Personal numbers

Since 2014 F1 drivers have to choose their own permanent racing numbers they should carry throughout their F1 career. A permanent number cannot be reallocated except if the driver hasn’t driven in the championship for 2 seasons in a row. After 2 years of absence or more the number could be chosen by any rookie or another ‘comebacker’. This situation is quite possible if one remembers Kimi Raikkonen’s leave of absence in 2010-2012 or Michael Schumacher’s leave in 2007-2009. Here is the list of Formula 1 drivers numbers:

 ##  Driver  Period of use
 1*  Sebastian Vettel  2014
 3  Daniel Ricciardo  2014-2016
 4  Max Chilton  2014
 5  Sebastian Vettel  2015-2016
 6  Nico Rosberg  2014-2016
 7  Kimi Räikkönen  2014-2016
 8  Romain Grosjean  2014-2016
 9  Marcus Ericsson  2014-2016
 10  Kamui Kobayashi  2014
 11  Sergio Pérez  2014-2016
 12  Felipe Nasr  2015-2016
 13  Pastor Maldonado  2014-2015
 14  Fernando Alonso  2014-2016
 17**  Jules Bianchi  2014
 19  Felipe Massa  2014-2016
 20  Kevin Magnussen  2014-2016
 21  Esteban Gutiérrez  2014, 2016
 22  Jenson Button  2014-2016
 25  Jean-Éric Vergne  2014
 26  Daniil Kvyat  2014-2016
 27  Nico Hülkenberg  2014-2016
 28  Will Stevens  2015
 30  Jolyon Palmer   2016
 33  Max Verstappen  2015-2016
 44  Lewis Hamilton  2014-2016
 53  Alexander Rossi  2015-2016
 55  Carlos Sainz  2015-2016
 77  Valtteri Bottas  2014-2016
 88  Rio Haryanto  2016
 94  Pascal Wehrlein  2016
 98  Roberto Merhi  2015
 99  Adrian Sutil  2014

* #1 is reserved for defending world champion, who can choose to use either #1 or his own number.

** Following Jules Bianchi’s death the FIA has announced that car #17 will no longer be used in the FIA Formula One World Championship. Unfortunately #17 is not the only ‘fatal’ number in F1. If the FIA has decided to retire all those numbers as a mark of respect for the drivers who were killed during a championship Grand Prix weekend or who succumbed to injuries sustained in an accident during a championship Grand Prix weekend, such a list would include:

 ##  Driver  Fatal Grand Prix
 2  Luigi Musso  France, 1958
 Peter Collins  Germany, 1958
 Ayrton Senna  San Marino, 1994
 4  Bill Vukovich  USA, 1958
 Pat O’Connor  USA, 1958
 Wolfgang von Trips  Italy, 1961
 Piers Courage  Netherlands, 1970
 6  Onofre Marimón  Germany, 1954
 François Cevert  USA, 1973
 Ronnie Peterson  Italy, 1978
 12  Stuart Lewis-Evans  Morocco, 1958
 14  Roger Williamson  Netherlands, 1973
 15  Chet Miller  USA, 1953
 16  Alan Stacey  Belgium, 1960
 John Taylor  Germany, 1966
 Peter Revson  South Africa, 1974
 Tom Pryce  South Africa, 1977
 17  Jules Bianchi  Japan, 2014
 18  Lorenzo Bandini  Monaco, 1967
 Jo Schlesser  France, 1968
 19  Helmuth Koinigg  USA, 1974
 22  Jochen Rindt  Italy, 1970
 24  Gerhard Mitter***  Germany, 1969
 27  Gilles Villeneuve  Belgium, 1982
 28  Mark Donohue  Austria, 1975
 29  Carel Godin de Beaufort  Germany, 1964
 32  Riccardo Paletti  Canada, 1982
 Roland Ratzenberger  San Marino, 1994
 36  Chris Bristow  Belgium, 1960
 51  Bob Cortner  USA, 1959
 57  Jerry Unser  USA, 1959
 62  Keith Andrews  USA, 1957
 73  Carl Scarborough  USA, 1953
 88  Manny Ayulo  USA, 1955
This list does not include fatal accidents during tests or non-championship races.
*** Gerhard Mitter died during practice ahead of the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in 1969 driving BMW Formula 2 car. F1 and F2 cars participated in that event simultaneously, but were classified separately.

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Personal numbers

#27

In 2014 the FIA allowed F1 drivers to pick up their own permanent numbers for the rest of their careers. Such numbers cannot be reallocated unless the driver hasn’t participated in the championship for 2 seasons in a row. Many tifosi hoped one of the Ferrari drivers would choose legendary #27, but neither Fernando Alonso, nor Kimi Raikkonen, who drove for Scuderia in 2014, didn’t make such choice. Besides, the number belongs to a driver and not to a team (as it was in the past), so there were even less chances that #27 would be on Ferrari car for a long time.
Jules Bianchi, former Ferrari protégé, was one of the drivers who picked #27 but he had the lower hand and the number has gone to Nico Hulkenberg. Funny thing, the talented German was about to move to Ferrari several times and he practically got the seat in 2014, but then the bosses in Maranello has chosen Kimi Raikkonen instead. In 2015 the story was almost repeated and again Raikkonen “beat” Hulkenberg. So since 2014 we can see #27 on the front of Force India car.

OK, but what was all the fuss about #27? Why is it so famous and so important for tifosi? It’s time to look through the F1 history books to get the answers.

Stats of #27 up to the end of 2015.
 GPs   Wins   Podiums   Pole positions  
 420   25   86   24 
Up to mid-1973 there were no strict rules about the numbers’ distribution. Everything depended on the organizers of each GP and #27 wasn’t as popular as one might think today. Cars with this number appeared on the grid once or twice a year and usually it wasn’t assigned to the best team or the fastest driver. Nonetheless at the Austrian GP 1970 the driver with #27 on his car finished 2nd in the race. The driver was Clay Regazzoni and the car, by pure coincidence, was Ferrari!

In mid-1973 the FIA decided to assign permanent numbers to the teams (not the drivers). Hesketh Racing was the first team that had #27 on its car. This car was driven by James Hunt. But the success for #27 cars came in the late 70s when this number belonged to Frank Williams’s team for several seasons.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images
At the British GP 1979 Alan Jones took maiden pole position both for himself and for #27. Just 2 weeks later #27 car finished first at the German GP on the race day. The Aussie didn’t even think to stop, in 1980 Alan Jones became the World Driver Champion driving #27 Williams. Consequently, Williams got #1/#2 for the season of 1981 and #27/#28 went to… Ferrari.

Let’s go a little bit back in time. In 1979 Ferrari won WCC, Jody Scheckter became the champion and Gilles Villeneuve, favourite of the public and Enzo Ferrari, became vice-champion. But it was hard to defend both titles in 1980, moreover 1980 was the worst season in Ferrari F1 history. The team ended 10th in WCC and the best result in the race was the 5th place. And after that disaster the team got #27(Villeneuve)/#28(Pironi). In 1981 the situation became better, Villeneuve even won 2 GPs. Unfortunately the Canadian was not able to fight for the crown driving #27 Ferrari, he tragically lost his life during the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982.

With the exception of the season of 1990 #27 remained in Ferrari up to 1995. The team won 2 WCC during this period, but the drivers couldn’t win WDC. In 1990 Alain Prost, the reigning world champion at that moment, joined the squad bringing #1/#2 with him while #27/#28 have gone to McLaren. Ironically McLaren and Ferrari exchanged their numbers back just a year later, Ayrton Senna won the WDC in 1990 driving #27 McLaren. In 1996 the FIA changed the numbering system again and #27 was gone… until 2014.

Just think about it. For 4 years Alan Jones (Williams, 1978-1980) and Ayrton Senna (McLaren, 1990) brought more glory to #27 than Ferrari drivers for 14 long years! All in all 57 different drivers have used #27 throughout their careers, among those Ronnie Peterson, Carlos Reutemann, Jacky Ickx, Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, the head of Red Bull junior program Helmut Marko and Jules Bianchi’s uncle Lucien. Today this number belongs to Nico Hulkenberg and maybe, just maybe it isn’t so bad Nico doesn’t drive for Ferrari. Isn’t so bad for both Hulkenberg and Ferrari. Let’s hope the German will have luck with another team in Formula 1 paddock.


Alain Prost /#1, Ferrari/, Ayrton Senna /#27, McLaren/, Japanese GP 1990 (? ©)
 ##   Driver   Team  Season(s)  GPs  Achievements 
 1   Walt Ader   Rae   1950   1    
 2   Duane Carter   Deidt   1951   1    
 3   Johnny Claes   Simca Gordini   1952   1    
 4   Tony Bettenhausen   Deidt,
 Kurtis Kraft 
 1952, 1957   2    
 5   Louis Chiron   O.S.C.A   1953   1    
 6   Alan Brown   Cooper   1954   1    
 7   Ed Elisian   Stevens   1954   1    
 8   Rodger Ward   Kuzma   1955   1    
 9   Cliff Griffith   Stevens   1956   1    
 10   Louis Rosier   Maserati   1956   1    
 11   Red Amick   Epperly   1960   1    
 12   Gerry Ashmore   Lotus-Climax   1961   1    
 13   Keith Greene   Gilby   1962   1    
 14   Giancarlo Baghetti   Automobili Turismo
 e Sport 
 1963   1    
 15   Kurt Kuhnke   Lotus-Borgward   1963   1    
 16   Peter Revson   Lotus-BRM   1964   1    
 17   Chris Amon   Lotus-BRM   1964   1    
 18   Lucien Bianchi   BRM   1965   1    
 19   Brausch Niemann   Lotus-Ford   1965   1    
 20   Dan Gurney   Eagle   1966   1    
 21   Piers Courage   BRM   1968   1    
 22   Bill Brack   Lotus   1968   1    
 23   Jacky Ickx   Ferrari   1970   1    
 24   Clay Regazzoni   Ferrari   1970   1   Podiums: 1 
 25   Ronnie Peterson   March-Ford   1970   1    
 26   Silvio Moser   Bellasi   1970-71   2    
 27   Jo Bonnier   McLaren-Ford   1970-71   2    
 28   Andrea De Adamich   March-Alfa Romeo   1971   1    
 29   Howden Ganley   BRM   1971   1    
 30   Henry Pescarolo   March-Ford   1971   4    
 31   Helmut Marko   McLaren,
 BRM 
 1971-72   2    
 32   Mike Beuttler   March-Ford   1971-72   2    
 33   Carlos Pace   March-Ford   1972   1    
 34   Derek Bell   Tecno   1972   1    
 35   John Love   Surtees   1972   1    
 36   Tim Schenken   Surtees   1972   1    
 37   Carlos Reutemann   Brabham   1972   1    
 38   Rolf Stommelen   Eifelland,
 Embassy Hill 
 1972, 1974   6    
 39   Reine Wisell   March   1973   1    
 40   James Hunt   Hesketh Racing   1973   8   Podiums: 2 
 41   Peter Gethin   Embassy Hill   1974   1    
 42   Guy Edwards   Embassy Hill   1974   10    
 43   Mario Andretti   Parnelli   1975-76   14    
 44   Larry Perkins   Boro   1976   1    
 45   Patrick Neve   March   1977   11    
 46   Jean-Pierre Jarier   Equipe Ligier   1977   1    
 47   Alan Jones   Williams   1978-80   45   Wins: 9
 Podiums: 16
 Poles: 6
 WDC 
 48   Gilles Villeneuve   Ferrari   1981-82   20   Wins: 2
 Podiums: 4
 Poles: 1 
 49   Patrick Tambay   Ferrari   1982-83   23   Wins: 2
 Podiums: 8
 Poles: 4 
 50   Michele Alboreto   Ferrari   1984-88   80   Wins: 3
 Podiums: 19
 Poles: 2 
 51   Nigel Mansell   Ferrari   1989   16   Wins: 2
 Podiums: 6
 52   Ayrton Senna   McLaren   1990   16   Wins: 6
 Podiums: 11
 Poles: 10
 WDC 
 53   Alain Prost   Ferrari   1991   15   Podiums: 5
 54   Gianni Morbidelli   Ferrari   1991   1 
 55   Jean Alesi   Ferrari   1992-95   63   Wins: 1
 Podiums: 13
 Poles: 1 
 56   Nicola Larini   Ferrari   1994   5   Podiums: 1
 57   Nico Hulkenberg   Force India   2014-…   38 

russian version

#27

No #1 on the grid

In 2014 Lewis Hamilton won his second WDC and decided not to exchange his #44 for the sacred #1. I doubt he’ll change his mind next year after his triumphal 2015 campaign.

The absence of #1 on the grid is not unusual in other motor sport series (e.g. MotoGP, IndyCar) where drivers/teams also have their own personal numbers. But it’s still something new for Formula 1.

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Lewis Hamilton (? ©)

Last time with no #1 on the grid was back in 1993 and 1994. And in both cases there was the same explanation: there was no defending champion on the grid. Nigel Mansell, the 1992 world champion, moved to IndyCar, Alain Prost retired from racing after winning his 4th WDC in 1993. Both drivers won their titles driving for Williams, that’s why the team used #0 and #2 in 1993-1994. Damon Hill was always allocated #0 in both seasons, while several drivers used #2 (Alain Prost (1993)*, Ayrton Senna, David Coulthard and Nigel Mansell (all three in 1994)).

Have there been any other exceptions in Formula 1 history when there was no #1 on the grid? Or has Lewis created a precedent for the future generations?

Imagine this: until 1974 pretty much any driver could drive a car with #1 on it and the owner of this magic number sometimes would change not even from season to season but from one race to another. And sometimes there was simply no #1 on the grid and it was OK. The cause of such anarchy was that race numbers were assigned on a race-to-race basis by the local organizers.

When full sponsor liveries came on stage at the 1960s, sponsors began to pressure teams to stick to the same race numbers throughout the season, so the teams started to request the same numbers from different organizers.

In 1973 the sport’s governing body decided to control this number assignment issue. First permanent numbers showed up in mid-1973 (starting from the Belgium Grand Prix). And starting from 1974 the reigning champion would get #1 while his teammate got #2. Following numbers should be assigned to the teams (not the drivers) according to WCC’73 standings.

Well, it didn’t go smoothly. Sir Jackie Stewart (Tyrrell) won the title in 1973 and… retired from motor racing. Lotus won the Constructor’s Championship that year, Tyrrell was second in the standings. So who should have gotten #1/#2 in 1974? It was decided Lotus got these numbers (#1 for Ronnie Peterson, #2 for Jacky Ickx), then Tyrrell got #3/#4, McLaren – #5/#6, and so on.

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Ronnie Peterson /#1, Lotus/, Emerson Fittipaldi /#5, McLaren/, 1974 (? ©)

That wasn’t all. According to the new rules the only changes to the race numbering system were meant to be if a team had the reigning world champion, in that case only could that team get #1/#2. At the same time the team’s old numbers were transferred to the team which had had the champion driver the previous year (see the example in the table below). Everybody else stayed with the same 1974 numbers up until 1996 when the FIA introduced new numbering system. That’s why for many F1 fans #3/#4 are associated with Tyrrell (even if the team doesn’t exist for a long time), or #27/#28 are sacred for tiffosi.

1974 1975 1976
##  Driver  Team ##  Driver  Team ##  Driver  Team
 1  Peterson  Lotus  1  Fittipaldi McLaren  1  Lauda  Ferrari
 2  Ickx  Lotus  2  Mass McLaren  2  Regazzoni  Ferrari
 3  Scheckter  Tyrrell  3  Scheckter Tyrrell  3  Scheckter  Tyrrell
 4  Depailler  Tyrrell  4  Depailler Tyrrell  4  Depailler  Tyrrell
 5  Fittipaldi  McLaren  5  Peterson Lotus  5  Andretti  Lotus
 6  Hulme  McLaren  6  Ickx Lotus  6  Nillson  Lotus
 11  Regazzoni  Ferrari  11  Regazzoni  Ferrari  11  Hunt  McLaren
 12  Lauda  Ferrari  12  Lauda  Ferrari  12  Mass  McLaren
WDC WDC WDC
 5  Fittipaldi  McLaren  12  Lauda  Ferrari  11  Hunt  McLaren

New teams were usually assigned the lowest available numbers. If a team left the championship, its numbers became vacant. For example, Toleman made its debut in 1981 and got #35/#36. In 1983 the team took over vacant #19/#20. Then in 1986 the team changed its name to Benetton but still got #19/#20. Finally in 1993 when McLaren took over vacant #7/#8 (ex-Brabham numbers and the first numbers run by the team in the MP4/Ron Dennis era in the early 80s), Benetton got #5/#6 (ex-Mclaren numbers).

In 1996 the FIA decided to create a numbering system based on WCC’s standings in the previous season. The defending champion driver and his teammate still would get #1/#2. But all other teams would change their numbers from season to season (see example in the table below):

1995 1996 1997
##  Driver  Team ##  Driver  Team ##  Driver  Team
 1  Schumacher  Benetton  1  Schumacher  Ferrari  1  Hill  Arrows
 2  Herbert  Benetton  2  Irvine  Ferrari  2  Diniz  Arrows
 3  Katayama  Tyrrell  3  Alesi  Benetton  3  Villeneuve  Williams
 4  Salo  Tyrrell  4  Berger  Benetton  4  Frentzen  Williams
 5  Hill  Williams  5  Hill  Williams  5  Schumacher  Ferrari
 6  Coulthard  Williams  6  Villeneuve  Williams  6  Irvine  Ferrari
WDC WDC WDC
 1  Schumacher  Benetton  5  Hill  Williams  3  Villeneuve  Williams
WCC WCC WCC
 1  Benetton  1  Williams  1  Williams
 2  Williams  2  Ferrari  2  Ferrari
 3  Ferrari  3  Benetton  3  Benetton

Finally in 2014 the numbering system has changed yet again. From now on every driver (rather than team) picks the number which he will use throughout his entire F1 career***. And the defending champion can choose whether he wants to use #1 or prefers his personal number. Sebastian Vettel decided to race with #1 in 2014, while Lewis Hamilton likes his #44 and doesn’t want to swipe it for #1.

But Lewis can always do something like this:

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*A unique achievement belongs to Alain Prost. He’s the only driver who has won the F1 championship driving the car #2.

** When Nigel Mansell signed to race for McLaren in 1995 the team got #7/#8. McLaren formally requested to swap numbers with Williams (#5/#6) so that Mansell could have his famous “Red 5”. Either Williams or the FIA said no.


*** If the driver doesn’t compete in the championship for more than 2 years his personal number becomes vacant.

 

russian version

No #1 on the grid