Permanent driver numbers will become a reality in Formula 1 starting next year, the FIA has confirmed.
The idea was tabled for discussion for F1’s Strategy Group meeting, and that group and the Formula 1 Commission has approved the change, which becomes effective immediately.
The FIA gave the Strategy Group and Commission a one-off mandate to impose rule changes at its World Motor Sport Council meeting last week. While No. 1 will be reserved for the current world champion should he choose to use it every other driver will be asked to choose their race number, between Nos. 2 and 99. If more than one driver selects the same number, priority will be given on last year’s championship order.
The changes therefore mean Sebastian Vettel will have the option of competing as No. 1 next year, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso having the second pick of numbers.
The new F1 system is similar to that used in motorcycle racing, where riders stick with numbers for a whole career, such as Valentino Rossi’s iconic No. 46, and can choose whether or not to switch to No. 1 when champions. In American racing, it is teams rather than drivers that usually run permanent numbers and champions switching to No. 1 has become a rarity.