Massa’s number four and Kubica’s number five – but who’s number 13?

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Massa tests a Ferrari with number 3 on it, but his race number will be 4

Earlier this week the FIA published the list of official team and driver entries for the 2009 season.

Pitpass* found it surprising that Robert Kubica had been elevated to number five, giving him a lower number than Nick Heidfeld, which wasn’t the case last year.

I didn’t find that remarkable in the slightest. What caught my attention was Kimi Raikkonen getting number three instead of Felipe Massa. But do drivers’ numbers really matter?

It’s become increasingly common for teams to assign numbers to their drivers based on which one performed better in the previous years’ championship, at least in cases where they are keeping the same two drivers from season to season.

BMW seem to be sticking to this: Heidfeld got the lower number in 2008 because he beat Kubica in 2007, and vice-versa for this season.

Three and four

But that is evidently not what’s being practised at Ferrari, where Massa will have the higher number on his car this year despite having beaten Raikkonen last year.

If it were some lower team bucking the trend in this way it would hardly be worthy of mention. But after Massa drove what was unquestionably the best season of his career last year and lost the world championship in such heart-breaking fashion, it seems rather cruel for Ferrari not to acknowledge he beat his team mate by giving him number three.

Perhaps Raikkonen is assured of the lower number in the terms of his contract. Or perhaps there is nothing to it at all. After all, the only number drivers care about having on their cars is number one.

Lucky 13

Actually there is one other number the drivers care about having on their car. In this case it’s a number they apparently don’t want on their car: ‘unlucky’ number 13. It has been used very rarely in F1 (read about the few occasions it appeared here).

The year the 13th driver on the list – who will have car number 14 – is Mark Webber.

That’s the same Mark Webber who broke his leg on a charity event last year. And the same poor bloke who suffered more race-ending car failures than anyone else for two seasons in a row from 2006-2007.

Webber has been unlucky enough without having number 13 on his car – does anyone seriously think it would make a difference if he did have number 13 this year? The MP4-13 worked out pretty well for McLaren as I recall.

I think Webber should stick two fingers up to superstition and demand to have the number 13 on his car. If it doesn’t matter that Massa’s number four instead of number three, it certainly doesn’t matter if Webber is 13 instead of 14.

*I couldn’t be bothered quoting from Pitpass because I’m sick of their paranoid anti-copying site design that stops you from highlighting text.

More about F1 drivers’ numbers

Author information

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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28 comments on “Massa’s number four and Kubica’s number five – but who’s number 13?”

  1. It’s FIA who automatically assign the smaller number to the driver with higher points in the previous season. Teams may ask their numbers be reversed, but this häs become increasingly rare.

    In Ferrari’s case FIA simply made a mistake. Ferrari didn’t ask their numbers that way (and Massa indeed drove the car no. 3 in the first tests).

    1. The FIA said they made a mistake? That doesn’t sound like them…

    2. The FIA assigns a pair of numbers to each team according to championship position (except for the team with the defending Championship-winning driver, which always gets 1 and 2 unless the Championship-winning driver quit the sport, in which case the team with which that driver got the championship has 0 and 2).

      The team then has a form to submit their team entry. This form can be seen as Appendix 2 of the Sporting Regulations. This has a line for Driver No. 1 and another for Driver No. 2. It is what is contained on those lines of that form that determines which of the two drivers gets the lower number. Driver No. 1 on the form gets the lower number unless the defending championship-winning driver was put on the Driver No. 2 line by mistake, in which case the FIA will give the defending champion the number 1 irrespective of the contents of the form.

  2. lol I’d say Webber is quite lucky really. After all he earned many millions last year which I would happily do for a broken leg lol…

  3. I wish we WOULD have a Car No. 13.

    It seems incredibly silly for this high technology, scientifically advanced sport to be worrying about such daft superstition.

    1. The amusing thing for me about this superstition is that I consider 13 to be lucky (because I consider all prime numbers lucky)…

    2. I consider all prime numbers lucky

      Ah a fellow maths geek! I’ve been driving my girlfriend up the wall complaining about hitting my 27th birthday milestone – the big 3^3! (actually the exclamation mark there makes it look like three to the power of three factorial, but I’m sure you understood what I meant :-) )

  4. Keith – try Google Chrome, allows me to copy from PitPass ;)

    1. The other thing to try is clicking on “Printer-friendly version of this page” and then saving it as text format. The “printer-friendly version” also reliably gives me the correct link for the page, which is the thing that irritates me about pitpass’ solution to piracy. I can understand and sympathise with the intention, but the implementation is less than ideal.

    2. Thanks guys – I’m more likely to use Alianora’s tip in practice. Although I like Chrome it can’t yet duplicate all the functionality I get from the numerous Firefox plugins I have installed. Chrome’s impressively quick with script-heavy stuff though.

    3. Or Opera, the most overlooked of browsers. Safari seems to work too.

    4. I found that if you add h**p:// (replace **) to your Adblock it removes the protection.

  5. Webber might as well use number 13 – I mean, you might as well try changing something after all these years of bad luck. Those lucky socks/underpants/rituals may be having an adverse effect and the number 13 could negate that :)

  6. Luca Colajanni when confronted with the list, said that: “Felipe is the number 3, and Kimi 4, end point”, whole merchandise was made around that as confirmed by the journalists, but unfortunately FIA commited a gaffe, so we can expect them to fix the list soon.

    Anyways the list in FIA’s site is for media purposes only, not regulatory ones.

    & According to Turun Sanomat, in Ferrari’s own statements Massa was #3 and Raikkonen #4.

    1. Good news :)

    2. Nice to hear – Ferrari aren’t giving any preference prior to the season. But, for me numbers hardly mean anything, it really isn’t driver’s own, mostly it’ll change the year after (FIA should reconsider these numbering systems… There was an article by Keith on this too!)

      But, if it is to indicate the finishing order of the last season then Massa deserves it… hoping for it to be changed ;) But, as I said it means nothing to me, even with #4, I can realize Massa has beaten Kimi last season (I guess, anybody who’s watching F1 can do).

  7. Well, when I looked at this page there were 13 comments

    And since Ollie has figured out that I am responsible for Webbers broken leg, I think 13 on the car can’t hurt !

  8. Gosh, on the official F1 site, Sebastien Buemi looks scary!

  9. The reason why Massa drove the #3 in the test is because the #3 was the only car used in the test, I believe.

    This must be a mistake. I’m sure Ferrari would have given Massa the lower number if it was up to them.

  10. Its a silly superstition, but its kinda nice that f1 sticks to tradition by leaving it out.

  11. Webber should use the #13. I dont believe in superstition, because its bad luck :)

  12. lol at your pitpass comment at the end hahahah

  13. I still think the teams should go back to the pre-1996 way of having their own numbers.

    The numbers should also be far bigger and more prominant on the cars, and should always appear big on the nosecone, and on the rear wing endplates like they used a decade or so ago.

    It’s not like they don’t have enough room on those rear wing endplates this year, is it?

    1. “It’s not like they don’t have enough room on those rear wing endplates this year, is it?”

      Won’t someone please think of the sponsors! lol only kidding around!

  14. keith, maybe a good idea to make a poll about who must retire? max, bernie, herman tilke maybe, and if someone knows another few, those too. I am curious which percentage wants those guy’s out of the F1

  15. i dont think it matters what number is on a car it wont make a differance to its performance will it

  16. *I couldn’t be bothered quoting from Pitpass because I’m sick of their paranoid anti-copying site design that stops you from highlighting text.

    It’s clever though, you must admit. Anyway, it doesn’t beat me – if I want to copy the text, I just type it out. let them try blocking that!

    1. I don’t think it’s clever at all. They’d have had tons of links from me by now if they didn’t have it.

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