It should be apparent by now that we like seeing large race numbers on F1 cars. So naturally, we welcomed the FIA’s new regulations on how they should be displayed – in short, that they should be adequately displayed – with open arms, albeit with a certain amount of scepticism over how the teams might actually interpret them.
And as we prepare for the Spanish Grand Prix, the first weekend on which these new rules will come into effect… well, we have to say, we’re pretty pleased with the solutions that have crept out so far. Mercedes were the first to play their hand, revealing that not only are they putting the drivers’ numbers, TLAs and nationality flags on the shark fin, but they’re changing Valtteri Bottas’ #77 to blue, too:
It’s odd seeing a non-red number on the silver Mercedes livery, and the traditionalist in us slightly blanches; but then, ever since they stopped putting the numbers in big white circles that ship had already kind of sailed, and there’s definitely something to be said for having differently-coloured numbers on the cars – as Nigel Mansell’s “Red Five” Williams or the 1983 Renault will attest.
Since that reveal, two other teams have shown us glimpses of the new era – and like Mercedes, Red Bull have actually found a good use for the ghastly old shark fins:
No sign of driver name or flag on that one, so this looks like one of those situations where teams are interpreting the rules slightly differently. But that big #3 does look very good (if a bit NASCAR-esque) high up in the car like that.
But the best interpretation of the new rules thus far has to come from Ferrari, as glimpsed in their garage during Thursday preparations for the weekend. They’ve gone for a simple, yet elegant, solution of putting an absolutely massive white box on the nose, with the number in black on it:
Gorgeous. Your move, other teams!
UPDATE: Well, the first race since the introduction of these rules has been and gone – and it’s fair to say that interpretations of the new regulations have been mixed, to say the least. While Mercedes initially looked to be playing it safe by including the drivers’ names and numbers on the side of the car, they actually changed their approach by the time qualifying and the race came around. During qualifying the name disappeared, and for the race the flags went too – perhaps it’s the case that the team felt, after seeing the other cars, they’d over interpreted the rules and done more than they needed to?
Haas didn’t feel the need to change the style of numbers on the front of their car, nor add them to the side – but did add the names to the shark fin:
Toro Rosso also stuck the names on the shark fin and increased the size of the numbers on the nose; as did Sauber, who also kept the stylised sidepod numbers that were already a part of their initial 2017 livery.
Renault had a similar approach to Toro Rosso – including having numbers on the cockpit side wings – but with a much more legible number font giving a quite “classic” look:
McLaren filled in the outline of their nose numbers, making them much more visible from the front; but rather than having numbers on the side, put the drivers’ TLAs and flags in a prominent white box next to the cockpit:
Williams simplified the font and increased the size of their nose cone numbers, while adding names to the rear wing endplates:
And Force India fell foul of the stewards, having increased the size of their numbers (and added them to the tops of the sidepods), but still leaving them on a part of the nose that simply wasn’t visible from the front of the car:
While I’m actually impressed that the FIA decided to enforce the rules (and sensibly, gave the team a suspended fine rather than an actual one), it’s odd that Toro Rosso and Red Bull weren’t punished, as their numbers are similarly on the flat surface rather than being visible from the front:
Perhaps it’s the case that having the numbers clearly visible from the front is less important if you’ve also got the name on the side? So perhaps where Force India fell foul is that in neither place they had the requisite identification – but if that’s the case, it’s something the FIA could really do with clarifying. As it is, you can imagine some of the teams looking at the effort they went to, and wondering if it was worth bothering given that other teams weren’t having to follow suit.
But one thing we can all agree on is that the Ferrari looked damned fine with its new numbers: