Your questions: F1 and the number 13

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No 13Al wrote in to ask this:

Has there ever been a number 13 on a car [in F1] and if so who was it?

When the FIA published the 2008 entry list last week Toyota had numbers 11 and 12 then Scuderia Toro Rosso had numbers 14 and 15. There will be no number 13 – there hasn’t been for many years. But that hasn’t always been the case.

A car numbered 13 has only appeared once in a Grand Prix. Moises Solana qualified 11th for his first race – at home in Mexico City – in 1963 in a BRM numbered 13. He was a classified finisher in 11th despite his engine having failed eight laps short of the chequered flag.

Solana went on to compete in another seven Grand Prix but never with the number 13 again.

The only other occasion a car numbered 13 appeared in an F1 race weekend was in 1976 when Divina Galica attempted to qualify for her first Grand Prix (also her home race, at Brands Hatch) in Surtees-Ford number 13. She failed to make the race, as she did on her other two attempts to enter races in 1978.

And that is the very brief complete history of drivers who have raced (or nearly raced) in F1 with the number 13.

I’ve always felt superstitions like this are complete and utter nonsense. It irritates me that the sport’s governing body assumes everyone to be triskaidekaphobics (afraid of the number 13) and I’d like to see a driver stick two fingers up to the hocus-pocus and demand the number 13 on their car.

Seeing as Sebastien Bourdais will be making his Grand Prix debut at Melbourne in two month’s time it would be fitting if he did it.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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25 comments on “Your questions: F1 and the number 13”

  1. Great post. I hear Jenson Button spent last Winter opening umbrellas inside, walking under ladders and also that he broke a mirror on Friday 13th October. Silly boy! :-P

  2. thanks for answering my question!great post.

  3. Will any posts/threads be made containing the lap times from testing from Jerez?

    I really want to no the out come of the testing espcially now traction control is gone.

  4. Isn’t this whole nonsense with the number 13 a narrowly Western, Christian based thing anyway.

    I remember Satoru Nakajima always used to race with the number 3 at Tyrrell because in Japanese culture, 4 is seen as an unlucky number.

    Mind you, I’m as bad as anyone. Always like to have the number 14, for silly sentimental reasons…

    1. Patrick, although Christianity is the popularist scapegoat for everything today, I don’t think issues with 13 have much to do with Christianity except maybe something to do with the last supper.

      It’s certainly not mentioned in the Bible as a bad number that i am aware of. Unlike the number 666, and I don’t think anyone really knows what that means or we would all know what we were looking out for and that would make things toooooo easy! lol

      Covens in “Black” or “White” magic are traditionally composed of 13, and that might seem a more likely basis for the superstition.

  5. Hi Mike, I will be covering all the tests at least once a week, probably more as the season gets close.

  6. It would be funny to see Mario Zagallo (famous brazilian footballer, only four-times World Cup champion – twice as player, once as coach and once as assistant coach) in Formula 1, claiming that 13 is his lucky number and he deserves to use it!

    I don’t know if it’s commented outside Brazil, but here his ‘inverted’ superstition is very very famous…

  7. Perhaps one of the Asian drivers might give the #13 a go? I don’t beleive it has any negative connotations in their culture, largely as you say being a Western thing.

    Number 8 is seen as being very lucky in Chinese culture, and I notice that Nakajima is assigned the #8 car. I am not sure if the Japanese hold 8 in the same regard – but let’s see if that works out for him !

    Personally I have always liked #5, and am glad to see Fernando is back in the #5 car.

  8. I consider #13 as a lucky number for me because it’s a prime number (and I’m from the UK). Maybe I’m just a bit strange…

  9. If i’m not mistaken, Marco Melandri always had number 13
    (also on his helmet), but was then asked by his team (don’t now wich one)
    to drop the 13 … so now he uses 33!

  10. “Number 8 is seen as being very lucky in Chinese culture, and I notice that Nakajima is assigned the #8 car. I am not sure if the Japanese hold 8 in the same regard – but let’s see if that works out for him !”

    I had a talk ages ago with a Japanese guy about superstitious numbers, and the only one in common Cantonese had with him was 4 – because both sound like “death”.

    On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me if he received a good amount of support in China because of it – I mean, hasn’t Michael Schumacher been asked before if he drives a red car because it’s the lucky colour?

  11. Well, Loki, Michael wasn’t too lucky in China for it. 2 no-scores in 04 and 05, although he did have his last career win there in 06. Hee.

    Look at it this way. Many other people also avoid the number 13. Many buildings, for example, have no 13th floor. So it isn’t unique to motorsport, really.

  12. Thanks Keith! :D

  13. If we were back in the old days when drivers would pick their own numbers I would demand 666 just to be stupid.

    1. They would disqualify you for unfair advantage.

  14. OH NO 13TH COMMENT!!!

  15. It isn’t a case of superstition (not anymore),
    It’s more out of tradition!

    At my home track Zolder, you can’t find a nr13 box.
    Don’t know how it is at other places!

  16. michael counsell
    26th June 2008, 14:19

    In Italy 17 is unlucky but that number is most likely still used by Italian teams.

  17. Macademianut
    26th June 2008, 23:49

    This year, Number “22” and “23” are unlucky from FIA stand-point. ;)

    1. Talking of Moises Solana (the first man to carry ’13’ in a grand prix), his mechanic in that race (the 1966 Mexican GP) was an 18-year-old English lad named Ronald Dennis who was working in his first ever grand prix. He’s done okay these past 43 years, though, so ’13’ wasn’t exactly unlucky for Ron, was it?!

      1. Non motoring fans could argue that it turned out unlucky – he got stuck playing around with racing cars instead of getting a decent job producing something useful;-)

        I’m not exactly superstitious, but I know from risk analysis, among other subjects within weapons systems and explosives, that the risk lies within the details. If You don’t follow secure procedures, and if You perform sloppy work, preparations etc. then the risk of accidents increase by factors. If You prepare something badly, the risk for it to go wrong increases a lot, whatever the activity. In historic times this fact has not been correctly understood, but sort of translated into superstition or religion, i.e. it is Gods will or “It wasn’t my fault, (an attempt to “wash hands” or project guilt to someone or something else) it was because the black cat ran across the road in front of me the other day!”
        That being said it is usually a bad idea to walk under a ladder, due to the risk of something being dropped by the person working on the ladder. It is usually a bad idea to open an umbrella inside, due to the increased risk of hitting something or someone, when manoeuvring the thing out the door. So some of the superstition can be translated into modern causal risk analysis, but I don’t see a way to “translate” the number 13…

  18. Thanks for that, i actually found an interesting article on the “13 thing” at Joe Saward’s Grand Prix Blog too. It contains a chilling tale too in one of the entries all linked to that number. check it out

  19. Palle, there’s be one way to test that. Pick another sport which does use number 13 regularly and analyse the proportion of mishaps which are associated with the number 13 compared to the other numbers in regular use.

    I wouldn’t entirely be surprised to see an increase. I am not superstitious myself, but mishaps could be induced simply because of all the people *are* supertious. Sort of like a negative vibe, if you get my drift.

    Basically, it’s people that cause errors, not numbers.

  20. Now, after Formula One decided to have the drivers choose their own number, Pastor Maldonado decided to take that number, to shut up all the superstition talk. LOL.

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