be nice)?
Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1 (5)
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 3
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 6
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 7
Romain Grosjean Lotus 8
Sergio Perez Force India 11
Pastor Maldonado Lotus 13
Fernando Alonso Ferrari 14
Jules Bianchi Marussia 17
Felipe Massa Williams 19
Kevin Magnussen McLaren 20
Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 21
Jenson Button McLaren 22
Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 25
Daniil Kvyat Toso Rosso 26
Nico Hulkenberg Force India 27
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 44
Valtteri Bottas Williams 77
Adrian Sutil Sauber 99