Formula 1

Should number two drivers exist in Formula One?

2 Mins read

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.

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