In last month’s Formula One strategy meeting, the FIA, Formula One management and the teams present discussed all manner of things about the sport with most of them aimed at making the sport more financially sustainable. Other less publicized discussions took place, however, that could add some change and excitement to the sport in the future.
The first, and personally most interesting, proposal was that of permanent numbers for the drivers. This is a common practice in many sectors of the motorsport industry, most notably in NASCAR where numbers make the difference in a world of ever-changing livers and sponsorships. MotoGP also uses permanent numbers for drivers, although the champion each season has the opportunity to change to the number “1” for the following season after a championship.
This is a rare practice these days, however, making Formula One’s use of numbers seem rather archaic and antiquated. The system is rather simple. The champion of the previous year is given the number “1” with his teammate taking “2”. The team that finished second in the constructors championship the previous year will be assigned “3” and “4”. The next team takes five and six, and so on and so forth.
Should the winning driver’s team not win the constructors championship he will still use “1” and his teammate “2”, but the winning constructor will take “3” and “4”. The same goes for if the winning driver moves teams after his championship, such as Jenson Button did after his triumph with Brawn GP in 2009. When he moved to McLaren he took “1” with him while his former team, which then became Mercedes GP, took “3” and “4” followed by Red Bull (who finished second in the previous year’s constructors championship) with “5” and “6”.
Now, F1’s bigwigs are pushing for drivers to have their own, permanent numbers, with the opportunity for the champion to take the No. 1 the following year.
Other proposed changes discussed in these meetings were simulated wet condition preseason tests and a pole-position award. The former would be to ensure, should no rain come during the opening test at the Jerez Circuit, the teams can still get an understanding of the wet weather tires as rain during the final two tests in Bahrain is highly unlikely.
The pole position award is more ceremonial if anything else but should provide a little more excitement on Saturdays. It would allow a team that is not capable of winning the championship to still fight for something, especially if it is competitive over one lap. One wonders how many more pole positions we would have seen from Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton last season had this award been up for grabs.
These changes are not drastic and shouldn’t change the racing in any way, but in a time when decisions among the F1 bureaucracy are hard to come by it’s nice to see that those that do come along are good-natured and well-intentioned.