Unlike other forms of motorsports such as NASCAR or Indycar, teams and drivers typically aren't free to choose the numbers of their cars. Instead, numbers are allocated based on the placement of drivers in the World Driving Championship the previous season; the team with the defending champion is given numbers 1 and 2, with other teams receiving numbers based on their position in the Constructor's Championship. Instituted before the start of the 1996 season, this change eliminated famous associations between Formula 1 teams and their car numbers.
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In 1993 and 1994, Damon Hill drove the 0 car in the Formula 1 championship, becoming only the second driver in Formula 1 history to take the number. The first was Jody Scheckter in 1973. Hill's Williams teammate Nigel Mansell won the championship in 1992, but left for CART racing in America before the 1993 season, leaving Williams to receive the numbers of 0 and 2. Hill's teammate Alain Prost retired after winning the title that season, again leaving Williams with the 0 and 2 numbers for the 1994 campaign.
Mansell became associated with driving the "Red Five" car during his initial stint with Williams. Mansell made the change to a red number scheme on his car in 1985, after spectators had trouble differentiating the white paint scheme of his number from that of the 6 car, driven by teammate Nelson Piquet. Mansell would continue to race the 5 car after moving to CART in 1993.
Numbers 27 and 28
When Ferrari driver Scheckter lost the 1980 championship to Alan Jones of Williams, Ferrari lost the numbers 1 and 2 to Williams and inherited the numbers 27 and 28. Ferrari would use these two numbers until 1995, with the exception of 1990, when reigning world champion Prost was on the team and their cars used the numbers 1 and 2. The 27 car would be associated with Gilles Villeneuve in particular, as he was the first driver to race with it for Ferrari and he would carry it until his death in a practice crash at Zolder in 1982. The last driver to race with the 27 for Ferrari was Jean Alesi, in 1995.
The number 13 is conspicuous by its absence in the line-up of current Formula 1 car numbers. It is considered to be "unlucky" and is skipped in the allocation of car numbers. A 13 car has only raced in one official Formula 1 race, when Moises Solana finished 11th out of 11 classified cars in the 1963 Mexican Grand Prix. Divina Galica failed in her attempt to qualify for the 1976 British Grand Prix with a 13 car, with a qualifying time that left her two spots out of the starting grid.
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- Atlas F1 Magazine; The F1 FAQ; Marcel Schot; September 2002
- Atlas F1 Magazine; The F1 FAQ; Mark Alan Jones; February 1999