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”

Jump to comment page: 1 4 5 6 7 8
  1. Marcel Penzkofer
    10th August 2011, 7:15

    Michael Schumacher – “Rainmeister”

    with “meister” being the german word for “master”. Especially Brundle keeps saying that every time it rains :D.

    Kimi Räikkönen – “Iceman”

    as already mentioned, maybe the most recognized F1-drivers nickname of the past two decades. The name in fact came up first when he drove his first ever F1-test with Sauber and their team-owner Peter Sauber was stunned by the fact, Kimi was not breathing/out of breath when the radio was on, despite he did so few races in other series before.
    Secondly he was given a number of laptimes he had to beat and he succeeded on every task they had thrown at him without showing any emotion.

    Sebastian Vettel – “Super-Seb”

    Especially in Germany quite often used by his fans. Just the problem that I guess it’s fair to say that it’s rather Sebastien Loeb’s Nickname than Vettel’s.

  2. The Flying Giraffe – Justin Wilson, for his 6 foot frame in the Minardi in 2003
    Also I remember Murray Walker calling a Japanese driver (probably Ukyo Katayama) the Rainmaster – reason being something about the way he drives in the wet and Japanese weather.
    My vote still goes for Iceman

  3. Some that are not mentioned in the article:

    Giusseppe Farina – Il Dottore
    Juan Manuel Fangio – El Chueco
    Alberto Ascari – Ciccio
    Eugenio Castellotti – Il Bello
    Peter Collins – Golden Boy
    Jack Brabham – Blackie
    Jim Clark – The Flying Scot
    John Surtees – Il Grande John, John The Great
    Denny Hulme – The Bear
    Emerson Fittipaldi – Taxi driver from Sao Paulo
    Niki Lauda – Computer
    Hans Joachim Stuck – Strietzel Stuck
    Rubens Barrichello – Tartaruga Rubens

  4. In Brazil we used to call Ukyo Katayama, Cata Grama, which means to catch grass because he could never stay on the track. Kinda mean but true

  5. From Perry McCarthy’s book…

    Johnny Dumfries – The Earl
    Mark Blundell – Mega
    Julian Bailey – Grumpy
    Damon Hill – Secret Squirrel
    Martin Donnelly – Yer Man
    Johnny Herbert – Little’un
    The author himself – Mad Dog

  6. Thanks for all your brilliant suggestions so far, some of which were featured in today’s round-up:

  7. I have always thought “Hammy” would be a good name for Hamilton. Obviously it is a shortenning of his surname, and I also think he has rather hamster-like features. However, the main reason is a reference to Hammy in “Over the Hedge”. (If you haven’t seen it, it’s a cartoon film about some woodland creatures who awake after hibernation to find a housing estate has been built in their woods.) He is fast and he is rather nuts at times (Monaco?).

  8. In France we use to call Schumacher, The Red Baron

  9. In Grand Prix 3 (the game) Jacques Villeneuve was called John Newhouse!

  10. Cant believe Thosser isn’t mentioned here!!!

  11. ICEMAN is the best nickname. Suits Kimi really well.

    Vettel is now ‘Vettel Finger’ so I heard.

  12. I love Keith’s constant “it’s in the article” – very patient, very funny. And the Monza Gorilla nickname – brilliant.

    Button – Mr Smoothie for obvious reasons, plus it’s the name of a local ice cream truck which often disrupts my Sunday lunchtime TV coverage.

    Hamilton – Hand Grenade, for less obvious reasons, explosiveness being one, links with Grenada being another. A win it or bin it weapon.

    In MotoGP, Jorge Lorenzo is often referred to as “George Lawrence” by the Sky commentary team. Valentino Rossi is “the Doctor” (il dottore, il campione), Colin Edwards is “the Texan Tornado” and so on…

  13. I like how we called Alguersari Al-Jazeera last year.

  14. M. Schumacher we always cal(led)”the Chin” and DC “The Cheek”

  15. The only nickname you really need to know.
    All the others are for those pedestrian drivers, that can’t hold a candle to him, or for past world champions that ought to be returning their paychecks.

    The nickname is “Box Office” not because he is always on his way to the stewards office.

    But because he is the ultimate showman, all the others are supporting villains.

    1. Box Office Bomb

  16. Vettel = triviaman because he can’t and won’t pass

  17. Jim Clark – The Flying Scotsman

  18. morningview66
    10th August 2011, 23:17

    Has’nt anyone mentioned ‘Quick’ Nick Heidfeld.
    Though i dont know how much this has applied this year.

  19. Didn’t read all comments, so I’m not sure if someone told it already, but my favorite, by far, is the portuguese nickname for Ukyo Katayama, that japanese driver from the 1990’s. It won’t be as funny when translated, but, anyway, I’ll tell it:

    Galvão Bueno jokingly called him “Ukyo KATAGRAMA”: “grama” means grass in portuguese and “cata” is from the verb “catar”, used in colloquial language, that means many things like “grab” “take”, “collect”, etc…

    In fact, it’s like calling him a “Grass cutting machine” for his notorious off track excursions…

    1. Just concluding: saying “Katagrama” instead of “Katayama” is a wordplay called “trocadilho” in portuguese, that means “pun” in English. Forgot to say it, and I know it was obvious from the first message…

  20. There are names given by others and adopted by the public, and the names we give drivers in our own conversations and writings. My favorites of the widely-used variety (with my nicknames in parentheses):
    Schumacher: Rain Meister; Schuey (Schumeister)
    Kimi Raikkonen: Iceman (Ice; Kimster; Boat Boy – for Monaco 2006)
    Seb Vettel: Wunderkind (Baby Schues)
    Nico Rosberg: Britney (Grid Girl)
    Jenson Button: Mr. Smoothie
    Kamui Kobayashi: Kamui Kamikaze (Kamu)
    Eddie Irvine: Irve the Swerve; Steady Eddie (The Fuming Irishman – because he always seemed angry or upset if he wasn’t ahead of Schumi; The Deuce – because he was always a number two driver, and also because he was complete crap when he had opportunities handed to him; Eddie the Ego – for obvious reasons, as well as the similarity to another perennial loser, Eddie the Eagle, of Olympic ski-jumping fame)
    Luca Badoer: LookHow BadYouAre
    Lewis Hamilton: Jumbo; Ramilton (Hamfisted Hamilton; Loo-ease; Shamilton)
    Fernando Alonso: Teflonso (Fergotto All-Rules-O; La Niña)
    Mark Webber: (The Blunder from Down Under; Upside-downunder – for his epic flights)
    Alain Prost: The Professor (I can’t publish all of my names for him here due to profanity but here’s a taste: The Prostate; Teacher’s Pet – for his constant politicking and The United French Front presented by him and FISA President Balestre whenever things didn’t go his way)
    Ayrton Senna: I just call him God!

Jump to comment page: 1 4 5 6 7 8

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.