Nico "Britney" Rosberg's passport

From Teflonso to Britney: Top ten F1 driver nicknames

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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.

F1 top tens

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Image ?? Daimler, Ford, Ford, Patrick Tercier, via Twitpic

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

    1. ‘Iceman’ is easily the most recognizable F1 nickname in the past 10 years and should be on the list. Also I should mention ‘Jack Newtown’ or ‘JV’ for Jacques Villeneuve and ‘Le Petit Prince’ or just ‘Gilles’ for his father. And don’t forget the nickname for the barrier at turn 9 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, ‘The Wall of Champions’!

          1. 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.

          2. 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

          1. 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

          2. 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.

          3. 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)

        1. 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’

          1. 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…

          2. 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.

          1. I think whoever was commentating alongside Murray Walker in 1995 coined the name. I definately remember the British commentators talking about it though, or maybe it was in an Autosport from around then.

      1. “Lots of them missing.. Iceman for Kimi, Flying Finn for Hakkinnen.”

        Do you people even read the articles before you comment?

        Nothing is cooler than “Iceman” or “Maestro”

      1. In Spain, Alonso “haters” (a.k.a “anti-alonsistas”) usually call him Lloronso mixing his name with “Lrorar” which means crying… it’s like Crying (Baby) Alonso for his multiple excuses after bad racing days.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. “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!

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

          1. can probably discount that then. it would’ve been used in the same way as “mate”, “fella”, “dude” etc.

  5. 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..

      1. 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!

        1. 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).

  6. 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)

  7. 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.

      1. Most of the guys I hang out with on forums call him bumperkid, vodakid and crashkid. Obviously referring to how often he crashes into people and his terribly bad marketing stunts for vodafone.

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