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?‚?Ůikk?‚?¬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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302 comments on From Teflonso to Britney: Top ten F1 driver nicknames

  1. socksolid (@socksolid) said on 9th August 2011, 23:41

    Here are few more although not all F1:

    ironman – Ivan Stewart
    The bear – Denny Hulme
    Intimidator – Dale Earnhardt, Sr
    the doctor – Valentino Rossi
    häkä РMikä Häkkinen (short for his surname, in english carbon monoxide)
    räkä РKimi Räikkönen (short for his surname, never really used though, in english snot)
    keke – Keke Rosberg, short for Keijo, his first name.
    Maximum Attack – Markku Alen
    Bosse – Marcus Gronholm
    El Matador – Carlos Sainz
    Hatemelol – Lewis Hamilton

    Here some more stupid ones from finnish f1 commmentators:
    Michael Schumacher rector of Kerpen
    Fernando Alonso Human missile of Oviedo

    I think Markku Alen’s nickname is really cool though!

  2. mcmercslr (@mcmercslr) said on 10th August 2011, 0:13

    I’ve heard Lewis Hamilton called “lock-up Lewis” before. He is always locking wheels. Makes sense

  3. Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta) said on 10th August 2011, 0:26

    When Sebastian Vettel was joined on the F1 grid by Sebasti√©n Bourdais, F1 Racing nicknamed them “Der Seb” and “Le Seb” respectively in its 2008 season preview. Neither was used again, probably because Vettel became rather more prominent than Bourdais.

    I also saw Giancarlo Fisichella nicknamed “the pocket rocket” in a Daily Mirror review of the 2005 Canadian Grand Prix.

  4. Eastman said on 10th August 2011, 1:03

    Present nicknames for drivers with my girl.

    Some nicknames may be offensive, obscure and/or hilarious!

    Sebastian Vettel – Vetty
    Mark Webber – Duckboy
    Jenson Button – Butti
    Lewis Hamilton – *curseword* Hamilton
    Fernando Alonso – Gonzo
    Felipe Massa – Massy
    Nico Rosberg – Britney
    Micheal Schumacher – Old Guy
    Nick Heidfeld – Heidi
    Vitaly Petrov – 4 PET
    Pastor Maldonado – Coke
    Rubens Barrichello – Barky
    Adrian Sutil – Sootill
    Paul di Resta – PDR
    Kamui Kobayashi – Kobi or Hai!
    Sergio Perez – Top Gear
    Sébastien Buemi РBoo-Emi
    Jaime Alguersuari – All Gay
    Heikki Kovalainen – HK
    Jarno Trulli – Twooli
    Karun Chandhok – Southpark
    Narain Karthikeyan – Southpark 2
    Vitantonio Liuzzi – Loo
    Timo Glock – Teamo
    J√©r√īme d’Ambrosio – Chocolate

  5. manatcna (@manatcna) said on 10th August 2011, 1:16

    All great names, but whoever said “Ice Cream Man” gets my vote :)

  6. Kenny said on 10th August 2011, 2:50

    In an interview with Damon Hill a reporter asked what Damon regarded as his biggest challenge in racing, to which Damon replied, “Herman the German.” Schumacher has been “Herman” to me ever since.

  7. Rahim.RG said on 10th August 2011, 3:23

    Iceman has to be…

  8. ob1kenobi.23 (@ob1kenobi23) said on 10th August 2011, 4:50

    The term “Flying Finn” was used back in the 60s to describe Timo Makinen & Rauno Altonen.
    When they were with Jordan Rubens was known Barry Kelly & Fisi was known as Fishy Kelly.
    My own favourite was when Murray Walker refered to Taki Inoui as Taki in the way after he appeared to cause the crash between Michael & Damon at Monza.

  9. 30's said on 10th August 2011, 6:33

    :D :D :D

  10. James said on 10th August 2011, 7:13

    Well… fom Spain! haha, let’s see, “Teflonso” might be popular in the UK, but it’s far from being the most regular FA’s nickname. Being objective, and discarding some very offensive ones that deserve no quoting, we’ve got some adulatory, from which emerges “Magic”. Yes, yes, I know: it’s Ayrton’s!! (BTW, ununderstandably missing in this top-ten). But it was assigned to Alonso by it’s “official” follower journalist in Spain: it well shows the lack of imagination from this one (nicks are NEVER transferable, less a Senna one!). Then we have “El nano”. It’s a kind one, charming. It means, more or less, “the kid” and was assigned by his early team boss, the former F1 dreiver Adrian Campos. I’d say it0s the most representative.
    Then on the fun zone, there are two very significant ones. “El Bocas” “Lloronso”
    First is something like “Sachmo” and means big mouth, both in literal sense and for the fact of being particularly unopportune on what he says, something on which we must admit that Fernando excells… Lloronso would mean somewhat like wailer, wailon or moaning. It underlines the ability (seen before on the likes of Jones, Mansell, even Prost, great drivers otherwise) of too much complaining when things were not their way…
    Hope this helps.
    PS: the professor (le professeur) was in fact assigned by his team (Renault) back in 1983, even before the fuel shortage. I miss in the list things such as Shumacher’s “Kaiser” (again borrowed, from Bekenbauer), Fangio’s “Chueco”, Mansell’s “Our Nige” (good proof of brit irony), or Reutemann’s “El Lole”. Those were teh days!!! :)

  11. Marcel Penzkofer said on 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 R√§ikk√∂nen – “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.

  12. GameR_K (@gamer_k) said on 10th August 2011, 7:56

    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

  13. Marco said on 10th August 2011, 8:23

    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

  14. Daniel said on 10th August 2011, 8:33

    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

  15. Victor_RO (@victor_ro) said on 10th August 2011, 8:49

    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

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