The Numbers Game

Update 13.01.14: The FIA have now released the provisional entry list for the 2013 season, confirming all the numbers and removing the need to update as they’re individually announced. So, here they are:

1 Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull (will race with #5 when not champion)
3 Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
44 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
6 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
14 Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
7 Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
8 Romain Grosjean, Lotus
13 Pastor Maldonado, Lotus
22 Jenson Button, McLaren
20 Kevin Magnussen, McLaren
27 Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
11 Sergio Perez, Force India
99 Adrian Sutil, Sauber
21 Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber
25 Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso
26 Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso
19 Felipe Massa, Williams
77 Valtteri Bottas, Williams
17 Jules Bianchi, Marussia
4 Max Chilton, Marussia
TBA TBA, Caterham
TBA TBA, Caterham

Original post:

I’m still undecided on whether or not I like the new “permanent numbers for drivers” rule being introduced into F1 for the 2014 season. One the one hand, I quite liked the system of the teams’ numbers changing each season based on constructors’ championship position – it led to some amusing and unusual situations such as Hamilton and Button winning back-to-back championships each with the race number #22, and was a handy way of charting a team’s progress through the sport. But by the same token, there’s undoubtedly a certain kind of romance to the old “teams keeping the same number as long as they’re in the sport” system, too – indeed, we’ve written in the past about how F1 might look if that system had persisted to the modern era.

As more and more of the drivers start to announce their number picks, I am sort of finding myself involuntarily interested in who’s gone for what – which must mean, I suppose, that I am warming to the idea. So with that in mind I thought I’d try and keep track of which numbers are going to be applied to which driver, as they’re announced.

It’s slightly tricky to keep on top of, and we probably won’t know for sure until the official final entry list is released – but I’ll keep updating this list as more and more information comes out. It’s based on my interpretation of the slightly confusingly worded regulations – but it appears to me that a driver can have their first choice as long as nobody who finished higher in the 2013 championship chooses it. So for example, at the moment Rosberg will be given #6, but only if Vettel (who will definitely race as #1 this year) doesn’t reserve it as his future pick for when he isn’t champion (er, should such a thing ever occur). But based on what certain drivers have publicly said about their choices so far, here’s how I think it’s shaping up:

  • Sebastian Vettel – 1
  • Fernando Alonso – 14
  • Lewis Hamilton – TBA
  • Kimi Raikkonen – 7
  • Nico Rosberg – 6
  • Romain Grosjean – 8
  • Felipe Massa – 19
  • Jenson Button – 22
  • Nico Hulkenberg – TBA
  • Sergio Perez – 11
  • Adrian Sutil – TBA
  • Daniel Ricciardo – 3
  • Jean-Eric Vergne – 25
  • Esteban Gutierrez
  • Valtteri Bottas – 77
  • Pastor Maldonado – TBA
  • Jules Bianchi – 27
  • Kevin Magnussen – 20
  • Daniil Kvyat – 26

If any drivers are still looking for inspiration – and if they’re superstitious, as we know many drivers are – then they might want to look at the success rate of certain numbers in the past, since full-season race numbers were introduced in 1974.

In purely championship terms, aside from #1 (which has unsurprisingly the most title wins, with 12) by far the most successful number is #5. Besides winning an impressive 9 titles, the number has been a title-winner for more individual drivers than any other: a total of eight have won the championship with it, compared to just six for #1. Interestingly, no driver has yet publicly said that #5 is their first choice, but expect there to be something of a scramble over it before the season begins (it also wouldn’t surprise me if it’s Vettel’s choice). Beyond this, numbers #2, #6 and #11 have each won three titles, while #3, #8, #12, #22 and #27 have all won two each.

It’s also worth, however, taking into account the possible BAD luck of a particular number. Autosport have broken this down in more detail, but essentially, if you don’t want a mechanical failure, you might want to steer clear of #22 (despite its two title wins) or #15.

Of course, given that numbers were previously handed out based on championship performance, there are clear reasons why certain numbers are more successful or prone to failure – but when did reason ever enter into superstition…?



    January 9, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Nice summary, good to see the site warming up again ready for the car launch season.
    Needless to say, I’ve been hooked in by this whole driver numbers process. They were supposed to be announced today but no sign yet. At least now I can spend some time looking up who won the championships will those numbers you mentioned!

      Seb Patrick

      January 9, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Heh – I compiled the list a short while ago for a project I was planning to do but haven’t got around to. It’s a quite interesting list up until the point where Schumacher and Vettel ruin it for everyone with all their back-to-backs…

      (for example, without looking – who’s the only driver ever to win the title with #2?)


        January 10, 2014 at 9:17 am

        I already looked so can’t have a go! Won’t spoil it for anyone else. I was quite annoyed at myself that I couldn’t work out the other driver to win with 27 without looking.
        What really surprised me was that no numbers have only won the championship once. I suppose it makes sense when you think about it with all the number swapping and how the top three teams usually win.
        This means 4 is the lowest number that’s never won a title, though it’s been on the cars of a few championship contenders (Irvine 99, R Schumacher 03, Kubica 08, Hamilton 12).

        James Bain

        January 11, 2014 at 10:02 am

        I know!!!!! Alain Prost in ’93. Mansell was in Indycar so Williams used 0 for Hill and 2 for Prost.

        P.S. Cant wait for the first car launch your site has become part of my ritual for every livery season in the last few years.


    January 12, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Prost won the title in 93 with the number 2 car, with team mate Hill using zero due to Mansell leaving to race in the U.S.

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