Your questions: pit TVs and car numbers

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The only good thing about the Honda RA107 was its large numbers
The only good thing about the Honda RA107 was its large numbers

It’s time to tackle another crop of your questions. Today we have queries about drivers who left their teams after winning the world championship, pit TVs, and how to get work at the Abu Dhabu Grand Prix.

Plus, is there really a road named after Jenson Button?

Car numbers

We had some questions about number two drivers last time round – now SonyJunkie wants to know about ones and zeroes:

Is Nigel Mansell the only F1 world champion to have never raced (in F1) with a “1” on his car?

To answer the first question: no. Two other drivers won the championship but never started a race with the coveted number one on their cars, and both are tragic tales.

This first was Mike Hawthorn, who retired from Grand Prix racing after winning the 1958 world championship, and was killed in a road accident in January 1959. The second was Jochen Rindt. Rindt has the sad distinction of being the only driver to win the championship posthumously – he was leading the title race when he was killed at Monza in 1970.

Ther are 22 drivers to have started rounds that counted towards the world championship in cars bearing the number one who never won the world championship. Many of these were American drivers contesting the Indianapolis 500, when it counted towards the title from 1950-1960.

The most recent non-champion to use the number one was John Watson, substituting for the injured reigning champion Niki Lauda in the 1985 European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. At the first ever world championship race – at which there was of course no reigning championship, the number one car was driven by Juan Manuel Fangio. Which, as things turned out, was entirely appropriate.

SonyJunkie also asks:

Are Williams the team with the most world champions to their name that didn’t race for them the next season and so not have the number “1” on a Williams? i.e. 1987 Nelson Piquet went to Lotus, 1992 Nigel Mansell went to CART, 1993 Alain Prost retired, 1996 Damon Hill went to Arrows (well he was sacked by Williams!!) etc…

He’s quite right to single out Williams for the unusual distinction of failing to retain champion drivers. Here’s a list of teams that failed to in recent years:

2007 – Renault (Fernando Alonso joined McLaren)
1997 – Willians (Damon Hill joined Arrows)
1996 – Benetton (Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari)
1994 – Williams (Alain Prost retired)
1993 – Williams (Nigel Mansell retired)
1990 – McLaren (Alain Prost joined Ferrari)
1988 – Williams (Nelson Piquet joined Lotus)
1978 – Ferrari (Niki Lauda joined Brabham)
1974 – Tyrrell (Jackie Stewart retired)

In the early seventies and before the practice of assigned driver numbers was less rigid. For example Emerson Fittipaldi started ti 1973 season as reigning champion, but used number two in the first round and number one thereafter.

In 1974 although Tyrrell’s Jackie Stewart won the drivers’ championship the previous year, the team used numbers three and four while Lotus, the reigning constructors’ champions, had one and two.

Staying with car numbers, David wants to know:

Why is it not mandated that the numbers on a race car must be of a certain size and more legible?

I for one miss the large numbers that used to be on cars during the sixties and before. It made it very easy to determine who was driving. F1 is looking to build viewership, a small change like this will help.

Here’s what the rules say about car number sizes:

Each car will carry the race number of its driver (or his replacement) as published by the FIA at the beginning of the season. This number must be clearly visible from the front of the car.
2009 F1 Sporting Regulations Article 21.2

No size is specified. To be honest, the most likely reason for this is so the teams have more room for advertising. And the FIA do mandate an easy way to tell the drivers apart:

In order that the cars of each team may be easily distinguished from one another whilst they are on the track, the on board cameras located above the principle roll structure of the first car must be predominantly fluorescent red and the second car fluorescent yellow.
2009 F1 Sporting Regulations Article 21.1

The ‘first car’ is the lowest-numbered car. You can check the numbers for the 2990 cars here: 2009 F1 drivers and teams

Jenson Button street?

Ed Horan has been to Jenson Button’s stomping ground and asks:

Visited Jenson’s hometown, Frome, recently and accidentally came across a small street named “Button Street”. Would be interested to know why it is so called?

Sure enough, here it is:

View Larger Map

I doubt it’s named after him as it doesn’t include his first name, but I could be wrong.

There are other roads named after F1 drivers in Britain including Ayrton Senna Road in Reading. If you know of any others, please post details below.

Working at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

A very interesting question from Vinod Kumar:

Hi I am working in Sheikh Khalifa Medical City as a radiographer in the deptartment of radiology. I have basic life support. I want to be a part of the fF1 Abu Dhabi Gmedical team. Can u give me the contact no or mail id or instruct me how to apply for it?

My first stop would be the Yas Island Marina website – get in touch with them and they should be able to point you in the right direction. Do let us know how it goes Vinod!

TV in the pits

Last up is H K Idris who wants to know:

Could you please clarify what is lowered on to the drivers (TV screen-like) whenever they are parked in their garages in the pits? Especially during free-practice or qualifiers? What is it & what do the drivers use/need it for?

These monitors give drivers access to various bits of information. They can view detailed time screens similar to the live timing displays we see via, with breakdowns of their laps and their rivals, sector-by-sector. They can also watch live television pictures – you often see them using a remote control to change the screen view.

Send in your questions – and answers

If you can help add to any of these answers please post a comment below.

And if you?ve got an F1 question of your own please send them in – you can email me, contact me on Twitter or leave a comment.

More questions

47 comments on “Your questions: pit TVs and car numbers”

  1. The road in Frome names after jenson is actually ‘Jenson Avenue’. It’s on a new housing estate, and so isn’t quite on Google’s satellite imagery, but it appears if you search for the street name.

    And here it is:,-2.293139&sspn=0.009578,0.027874&ie=UTF8&ll=51.245181,-2.290124&spn=0.004789,0.013937&t=h&z=17

    I still think teams should be made to run the driver’s numbers proper large on the nosecone, and on the rear-wing endplates.

    1. The Button surname goes back for centuries in Frome.
      I`d guess that Button Street was named after its` builder, a benefactor or the original occupant of the site. He may well have been an ancestor of Jenson, though.

    2. So there is a place in Frome named after him? Nice one Ajokay, thanks for that.

  2. JaysonBorne
    28th June 2009, 1:49

    I’d like to know why do drivers have a track figure inside their cockpit

    1. I think it has to do with the numbers of corners, not for use as a map. I know that Melbourne, for example, has fewer numbered corners on TV here in the States than they do on official FIA track diagrams. The diagrams are so the drivers can reference exactly which corner a radio message or something is referring to.

      1. Yeah, if the team radios that oil is on the racing line in turn 8, the driver better know which is turn 8!

    2. Jenson Button:

      “When we talk on the radio or during briefing meetings with our races engineers, we refer to the turns as numbers, like the famous turn 8 at Istanbul Park. The problem for us drivers is that we are racing at a different track every two weeks, so after a year away from a particular track, it’s easy to forget which one is number 4 or 5. The map is only here to help us memorise the numbers of the corners, nothing more technical than that!”

      1. Interesting. I thought it was so they could tell the team where they’d stopped/gone off. :)

  3. Adelaide has a number of streets named after a number of F1 drivers from back in the old Grand Prix days. Senna, Capelli, Lafitte, Rosberg, Johansson, Schumacher, Berger, Streiff, Moss, Hill, and Hakkinen (there may be a couple of others that I have missed).

    Unfortunately, most of it is an industrial area and there is no way you would ever live there, but its a nice to still have that connection to the glory days of F1 in this town.

    Check it out here –,+Wingfield+SA+5013&sll=-34.844416,138.56427&sspn=0.009827,0.015943&ie=UTF8&ll=-34.842514,138.564484&spn=0.009827,0.015943&t=h&z=16

  4. My not-always-reliable memory tells me that the change from large numbers to small happened in the early eighties, the reason for it being, as you say, to allow for more advertising space. I could be wrong but I recall it being mandated by FISA (although it’s possible they merely reduced the minimum size required)- it infuriated me since it made it so much harder to identify drivers and I hated the naked commercial motivation behind it. Just another case of the fans being ignored, I guess.

    1. once again, LM has the right idea: large, standard issue number plates on 3 sides, black number on white face. having them lit like LM would be unnecessary, but smaller plates would be good for f1.

  5. Could you please clarify what is lowered on to the drivers (TV screen-like) whenever they are parked in their garages in the pits? Especially during free-practice or qualifiers? What is it & what do the drivers use/need it for?

    they’re checking up on, of course!

    1. LOL! Can anyone Photoshop a picture of that? That would be cool.

        1. Sorry, uploaded the one with the wrong shadow, correct one is this:

          1. ha ha! that’s really funny!

            Well done mate.

          2. Sush Meerkat
            28th June 2009, 13:40

            Robbert that is superb, you win a hearty handshake!

          3. HounslowBusGarage
            28th June 2009, 22:18

            Superbe e magnifico!

        2. Very good Robbert, maybe you could do one with a driver watching Max with his spanking pics/video???

          1. Thanks Robbert very cool. I wonder if he has his hand up asking he can be next?????????? lol

  6. I notice Frome also has a Lewis Crescent and a Park Hill Drive.

    1. and a palmer street.

  7. Thank you for the answers Keith, really interesting. I Hope Williams get back to their winning ways sometime soon!

  8. I definitely support the need of having large numbers. FIA (or FOTA? …) should oblige teams to keep a certain surface of bodywork free for large numbers application, on the front and on both sides of the car.
    I really ignore why there is a picure of the track inside the cockpit. It seems to be in a position that is really hard to look at during a flying lap!

  9. I always liked the fact that Nigel Mansell ran a red 5 my brother has it as a tattoo .

    1. Yes and with current rule “our nige” wouldn’t be allowed to keep using RED 5.

  10. In Silverstone village there are roads named, Graham Hill, Brabham Close and Stewart Drive. In Towcester they go further; Surtees Way, Hawthorn Drive, Clark Crescent, Irvine Drive, Lauda Way and Tyrrell Way… and only one of those has the driver’s first name.

    The use of transponders on the cars seems to have had an effect on the size of car numbers. Originally the Time Keepers were considered to be the only ones who cared about the car number and needed to see it, as more cars are now fitted with transponders the time keepers only need to see the number to correlate the correct car with the recorded transponder number.

  11. In Germany, Michael Schumacher has a street named after him:

    1. hah right next to Maria Skłodowska Curie

  12. Well, unsurprisingly Ayrton Senna has a very important road and a very important tunnel named after him in São Paulo, but I was impressed to see that, with a quick and reckless look at Google Maps, that there are Ayrton Senna streets in France and Italy, and an Ayrton Senna square in Portugal…

  13. NO Nigel Manseel place around the world then?

  14. Maranello street names include via Gilles Villeneuve, via Alberto Ascari & via Tazio Nuvolari.

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      28th June 2009, 22:48

      What would it be?
      Mansell Close
      Mansell Flats
      Nigels End
      Nigel’s Close
      Il Leone Way
      Cart Close (cruel)

      1. Terry Fabulous
        29th June 2009, 0:37

        I would want to stay well clear of Nigel’s End

  15. Toby Bushby
    29th June 2009, 0:53

    Keith, it seems that this story has all but been ignored by every F1 site thanks to Mosley’s ranting, but I think it’s important:

    Hockenheim gone for good!

  16. Keith, if I remember well, I’ve read somewhere that Fangio used the No. 1 because numbers were given to drivers according to their surnames, which was ordered alphabetically.

    So Fangio, with an F, was the first one on the list.

    Is this correct?

    1. Hmm, haven’t heard that one before. Just had a look at the grid for that first race in 1950, thoutgh, and it also has

      Johnny Claes, Louis Chiron, Prince Bira and Geoff Crossley on it, so surely they would all have been entitled to lower numbers than Fangio?

      Unless Fangio’s team Alfa Romeo were entitled to the number one for some reason, in which case giving it to Fangio instead of Giuseppe Farina, Luigi Fagioli or Reg Parnell makes sense.

      1. Keith, I think your alphabet is letting you down…

        “g” as in Fagioli comes before “n” as in Fangio…

  17. I remember Ayrton Senna Road in Reading being built, its just around the corner from my house, and right next door to where I went to primary school – we used to watch them building the houses over the fence when i was at school, which would have been not long after 1994. He used to live in Reading so i hear, which i never knew until someone who i used to work with said she used to live next door to him, and the whole street would watch the races together in support of him.

    Dont know if we have a road named after Richard Burns – we should have given he was from here.

    1. I agree Clare Richard Burns deserves some recognition in his home town. No-one deserves to die young like he did in such a way.

      1. Completely agree, is such a sad story. The least he deserves is some recognition in the town he came from.

        There may well be a road or something named after him that I dont know about, I just know of the Ayrton Senna one becuase it is so close to my house. I’m not sure which area of Reading Richard Burns was from – if they are going to name a road it would most likely be in the area of Reading that he came from, hence why Ayrton Senna Road is in Tilehurst as is the Kate Winslet one – cant remember exactly what that is called – Winslet Place I think maybe. Its a fairly new one.

        1. I say ‘came from’, obviously in Senna’s case it was where he lived, not where he came from!

  18. The ‘first car’ is the lowest-numbered car. You can check the numbers for the 2990 cars here

    Keith, would it not be 2009, rather than 2990 ? :P

  19. Christopher
    30th June 2009, 20:13

    I was cycling around Silverstone village years ago and came across a street named “Graham Hill”.

  20. Ferrari Cowboys
    10th July 2009, 13:34

    Button Street is next to Horton Street – my surname!

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