Nico "Britney" Rosberg's passport

From Teflonso to Britney: Top ten F1 driver nicknames

Top TensPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

Read more top tens

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

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

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  1. Two that I use are;

    Kamui Kamikazee and

    Although in fairness to Kamui although he doesn’t seem to have much regard for his own safety he generally makes the moves stick :)

  2. Iceman is also used in IndyCar for Scott Dixon sometimes. There’s a few good ones knocking around in that series, including the Iron Maiden for Simona de Silvestro as she’s been injured so often this year but keeps on coming back. Paul Tracy’s also accumulated a few over the years, such as the Chrome Horn…

    And I always thought ‘Hunt the Shunt’ was just the printable version of what his rhyming slang nickname actually was!

    1. I love that Simona’s been dubbed The Iron Maiden. Apparently before that people called her the Swiss Miss and she hated it.

      And since we’re on the topic of Indy driver nicknames, I always loved that Al Unser Jr. simply became “Little Al” because of sharing his Dad’s name. And “Emmo” was a good one for Emmerson Fittipaldi.

      1. I like the Iron Maiden one as well!

      2. There was a brief period between her Indy qualification and her next injury where it became the Swiss Missile, which was a bit better. But Iron Maiden I like.

    2. I knew there was another Iceman, was racking my brains trying to remember it.

  3. El Cabezon does not mean “fat head”. It means stubborn (in Argentina), clumsy (in El Salvador) or simply big headed.
    Otherwise good article :)

    1. Ah, that’s interesting. I’d guess ‘fat head’ was probably used to mean ‘stubborn’ as an old-fashioned idiom.

  4. JJ Lehto – Jyrki Jarvilehto
    The Flying Scot – JYS
    Irv the Swerve – Eddie Irvine
    Jimmy Savile – Lewis Hamilton
    Mr. Monaco – Graham Hill
    Muddly Talker – Murray Walker theres loads!

    1. Jimmy Savile – Lewis Hamilton

      When has anyone ever called him that?

    2. Wasn’t JJ. Letho just called that bc. noone could pronounce the real version of his name? Not really a nickname to me.

  5. The Incredible Hulk (Nico Hulkenberg). Not terribly creative or even appropriate for much of his F1 career, but cool nonetheless.

  6. RoboKUB is functional in polish forums ;d

  7. I’m pretty sure I remember Martin Brundle mentioning Damon Hill’s nickname in his pre-formula 1 days.

    Secret Squirrel – Because he was so quiet

    1. That used to be my nickname too!

  8. What about Irv the Swirve?

  9. Accidental Mick
    9th August 2011, 15:40

    When James Hunt was partnering Murray Walker he never called de Chesaris by name but always referred to him as “the mobile chicane”.

  10. Not so much a nickname but some angry Tyrrell mechanics once rearranged Ricardo Rosset’s surname on his paddock scooter to read ‘Tosser’ after he binned it in qualifying at Monaco in 1998, which I always thought was quite amusing…

  11. Surprised we haven’t had d’Ambrosio Custard yet!
    Sergio Perez is called Checo by his friends
    Fast Eddie Irvine
    Tora Tiger Takagi (that’s a Murray one)

    1. Or Ukyo Katayama, undoubtedly the best Formula One driver Grand Prix racing has ever produced!

      1. What kind of a nickname do you call that, Dan?! :P

    2. Eddie Irvine also known as The Irvinator

  12. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Tim O’Glock…Timo Glock’s nickname courtesy of Eddie Jordan during his time with Jordan Grand Prix in 2004.

    Apparently Timo has a good sense of humor and the name stuck while he raced in the States.

    On a side note: please someone put Timo in a proper F1 car. He is damn good but his talents are wasted at the tail end of the grid…

    1. That’s one’s as old as the hills. They did the same with Stefano Modena, and I expect many others before him. It’s just lame.

      1. I’m not old enough to remember what Jordan’s early history, but I’m not surprised to hear Eddie Jordan lamely recycles nicknames…thanks for the insight.

      2. I don’t think it’s lame, it’s a nice harmless joke.
        Hearing Crofty talking about the Irishman Tim O’Glock leaving the pits always tickles me.
        But for anyone to claim they made it up is lame, thats for sure.

      3. And they weren’t the first to twist the name either.
        During his time with Tyrrell, Stefan Johansson was named Steve Johnson by the team’s mechanics

  13. cheekycheeky
    9th August 2011, 16:02

    Karun Chandhok’s known as Cowboy Karun in the States.

    Giorgio Pantano got labelled as Grandpa Pants in GP2.

    Romain Grosjean got called Johnny Fat as a directish translation of Gros (Fat) Jean (John).

    Yamamoto – DJ DNF

    Sutil got labelled with Baron Von Strapon earlier this year, too.

    1. …I have never heard Karun called that over here :|

      But the Grandpa Pants name is awesome X)

    2. Baron Von WHAT??!?!!?

    3. Love DJ DNF, could have been DJ Moneybag mind, but a nice one it is.

      What is the Baron Von Strapon one to do with?

  14. I always thought that Craneboy is great one for Hamilton and Gloomio for Alonso :)

  15. I actually thought Ned had written this article when I first read it as he’s done some of the more …odd top tens :P I do love this top ten though and it’s my new favourite!

    I think I read that Gonzalez was called “fathead” which tickled me. Iceman never did much for me as I just thought it was a bit daft if Kimi had made a cartoon Iceman for his helmet then it might have been more fun.

    I’m surprised there isn’t more nicknames on the grid at the moment. Felipe Massiah (he was good back in 08 and he does need very, very loyal followers), Vettel to the pedal, slick switcher Jense, Karun opposite-lock after his Lotus trials, Lewis Bam!lton are just a few poor possibilities.

    1. I’ll admit I thought it was a Ned-special too!

  16. Jean-Pierre Jarier had the nickname of Jumper Jarier for his propensity of jumping starts. I heard that from his Formula Two mechanic Roger Porteous.

    1. Jumper because Robin Herd once tried to pronounce all his name and that’s what came out..

      1. I thought it was Robin Herd’s very young (at the time) son?

  17. Moist-Master is always a good one.

  18. rethymnoracer
    9th August 2011, 17:32

    Paul DiResta is called “Dave” by the Franchitti brothers.
    Comes appartently from the music group:
    Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich.

  19. Teflonso??? Yes, a commentator did really say that. Once. I never read the mass-media paparazzi and although I listened to Brundle’s commentary, such a stupid comment escaped me.

    You write: “The charges may not have stuck, but the nickname has.” Let’s be clear. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty; in this case the evidence, at the end of the extensive inquiry, indicated that Alonso was not involved.

    With the greatest of respect to your journalistic skills Keith (and you’re one of the best), you are just stirring the pot with this one — “the charges may not have stuck, but … ” is laziness at best and slanderous at worst. Whether or not other journalists have repeated this is irrelevant, I genuinely thought you were one step higher than the mud-slingers.

    Best regards – Paul (watching Ferrari win races for about 60 years, speaking fluent Spanish, not necessarily an Alonso defender.)

    1. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty; in this case the evidence, at the end of the extensive inquiry, indicated that Alonso was not involved.

      I don’t dispute that and nothing I have written disputes that, so dial down the hyperbole, eh?

    2. Alonso was proved to have discussed the Spygate details. His involvement in Singapore however has never been proven and the evidence is flimsy at best.

      Ironic he got immunity from the FIA in the first case and his team-mate in the second!

    3. Steady on it’s not a court of law, just a blog!

  20. Fangio was also known as “el chueco”, which can be translated as “the bow-legged”. And who forgot Andrea de Crasheris? :D

    1. Not me, it’s in the article.

      1. Oh sorry! I’m becoming blind with every day…

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