One of the more interesting rumours to emerge from the FIA’s Paris headquarters is that the sport’s governing body is considering whether to sell the team their racing numbers, instead of allocating them based on their position in the Constructors’ Championship the previous season.

Gilles Villeneuve's #27 Valentino Rossi's #46 Nigel Mansell's 'Red Five' Jimmie Johnson's #48
Iconic numbers from the world of motorsport (L-R): Gilles Villeneuve’s #27 Ferrari, Valentino Rossi’s #46 MotoGP ride, Nigel Mansell’s #5 Williams; and Jimmie Johnson’s #48 NASCAR [Images via Cahier, LAT and Sutton Images

And here’s why we think this is an interesting idea…

For a start, it will make fans’ lives easier in being able to more readily identify cars and drivers, because teams will want to increase the size of the number displayed because of the direct marketing association that number will carry with a particular driver.

Specific numbers have been associated with drivers and riders in other motorsport series  and even in Formula 1 up to twenty years ago: one only needs to think of Valentino Rossi’s #46 MotoGP, or the iconic #27 (Gilles Villeneuve, Jean Alesi) or ‘Red Five’ (Nigel Mansell) as examples.

Formula 1 convention since the mid 1990s has been to have the racing numbers issued in ascending order: the #1 goes to the reigning World Champion and their team-mate gets #2, and then the numbers ascend based on each other team’s position in the Constructor’s Championship.

In NASCAR and the V8 Supercars, car numbers are assigned to specific drivers and generally stay with them even if they switch teams

As the FIA is the owner of these numbers and determines how they are allocated, they can effectively write the rules for this process.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.