Should number two drivers exist in Formula One?


Over the course of the season so far, and especially in the last two races, F1 fans have seen two of the more outrageous manifestations of the number one/number two driver dynamic that exists with F1 teams.

But surely at the recognised pinnacle of four-wheeled motorsport, where a majority of drivers are professionals, such differences shouldn't exist.

Now, before you get ready to mount a lynch mob based on the title, I'm not suggesting teams should only be allowed to run a single car. The suggestion is that drivers should begin the season as equals with only one factor putting one above the other – championship points. And honestly, even points wouldn’t stop a wheel-to-wheel battle between teammates.

But that’s an unattainable ideal.

Sadly, that wouldn't help the two most recent “number two” driver incidents – Red Bull's wings at Silverstone and the Ferrari team orders – as the beneficiaries of both decisions were those that entered the race ahead in the points.

Whether you believe that is the only reason for the choice is up to you.

However, it might be interesting to know who got the benefit of any advances Red Bull made ahead of the race at Hockenheim (and depending on what you read over the German Grand Prix weekend the two RB6 on track were not identical).

The central problem with number one drivers is this: a driver who needs team orders of some other advantage handed to him by the team clearly isn't an undisputed number one driver, but somewhat paradoxically the only man who needs to be constantly given an advantageous reminder of his status in the team is the number one driver whose position is in under pressure by the man he perceives as being below him.

You can't imagine Robert Kubica storming around Enstone demanding everyone tell him he's the number one driver at Renault.

There's no debate about that.

Who, aside from the arbitrary numbers on the cars, is the number one driver at Toro Rosso or Lotus or even Sauber? It'd take a committee meeting to agree on that, then we'd decide that no-one really cares because Jarno Trulli is unlikely ever to have to let Heikki Kovalainen through for a Lotus Racing 1-2 finish (or should that be the other way around?).

But put two evenly matched drivers in race, or at least podium, winning cars and you have a potential powder keg.

Every driver wants to win and every team wants to win, but the team's idea of winning and the drivers' idea of winning don't always quite tally up – and that's when tempers get frayed and teams step in to affect the result.

In a perfect world we'd probably all like to see every driver equal, but until every last team principal and sponsor is brainwashed into coming around to the fans' way of thinking that's not going to happen.

Sadly there will always come a point when the money men and the egos of the professional drivers that make F1 what it is get promoted over sport, and most of those moments will involve one driver being promoted over another.

  • nickie

    If both drivers are good, like Weeber and Vettel, then NO. If one of the drivers is completely mediocre, a whinning girl and disloyal, like Massa, then YES, that kind of ridiculous driver should be used as Number 2. It depends on the quality of the driver.

  • How do you figure that Massa is disloyal!?!?

  • F1 has had number 1 and 2 drivers for as long as I can remember, is it right? This is a big question, first thing to remember is that race drivers have big ego’s, secondly each driver will have preferences in car set up, and each driver will have a style of driving.

    In F1 the car is designed around your leading drivers preference, just look today at the Tweets about the Mercedes car being designed for Jenson Button, note not Rubens Barrichello, and Michael Schumacher is having some problems with the car and the way it drives, hence Michael asking for a relaxation in the testing bans.

    This whole issue of number 1 and number 2 drivers is very complex, and a function of who the drivers are, how the team manages the drivers etc. The conclusion is there will always be one guy in a team who is the number 1.

    We see this in every form of car racing where two drivers are in the same team, it is a fact of life.

  • Rod Sutton

    The reason that there is a manufacturers championship and a drivers championship is to allow the manafacturer to prove his worth on the points collected by both drivers in their design and build of their car and to allow the drivers to prove who is best amongst themselves. Having team orders negates the need for this as it then becomes just the team championship so if you want team orders there can be no drivers championsip. Having team orders stops us from seeing a proper race it also means that it is unfair to people wishing to bet on the result because the result is fixed. I am surprised that bookmakers allow our sport to allow cheating and fixed races. Very often one team has an advantage over the others so it is very easy to predict the result if team orders are allowed. Team orders spoil our sport

  • vonstarhemberg

    People spend a lot of money to go to the races or to have a satellite or cable channel to watch them. A race which can be determined by a greedy manufacturer is not a race, it becomes a farce.
    A crummy $ 100,000.- fine for Ferrary (the cost of a new set of doors for an F-40) is a joke and shows that the whole sport is rigged.
    In the past few years we had more “spy scandals”, (Alonso and McLaren etc), lying (Hamilton), cheating (Senna), “creative management of a win” (Briatore and Alonso) etc. It makes one gag
    (I also remember Max Mosley and his whores….)
    Time for a brand new series with good people. See how well the Rolex Le Mans series is run, or the Le Mans race itself (still a private club….!).
    I quit watching or writing about NASCAR when the organization started to sell tickets by allowing people like Edwards, Harvick, Kyle Busch etc. to practice attempted vehicular manslaughter.
    It is time for us Formula 1 afficionados to demand some quality for our money or to get together and start thinking about a whole new series.
    Cheers from Quebec!