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2014 Formula One Season: Fun With Numbers

Rule changes have been the name of the game in Formula One in 2014, whether fans liked it or not. The V6 turbo ‘power units’ and double points for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix stirred the pot and created massive debate.

Today, we will reflect on one of the cosmetic changes that has been well received in the sport – numerical freedom for drivers. The structural tradition of numbers went out the window as most drivers embraced the opportunity to unleash their personalities.

Here are some facts about drivers and their numbers now that the campaign has drawn to a close.

  • Lewis Hamilton’s #44 is the highest number ever used by a championship winning driver. This breaks his own and Jenson Button’s modern era record (both used #22) and the overall record shared by Alan Jones and Ayrton Senna (#27).
  • Valtteri Bottas and Adrian Sutil were the only full-time entries to hold a number higher than #44, so it is the also highest winning number of the season. Bottas’ #77 is the highest points scoring number of 2014, however.
  • Nico Rosberg elected to take the #6 for this season. He was unable to mimic his champion father Keke this time around, as he used the #6 on his Williams in 1982.
  • Under the current regulations, Adrian Sutil is the first holder of the unbreakable record of using the highest number possible – the #99. (When the Indianapolis 500 was included on the World Championship calendar, it included many high numbers, but the event never had a direct impact on the winner of the F1 championship, so Sutil is the first Grand Prix car driver to have such a high number qualified into a Grand Prix).
  • The #13 was disused for many years in F1, most likely due to superstition. Pastor Maldonado, by reviving the number, became the first driver in 51 years to enter a Grand Prix with it. Mexican Moises Solana used it at his home Grand Prix in 1963, and was classified 11th despite retiring with a few laps to go. British driver Divina Galica failed to qualify for the 1976 British Grand Prix using the #13 – her only attempt of that year.
  • Regardless of whether or not the numbering system changed this year, Sebastian Vettel is the first holder of the World Champion’s #1 not to win a Grand Prix since Jacques Villeneuve in 1998.
  • No driver elected to use the #2 or #12. This is the first time in F1 history that these numbers have been absent from competition. (Seb Vettel will have to take his chosen #5 in 2015, another number that was removed for the very first time).
  • The #27, made popular by famous Ferrari drivers of the past (and the two aforementioned champions), was lost at the end of 1995 as a new numbering system was introduced for 1996. Nico Hulkenberg, who has links to Ferrari, instinctively took the number, describing it as “cool”.
  • Caterham and Toro Rosso were the only teams to have consecutive numbers that would have existed under the old systems (#9 & #10, #25 & #26). New World Champions Mercedes used #9 and #10 in 2013, while Ligier were the last team that were able to run #25 and #26 together in 1995.
  • Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean carried over their 2013 numbers (#7 & #8) forward, for contrasting reasons. Kimi wasn’t bothered to pick a new number, while Romain’s lucky number is 8.
  • Marussia’s Max Chilton couldn’t complete the entire season due to the team’s difficulties. As a consequence, he is the first holder of the #4 to fail to score a point since Andrea de Cesaris in 1993, driving for Tyrrell. Curiously, no permanent holder of the #4 has won the World Championship – Sir Jackie Stewart used the number once in his triumphant 1969 season (Eddie Irvine nearly succeeded in 1999, however).
  • If you combine Felipe Massa’s and Valtteri Bottas’ numbers together, you get 1977. Remarkably, this is the year that Williams Grand Prix Engineering was formed after Walter Wolf took over Frank Williams Racing Cars.
  • The McLaren duo of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button also have numbers that can be morphed into a year within reach (2022). Not much is guaranteed with this future date, except it will be a World Cup year and that it is scheduled to be McLaren’s 59th year of existence.
  • MotoGP and NASCAR are two motorsport disciplines that have used the freedom of choice of numbers for many years. 2014 MotoGP champion Marc Márquez’s #93 hasn’t appeared since the 1951 German Grand Prix (and the 1952 Indy 500). Three of the Final Four in the 2014 NASCAR Chase share numbers with F1 drivers (#4, #11 and #22). Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing took his #4 to glory, a boost for Gene Haas and co. as they continue preparation for F1 life. David Brabham was the most recent carrier of Ryan Newman’s #31, as the team leader of Simtek in 1994.

Eoin Harmon, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.