FIA retires car number 17 in honour of Bianchi

2015 F1 season

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Car number 17 will be retired from use by Formula One drivers as a mark of respect for Jules Bianchi, this FIA has announced.

“Jean Todt, President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) announced that the car number 17 will be retired from the FIA Formula One world championship in honour of Jules Bianchi,” said a statement released by the sport’s governing body.

“As F1 car numbers are now personally chosen by each driver, the FIA believes it to be an appropriate gesture to retire Jules Bianchi’s number 17.”

“As a result, this number can no longer be used for a car competing in the FIA Formula One world championship.”

Bianchi adopted number 17 in 2014 when drivers were first given the choice of which number they preferred to use. He used it for 15 races that year.

However 17 was not Bianchi’s first choice of race number. He originally expressed a preference for numbers 7, 27 or 77 but as these had already been chosen – by Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas respectively – he later selected number 17.

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Keith Collantine
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60 comments on “FIA retires car number 17 in honour of Bianchi”

  1. With all due respect, I cannot agree with this decision. Sure, it’s all nice and sentimental and what-not, but F1 is a serious business and life goes on. It would have been for the better if FIA never did this.

    1. Agreed. Though hopefully there won’t be this sort of ‘need’ to retire numbers again.

      1. As I wrote earlier today, it feels like tokenism. It doesn’t do any harm so it’s hard to object to, but was number 17 really that significant to him? It wasn’t his first, second or third choice in F1. He made fewer than half his grand prix starts with it. And before 2014 I can’t find any record of him using it once on a racing car, whether in GP2, GP2 Asia, Formula Renault 3.5, Formula Three, Formula Renault 2.0, Formul’ Academy or whatever.

        I hope they come up with some other, more meaningful tribute besides this.

        1. I don’t think it matters if it was significant or not to Bianchi. It was the number he used when he was racing and had his horrible accident.

          People will always have wildly differing opinions on what’s appropriate in circumstances such as this and whether they feel right or not will be down to the individual.

          What this does show up is another ridiculous FIA rule – banning changing helmet designs. That has deprived drivers of some doubtless fantastic tributes to Bianchi this weekend in Hungary, and that would have been a far more fitting tribute for me. I’d like to see the drivers change their helmets anyway, design their own individual tributes, and dare the FIA to fine them.

          1. Nomad Indian
            20th July 2015, 18:07

            COmpletely agree about the helmets bit…

        2. Yeah. F1 can’t even give something memorable like naming some track corner after him nowadays cause it will be broadcast as turn number anyway.

        3. @keithcollantine So just because of this reasons it should not be retired. It’s not like Rossi’s 46 no. And it’s not fair for future race drivers not to be able to wear it, maybe just in respect/admiration someone would chose it, remember Ferrari used to be numbered 27. :(

          @ruliemaulana Maybe that should change, not the broadcasters should dictate . (Parabolica will always be Parabolica, Senna S’s, Eau rouge etc.)

          1. PS You can’t seize a common number, just like you can’t seize a name!

          2. To be more concise, a number it’s not a driver’s to own forever, just for his active career and then another one can chose it.

        4. Once again, I totally agree with K.C. Instead of retiring a number, how about instituting a policy of tractor armour or double-yellow flag speed (or both)? That would be a respect for his legacy.

        5. #17 would have been unofficially retired any way, whether FIA said this or not! There is absolutely no success associated with that number and I seriously doubt if anyone would want to take on a car number that caused the only fatality in F1 in this century. #17 misfortunes in 2014 are not restricted to Jules either – The Malaysian Airlines flight that was shot down was yet another vehicle that carried number 17.

          1. You think the car number caused the accident?

          2. All I’m saying is that #17 was very unlucky in 2014, in more than one occasion. The whole “unlucky 13” superstition caused no F1 car to wear #13 for decades before Maldonado decided to use it. So, if there is an unlucky tag attached to a number, it is unlikely that anyone would take it even otherwise.

            Lots of F1 drivers are among the most superstitious you can imagine.

        6. I think it became ‘his’ number. He was always signing autographs with #17 and tagging his Twitter and Instagram with #JB17.

          That said I disagree with retiring it permanently – I think there might be someone in the future, maybe a relative or a protégé, who would have liked to use it in his honour.

    2. Brandon Tomasi (@)
      20th July 2015, 15:07

      It’s just FIA’s way to pay tribute to Jules. I think it’s a nice and appropriate gesture.

      1. it would have been a better gesture for someone else to take the number. what better way to pay tribute to someone than to race with “their” number? this was poorly thought through by the FIA.

    3. Should the FIM then not have retired Daijiro Kato’s #74, Shoyo Tomizawa’s #48, or taken Marco Simoncelli’s #58 out of circulation? Should CART not have retired Greg Moore’s #99, then?

      1. Speaking of Moore, is that his personal number or Forsythe’s..?

        1. It was his number from go-karting to Indy Lights to CART up until his fateful crash in 1999. Penske Racing were already set to let him carry the 99 to the team in 2000. Interestingly enough, Moore’s selection of 99 may have been a tribute to Wayne Gretzky, whose 99 is retired by all 30 teams in the National Hockey League.

          Before then, Forsythe cars traditionally carried #33.

      2. @rjoconnell yeah, and the FIA didn’t retire #2 when Ayrton Senna died!

        1. @optimaximal Williams Grand Prix Engineering held the right to the #2 that year. That wasn’t the number that Ayrton Senna selected as his first, second, third, fourth, or even fifth choice to stay with him for the remainder of his career no matter where he drove – whether it was at Williams, or Ferrari, or back at McLaren, or even at Forti Corse.

          1. @rjoconnell it was a tongue in cheek comment referencing the sheer tokenism of the gesture. It essentially means nothing given the recent issues with the safety car covered by thejudge13 –

            But to respond to you, the car number is the right of the driver as much as the team, given that in ’94 (as in ’93) neither Williams car was allowed to run the #1 as the previous winner had left the sport.
            Similarly, a more recent example is when Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso left their respective championship-winning teams, they took the #1 with them!

          2. Before the days of this permanent number system, #1 belonged to driver (previous WDC) while his team mate during current season got #2. Every other number belonged to the teams based on their constructors standings of previous year irrespective of who drove those cars.

            So the only number belonging to a driver and not to a team is #1.

        2. The reason was too obvious (1993 constructors world champion), buddy.

          1. @ernietheracefan Prost was the reigning, retired world drivers’ champion in 1994 and that’s the actual reason for the number not to be used that season.

    4. Remember, this is drivers personal number (like in MotoGP), unlike team number (#3 for RCR, 27 & 28 for Ferrari).

      1. LotsOfControl (@for-unlawful-carnal-knowledge)
        21st July 2015, 9:45

        team number (27 & 28 for Ferrari)

        Every other number belonged to the teams based on their constructors standings of previous year irrespective of who drove those cars.

        Not true. I believe they applied constructor standings numbers after 1995 season. (Tyrell were never second in constructor championship in the 80’s and they held 3&4 for very long) In the 80’s, the system was different and to me most logical and simple.

        Only two teams changed numbers. The WDC winning team and previous WDC winning tem. Ferrari held 27&28 from 1981 untill 1990. They got the number from Williams, when Jones won WDC, and since they didn’t win WDC held that number untill Prost as WDC joined them in 1990. Mclaren drove 27&28 numbers in 1990. Senna won in 1990, so they switced again for 1991.
        So, 27&28 weren’t Ferrari team numbers as most people mistakenly believe. They just held it for very long.

        1. LotsOfControl (@for-unlawful-carnal-knowledge)
          21st July 2015, 9:52

          I will also add this:

          I don’t agree with personal number thing. Drivers should be identified by their helmets, not silly numbers. And also #1 should be on the grid, not this #44 b.s.

    5. Disagree. I think its a good gesture.

  2. Isn’t there a sunset period for numbers which allows them to be freed up after so many years?

    With all due respect, given that Jules was forced into a fourth decision given his previous 3 preferred choices were taken due to essentially a random number generator (sorry, ‘choice allocated based on prior championship position’), it seems a bit hokum to remove a number that likely meant nothing to him from circulation.

    1. Seems @keithcollantine agrees! ^_^

  3. I fully understand and acknowledge the reasoning behind this, but I’m not a fan of retiring numbers in any sport. Motor racing is no exception.

    Numbers in F1 haven’t been retired before (bar 13, which has since been reintroduced) and regardless of whether it’s because the driver has picked it or not, even those who were very much remembered by one number have not had the same treatment.

    1. There will never be another 99 in hockey.
      There will never be another 46 in motogp.
      I believe that number retirements should only happen for multi-champions, and not for tragedies.
      That being said, not even number 27 is sacred ;).

  4. Initially I thought this was the best course of action, and I think nobody would have chosen it for a long time out of respect anyway. However, in NASCAR Dale Earnhardt Jr said something I definitely agree with when Austin Dillon became the first person to use the #3 after Dale’s father: ‘I don’t look at the numbers tied to drivers as much as the history of the number. The number is more of a bank that you deposit history into, and it doesn’t really belong to any individual.’ Jules contributed his chapter of the history of the number 17, and it’s exceptionally sad that his chapter has been cut short. If there was to be another driver to use the number 17 in the future, it would bring back the memories of Jules’ accomplishments in the short time he had to make his mark on the sport.

    1. COTD.

      Really. Well put.

  5. Stephen Cole
    20th July 2015, 15:25

    Surely they didn’t need to retire it anyway, I very much doubt any other driver would have used it, out of respect, unless they had a previous affinity to 17 from karting etc. In which case, I can’t see anyone objecting to that.

    1. While I agree with you, ithe thing is I believe while not all of us think it was neccesary, maybe the gesture will provide some comform to Jules´family, friends, fans and collegues.

  6. They should paint the French flag on the pole grid slot in Hungary, a la Monaco 1994

  7. I agree with this decision. Sure it was not his first choice, and neither did he make a lot of starts with it but it was a number that identified him towards the end. I think that people in the future will look back and wonder why 17 was not used and eventually learn about Jules if they didn’t know him already. Just a great way to keep Jules in our minds. I would definitely like to see Jules honored by forming a missing man formation in the upcoming GP as suggested by multiple people.

    1. I doubt if someone would really be interested 5 years down the line in knowing why 17 was not used, when we are likely to see a maximum of 20 cars and a list of around 99 numbers to choose from. It means there would always be 79 numbers that are not used and 17 would take a permanent place among that list of 79.

  8. I agree with this decision in a way. It’s done in many other sports.

    I also disagree with those that say #17 wasn’t his first choice so it has little connection to him. 27 wasn’t Gilles Villeneuve most used number either, he used 12 much more times and fought for a championship with it. And even his son acknowledges it as Gilles’ number, but the #27 Ferrari always has Gilles attached to it. And he didn’t chose it either.

    For Jules, while it wasn’t his prefered number, it was his choice to use 17 afterall.

    On the other hand, someone using number 17 later on would bring back memories of Jules, and that’s what it should happen. Same with #58 for Simoncelli or #3 for Dale Sr.

  9. I agree with this decision. I think is a gesture towards his family that we remember him. Like @dpod mentioned, people will look back and ask why and they will remember him. This decision is for those loved ones he left behind because it is their pain that is the greatest.

  10. It’s the done thing these days but my principle memory of Jules is his 9th place at Monaco, not the number he had on his car.

  11. Well, I can’t really imagine the opposite.
    Can you really imagine a new driver deliberately choosing the number 17, knowing that it was the late Jules’ number?

    1. @timothykatz 50 years from now? Yes, why not?

  12. I think a fantastic tribute would be to re-name Rascasse at Monaco to Bianchi. That move is what he will always be remembered for and he really did make that corner his that day. and while I know it’s probably impossible to re-name it, I wish we could.

    1. Rascasse has a place in F1 history from before Jules was even born, possibly even before his father was born. Rascasse, for modern F1 times, is synonymous with Schumacher’s last infamous cheat while attempting to deny pole to Alonso. Jules’ pass was by no means the best move ever made at Rascasse, nor the most memorable event there, nor was it a truly historic moment. It was an ill-judged barge using a car as a battering ram which could have ended in serious injury with wheels tangling (as it has in the past).

      It’s this sort of overwrought hype that I find distasteful in social-media led campaigns.

      Bianchi was clearly a very popular young man, and a good (potentially very good) driver, but he’s not a “legend”, or an “icon”. Bianchi hadn’t earned that, it’s sad that he never got the chance to try for it, but that’s a fact.

      Recognising the loss of someone is not the same as over-inflating their lives, or their abilities. Maria de Violotta wasn’t ever going to be a great F1 driver, but her death is no less sad for that.

      Remember also that this whole “retire the number” business comes from America: from sports like Baseball and Basketball, where retiring a number is done for marketing purposes: so that they can sell you things with that number printed on it as an (even more) overpriced “commemerative” issue. It’s got nothing to do with tributes, or respect, although it’s marketed that way.

      When someone mentions a minute’s silence before the national anthem, I think of respect and dignity. When some mentions “retiring a number”, I think of two grinning goons standing in a press conference with dollar signs in their eyes holding up a baseball jersey.

      That’s not how I’d want to remember Jules, and I don’t see any indication he was the type to want it either.

  13. Fudge Ahmed (@)
    20th July 2015, 19:01

    Not often I post and even less often that I disagree with the consensus on one of the more quality F1 sites out there such as this one but I can’t understand some of the negativity going on here, it is an appropriate gesture and whether or not it was Jules’ 1st, 2nd or 99th choice of number, that’s the number he drove on that fateful day.

    Years from now (assuming the numbering system remains the same), the next generation of F1 fans will read a headline about upcoming driver numbers and there will be some footnote about how the next Verstappen had to settle for number 37 because the FIA has retired the number 17, why did they do that? It was out of respect for a driver who lost his life. ‘Hey let me look up this Jules Bianchi guy on Wikipedia, wow seems like this guy was really tipped to be a future WDC, I wish he had got to fulfill that destiny.’ THAT is an enduring legacy not 6 drivers having held the number in the next 10 years and it becoming just a pair of digits synonymous with 2027’s version of Crashdonado or whoever.

    I really think the FIA is misdirected at the moment but also that public consensus is so bad that even when occasionally they do something right it gets scrutinized and criticized.

    1. Significance is bestowed, not bought. Hundreds of drivers, many more talented than Bianchi are dead and forgotten in motor racing annals. To retire all “their” numbers, you’d have to start numbering cars in the hundreds.

      And as to this gesture, how many people before the twitter grief-junkie “retire the number” bandwagon started up even knew what number was on Bianchi’s car?

      Very very few.

      1. Fudge Ahmed (@)
        20th July 2015, 19:43

        And the FIA was even more of a political farce when those drivers were killed than it is now. The entity and who it was run by at the time of Senna and other’s deaths is not the same entity in terms of personnel, leadership, financials, headquartershi, you name it; than it is now so despite that not being the call they made then, the current FIA is more than entitled to do as it wants now.

        With the improvements in safety in modern F1, hopefully there will be very, very few if hopefully any fatalities in the future let alone hundreds so I think the number allocation ratio is quite safe for now.

        And as for who knew what his number was, I would hazard the same people who read this site day in day out and have been watching this and other sites for an update on his condition and also pore over timing data from qualifying and see every drivers number in plain view multiple times every fortnight. This probably wouldn’t even make it so the so called uninformed casual grief junkie Twitter contingent, whoever they may be.

        If anyone other than Jules’s family dismissed this gesture then sorry but I really don’t agree with the consensus.

  14. Good thing they didn’t do this in the 60s and 70s – car numbers would be well into the hundreds…

    I hope one day a new generation of Bianchi will go racing (despite the family’s doubts etc, again) and then we can bring back number 17.

  15. Can’t agree with this decision. Its a number that others may want to use and should be allowed to use it.

    I also can’t agree with the nature of modern motorsport fans when they go into mass mourning after incidents like these. Yes its tragic, it truly is don’t get me wrong there but F1 should go into the next race with its head held high, pay tribute to Jules with a minute silence and a bloody good race for the fans, showing us all why we follow this sport and why the likes of Jules are lucky enough to of played a part in it in the first place.

    1. Yes, well said. Jules has moved on, and so should we…
      with his memory.

  16. I am really surprised at the number of comments that say it wasn’t done then or it wasn’t done in this series, as if it justifies that it should not be done now. There would be no progress if we always did what we did on the past. Going by that the improved safety standards are bad because it reduces the number of serious or fatal accidents, really??

    I am all for free speech, but free speech that just tends to criticize about a well intentioned decision without suggesting alternatives shows more about the person criticizing than the decision itself.

  17. It may have not meant much to him, but it does now mean much to us. Though he used it for such a short time, in the future when a driver will pick his number 17 will be taken. By Jules. It’s like if he was still racing.
    And regarding the fact it was his fourth choice, he would have kept it for his entire career anyhow, and won championships with it. Now no one will take the number for himself, becauseit will be “Jules’ number”.

  18. This is actually a rare commodity cause we can’t just invent more 1 and 2 digit numbers. Nice gesture, but number retirements should only be for greats.

  19. Maybe they should rename the FIA Pole Position Trophy after Jules Bianchi. Just a thought.

  20. they should retire the Marrussia team before a third driver to die driving this thing they call F1 car instead of the number 17.

    1. The team deserve our sympathy for the heartbreak they have endured. Turning on them for no good reason is vindictiveness of the worst possible kind at the worst possible time.

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