From Teflonso to Britney: Top ten F1 driver nicknames

Top Tens

Britney, The Professor, Teflonso: What’s in a nickname?

Rather a lot, actually. F1 driver’s nicknames tend to tell us something about their skills, their physical appearance – or how often they get into trouble.

Here are ten memorable and revealing F1 driver nicknames.


Juan Manuel Fangio, 1955

The significant thing about this nickname for Juan Manuel Fangio is not just that it’s a mark of extremely high praise for the man who ruled F1 in the fifties.

This wasn’t just a term used by fans and pundits – this was how fellow drivers referred to their greatest rival. It shows the high regard the five-times champion was held in by his peers.

Can you imagine any of today’s drivers referring to the opposition in such terms?

The Professor

In an era of unpredictable fuel and tyre consumption, one man stood out as the best at playing the long game. Alain Prost was an expert at restraining the urge to drive at ten-tenths, preserving his car until the end of the race, and above all, making sure he did not run out of fuel.

This was easier said than done in the turbo era, when the maximum fuel limit was cut several times, forcing drivers to be ever more canny with their boost levels.

It made for a fascinating rivalry between himself and Ayrton Senna, master of the flying lap in qualifying.

Prost’s calculating style served him equally well outside of the cockpit. His astute political manoeuvrings landed him a seat in the best car in F1 in 1993 – with a veto preventing Senna joining him at the team.


Michael Schumacher, Benetton, 1994

Michael Schumacher, Benetton, 1994

Nicknames can be compliments or criticisms. This early appellation belonging to Michael Schumacher is clearly the latter.

But what’s particularly telling about the phrase is that it was applied by his own countrymen in his native tongue.

The word ‘schummel’ carries connotations of cheating and deviousness. It first appeared in German tabloid newspapers during the 1994 season, when Schumacher was repeatedly accused of bending or breaking the rules.

The charge sheet included the hidden ‘option 13′ menu on his Benetton, alleged to activate a banned launch control system; his disqualification at Silverstone and two-race ban; his team mate’s pit fire following the removal of a filter from Benetton’s refuelling rig; his disqualification at Spa on a technicality; and driving into Damon Hill to clinch the world championship at Adelaide.

It was with this cloud hanging over him that Schumacher eventually decided to leave Benetton and join Ferrari. But despite seven world championship titles and 91 wins, to some he is still Schummel-Schumi.


On similar lines to ‘Schummel-Schumi’, Fernando Alonso’s proximity to the two biggest F1 scandals of recent years has earned him the nickname ‘Teflonso’.

Polytetrafluoroethylene – better known as Teflon – is commonly used as a non-stick coating on kitchenware. It also has a rich tradition of being used to describe people tainted by allegations but never directly implicated in them.

One of its earliest uses was in reference to gangster John Gotti – the ‘Teflon Don’ – who escaped punishment in a series of trials in New York in the eighties.

In Alonso’s case it refers to his involvement in ‘Spygate’ in 2007, where emails revealed he discussed McLaren’s use of confidential Ferrari information, and ‘Crashgate’ in 2008, where his Renault team mate Nelson Piquet Jnr was ordered by his team to crash to help Alonso win.

It was after the latter that the name entered widespread use. BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle used it during the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix after the real story behind the previous year’s race became public knowledge.

The charges may not have stuck, but the nickname has.

Il Leone

We’re back in the realm of more positive nicknames.

The quickest way for a new Ferrari driver to win over Italy’s passionate Tifosi is to win for them first time out.

That’s exactly what Nigel Mansell did for them against the odds at Brazil in 1989. In a year of McLaren domination, he added a second triumph at Hungary, racing through the field from 12th on the grid.

Though he only spent two years with the team his charging, battling style earned him the nickname ‘il leone’ – the lion.

Hunt the Shunt

Janes Hunt, McLaren, 1976

Janes Hunt, McLaren, 1976

Many are the drivers who’ve earned a nickname for their propensity for crashing.

The shunt-prone Andrea de Cesaris was dubbed, somewhat predictably, ‘de Crasheris’ for his efforts.

A young Jody Scheckter earned the more obscure nickname ‘Fletcher’ following a series of crashes.

This is one for more literate F1 fans – Fletcher is the name of a bird in the book Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, who persistently tries to fly before he’s ready and keeps crashing as a result.

But the best example of its type has to be the short-but-sweet Hunt the Shunt. Like Scheckter, James Hunt overcame his crashing ways to claim a championship win in the seventies.

The Pampas Bull

A sub-species of nicknames are those which are more like titles, or something you might imagine being used to describe a wrestler.

The stocky frame of Jose Froilan Gonzalez, the first driver to win an F1 race for Ferrari, earned him the name ‘The Pampas Bull’. This was at least more complimentary than the name those closest to him used – El Cabezon, ‘Fat Head’.

Other examples of this type include The Monza Gorilla (Vittorio Brambilla) and The Abruzzi Robber (Luigi Fagioli).

The Rat

Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda

Not the most flattering of nicknames, but Niki Lauda was dubbed The Rat more for his appearance than his personality.

This was less to do with the damage his horrific crash of 1976 did to his face than the profile of his head and bucked teeth.

As he amassed wins and championships, so the name became more adulatory, progressing to ‘Super Rat’ and ‘King Rat’ before he retired at the end of 1985 with three titles and 25 wins under his belt.

Black Jack

Jack Brabham had a reputation for his uncompromising driving on the track.

But the nickname ‘Black Jack’ owed more to his personality – he had a reputation for not being very forthcoming.

Like Lauda, his appearance was also part of it – Brabham’s dark hair matching his quiet personality.


Nico "Britney" Rosberg's passport

Nico "Britney" Rosberg's passport

And so it is today for Nico Rosberg.

His golden locks have led to him being dubbed ‘Britney’, in reference to Britney Spears, since his days as Mark Webber’s team mate at Williams.

Following last year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi Rosberg turned up at Dubai airport to discover someone had substituted the photograph in his passport for one of Britney Spears.

Who says modern F1 drivers don’t have a sense of humour?

Over to you

Which are your favourite F1 nicknames? What about the ones not in this list such as ‘Iceman’ Kimi R??ikk??nen and ‘Mike the Bike’ Hailwood?

Other names have been applied to more than one driver, like ‘The Flying Finn’ and ‘Rain-master’.

Which other drivers on the grid do you think deserve nicknames? Have your say in the comments.

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303 comments on From Teflonso to Britney: Top ten F1 driver nicknames

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  1. wasiF1 said on 9th August 2011, 12:44

    They are cool but nothing come close to attitude & coldness to ICEMAN.

  2. SVettel (@) said on 9th August 2011, 12:47

    Kimi: Iceman
    Kovalainen: Nice man

  3. Kimilimi (@kimilimi) said on 9th August 2011, 12:48

    Iceman all the way

  4. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 9th August 2011, 12:51

    Finger Boy!

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 9th August 2011, 13:29

      Lol. I like finger boy, although people do refer to him as crash kid

      • infy (@infy) said on 9th August 2011, 13:47

        Lewis is mostly refereed to as Crash Kid.

        • Ral (@ral) said on 9th August 2011, 15:17

          Never heard Lewis referred to as the crashkid, other than by Vettel fans trying to offload the name on another driver.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 9th August 2011, 19:46

            Never heard Lewis referred to as the crashkid, other than by Vettel fans trying to offload the name on another driver.

            The problem being, that Vettel doesn’t deserve the name either. Whitmarsh only came up with it when he was butthurt about Button being taken out of one race.

          • Mika said on 9th August 2011, 22:35

            Lewis is known as Pinocchio (The wooden doll, whose nose grew if he told a lie) since the Lygate affair….

          • vodka an orange said on 10th August 2011, 17:27

            in the last 2 years Hammy has crashed far more than Vettel! Hammy has incidents nearly every race, whist Vettel has had an almost perfect season so far! And have you forgotten the gravel trap in the China pitlane and that sublime rear-ender on Raikkonen in Canada? Priceless! #;0

        • marsianwalrus (@einariliyev) said on 9th August 2011, 15:44

          Also Baby Hammy for haters.

          • unocv12 said on 9th August 2011, 16:07

            Ditto with what Ral said.

            Crash kid is Vettels. Hamilton may have gone out twice (monza and singapore) by touching another or hitting respectively but thats nothing compared to Turkey, Great Britain and Belgium plus a few others.

            Vettel tends to get
            Crash kid
            Wunderkid/Ze Wunderkid – more sarcastic than anything when I’ve heard it
            Finger boy
            and The Gimp – occasionally at other places

            Also Keith, your there are a few big ones that could be noted

            The flying finns – Hakkinen and Raikkonen
            Silver Arrows – admittedly a team but still a nickname
            Rain Master – Schumacher

            + several Brundle-isms
            etc…. i.e. notable that Kobayashis name tends to be played with a bit to describe him in the same way as a nickname

            Jeremy Clarkson on TopGear keeps ponouncing Barricello as Barri-chello (the cello being as you said the word cello as in the stringed instrument rather than the more popular ‘kello’ pronounciation).

            And then the Brazilian drivers Rubino Nelsinho are used by same instead of their English counterparts.

            Schumi – Schumacher!!! Most obvious but forogtten from your list

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th August 2011, 16:12

            forogtten from your list

            Didn’t make it past the second one, eh?

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th August 2011, 16:17

            Didn’t Martin Whitmarsh call Vettel ‘crash kid’ after Spa last year?

            And Vettel’s been doing alright since then…

          • mfDB (@mfdb) said on 9th August 2011, 16:55

            Vettel – crash kid? that doesn’t really make sense. He doesn’t crash that often….I’m not a big Vettel fan, but making fun of him for crashing is stupid….I would say, if you had to make fun of him, it would be that he’s not very aggressive and isn’t that good at passing. He seems to really only win when he’s out front. But crashing…. really…. that’s reaching.

          • have to agree with @unocv12 Hakkinen Raikkonen-Flying Finn, and obvious one Schumacher-Rainmaster

          • Yeap, Keith is correct, it was given to Vettel for one incident by Whitmarsh and ever since then have come back to bite Whitmarsh, (marshwit)

          • Make that CryBaby

        • Antranik (@antranik) said on 9th August 2011, 18:58

          I think a better one for Lewis is Ramilton!

        • Zaphod said on 10th August 2011, 13:48

          Martin Whitmarsh called Vettel the ‘crash kid’ on the BBC, after taking out Button at last year’s Spa. Vettel laughed ans said’ well that’s one more title for my collection’

        • PEdro said on 11th August 2011, 10:39

          I liked “crane boy”, but it didn’t stick.

          Alonso is called by his haters in Spain “Frenando”(“Braking”) Alonso.

        • rakeen pasya said on 12th September 2014, 4:15

          while jenson button was mostly referred as twilight sparkle due to them driving/running so soft

      • I heard Vettel is aptly known amongst fellow drivers as ‘Princess Petal’.

        • Zaphod said on 10th August 2011, 14:54

          …and of course you also have the chassis nicknames, ie kinky kylie, kate’s dirty sister etc

          Where do you reckon Princess Petal comes from?

          • Apparently he is also known as ‘schoolboy’. This is from Joe Saward after Spa last year:

            And, oh dear, oh dear, what can the blinkered (or one-eyed) fans of Mr Vettel make of his schoolboy like performance… Small wonder this is his nickname in the Press Office. Well, I have heard some others this year, by The Schoolboy dates back a year or two to when he almost was a schoolboy in racing overalls. I have heard one or two folk refer to him as Princess Petal, but I think this is really too harsh. Like all racing drivers, he just wants things done his own way…

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 11th August 2011, 0:02

            Indeed it was a schoolboy performance. But Saward has surely been eating his own words since then.

          • Proesterchen said on 11th August 2011, 0:18

            You have to remember Joe’s loyalties, what with the crying about the lack of team orders in Webber’s favor at RBR and everything.

        • And let’s not forget Ecclestone and Briatore’s as-yet-unexplained moniker for Hamilton; Jumbo.

          • Pink Peril said on 12th August 2011, 23:54

            I have heard Vettel referred to as Justin Beiber on more than one occaison (ok, I might have started that nickname myself) ;P

    • DavidS (@davids) said on 13th May 2013, 23:06

      How about “The proctologist”

  5. Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 9th August 2011, 12:51

    Gotta be Giovanni Lavaggi – also known as Johnny Carwash! :D

  6. SoLiDG said on 9th August 2011, 12:53

    Ayrton ‘Magic’ Senna seems missing :)

  7. rethymnoracer said on 9th August 2011, 12:54

    Christian Danner used to be called Christmas Dinner by his mechanics. Made me laugh when I heard that.

  8. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 9th August 2011, 12:54

    I was watching Spa 1995 on YouTube yesterday and I found it funny that they called a backmarker ‘Johnny Carwash.’

    At first I thought it was because the commentators had forgotten his name but in fact it was the nickname of Giovanni Lavaggi.

    Apparently his name translated into English from Italian was ‘John Washing’ which led people in the paddock to start calling him ‘Johnny Carwash.’

    It really took off after US chat show host David Letterman brought it to the publics attention and from then on the US commentators called him his nickname in almost every race.

  9. charlay (@charlay) said on 9th August 2011, 12:57

    “crash-kid” my favourite of the current bunch. even if it’s not that common.

    Also, have we dropped “quick-nick” yet? seing as he’s going slowly…

  10. TimG (@timg) said on 9th August 2011, 12:58

    Ronnie Peterson – SuperSwede.

  11. Stefanauss (@stefanauss) said on 9th August 2011, 12:58

    I just refer to Alonso as “Frenando”, which is italian for “Braking” and/or “Slow down”. I often couple it with his last name, it sounds really good and almost undistinguishable.

    Yes, he’s far from my favourite driver.

    • JCostras said on 11th August 2011, 19:02

      You don`t know a word of italian, neither spanish. Fernando Alonso is an Spaniard, he is not an italian. Stop please saying nonsenses.

  12. TimG (@timg) said on 9th August 2011, 13:02

    Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell were sometimes known as the Brundell Brothers during their time together at Brabham and Ligier.

  13. antifia said on 9th August 2011, 13:03

    I use to refer to Alonso as “Fernando El Sonso” – Sonso being an adjective in Portugues for that kind of person that does nasty/underhanded things knowing all too well how bad they are but that fakes ignorance.

    • sare said on 14th July 2015, 23:45

      “fakes ignorance” reminded me of Germany’10 press conference. Vettel saved him though, its like what happened in Monaco’15, “I’m happy” lol
      The whole bit on Alonso is very humorously written. I liked it. Esp. this bit:
      “Polytetrafluoroethylene – better known as Teflon – is commonly used as a non-stick coating on kitchenware. It also has a rich tradition of being used to describe people tainted by allegations but never directly implicated in them.” – Even gave a link!

  14. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 9th August 2011, 13:04

    Reading Mansell’s nickname makes me want to see Hamilton in a Ferrari one day (it won’t ever happen though.)

    I was curious at the results from 1989 and noticed Ferrari were on the podium every time they finished a race that year! Like a candle in the wind… unreliable.

    • TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 9th August 2011, 13:19

      Also Mansell having a nickname about him being fearless shows how he was a very similar driver to Hamilton. Bin or win attitude.

      This is what annoys me so much when I hear Mansell criticising Hamilton’s driving style, as from what I see they were very similar drivers.

      • JCost (@jcost) said on 9th August 2011, 15:49


        Actually Mansel was my first F1 hero (I was born in 1984) for the reasons you mention, It’s really annoying to hear him saying rubbish on Lewis driving style.

      • Eric said on 9th August 2011, 23:54

        I agree too. Hamilton is without doubt an imperfect driver but I wouldn’t want that to change. Although not my favorite driver on the grid he is easily one of the most exciting drivers that I have ever had the pleasure of watching.

  15. JohanKasper said on 9th August 2011, 13:05

    From the Dutch perspective: Jos “the Boss”.

    • TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 9th August 2011, 13:07

      Like a boss. Loved that nickname.

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 9th August 2011, 14:45

      Ahh that was a good one

    • Ral (@ral) said on 9th August 2011, 15:31

      Thank you. Was racking my brain trying to remember Jos’s nickname. As a Dutchmen, I think it’s a shame that after Benetton he never really had the machinery to do anything meaningful. Certainly Schumacher always spoke highly of him.

      But then I remember this is Jos “short-fuse” Verstappen we’re talking about and I don’t mind it quite so much.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 9th August 2011, 18:02

        Well said. Still, I am looking forward to seeing that Red Bull demo he seems to be going to do. He is a bit of a tragic figure for me, but that’s also due to him sliding off and away after the Benetton gig. Better than Aalbers, for sure, but who remembers him?

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 10th August 2011, 17:36

      I didn’t think there were too many, but going through the comments, I’m being reminded of so many!

  16. Sladex (@sladex) said on 9th August 2011, 13:05

    Seriously? I was going to make a poll in my blog today later! What a coincidence! :)

    My fav: Iceman, Black Jack and Sunshine (Massa) ^_^

  17. Iceman deserves to make that list Keith. Also, Mark’s Twitter name is pretty much his nickname too, in a very good way, of course.
    Vettel on the other hand is earning the ‘finger-boy’ nickname pretty rapidly.
    Quick-Nick seems to have been forgotten too. (Although, I’m not sure how much that pertains to current state of affairs..)

    Btw, that “Britney on my passport” thing cracks me up every time like no other. LOL..

    • TimG (@timg) said on 9th August 2011, 13:13

      You should have seen what was done to Ayrton Senna’s passport…

      • All his pages were stuck together as far as I can remember.
        Btw, I just realised this is the 2nd page of comments. I thought I made one of the 1st comments on an F1F article after a long time.. Dang!

        • TimG (@timg) said on 9th August 2011, 14:25

          I was thinking of the passport where the photo was replaced with a picture of a part of the male anatomy. Or maybe that the Gerhard Berger (the owner of the passport, I mean, not the body part).

    • Wallbreaker said on 9th August 2011, 15:43

      Vettel is also called “Baby-Schumi” here in Germany.

  18. These are the ones that come to my mind:

    Trulli Train
    Look-How-Bad-You-Are (Luca Badoer)
    DJ Squire (Jaime Alguersuari)
    Ali G-milton
    Vyborg Rocket (Vitaly Petrov)
    Bobby K (Robert Kubica)

  19. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 9th August 2011, 13:16

    Robert Doorknobs was a good one too :)

  20. ledzep4pm (@ledzep4pm) said on 9th August 2011, 13:16

    Does no one find it strange Hamilton has no nick name he’s in his 5th year and has done plenty of stuff to warrant a nickname. Probably something related to the stewards only seems fair.

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