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.
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