What’s in a name?  Formula One has had some fabulous names over it’s history, and we’re not talking World Championships and grand prix victories – no, we’re talking about the actual names of F1 drivers.

Yep, there actually is a racing driver with the name 'badger' - genius!

 

“Michael Schumacher” for instance is just beautiful sounding collection of syllables, along with “Juan Manuel Fangio” and “Jean Alesi” or “Ayrton Senna” – sure there have been a few duds – “Alan Jones” is hardly stand out, but largely it seems that to make it as an F1 driver you need to have a good name, one that rolls of the tongue and “works” when commentators exclaim it as you win a race or pull off a fantastic manoeuvre.  “Gilles Villeneuve”, “René Arnoux” or “Juan Pablo Montoya” are all magnificent names that ooze class and stature.  It’s not just the fact that they’re foreign to the massive British audience either – “John Surtees”, “Bruce McLaren” and “Jackie Stewart” all have a certain sophisticated ring to them.

A classic Jensen

A classic Jensen

More of our favourites include “Giancarlo Fisichella” the name wins on the syllable count – a whole seven in just two words.  It’s almost as though his parents decided he was destined for motorsport before leaving the delivery room.  Then there’s “Jenson Button” – one of the finer English driver names that is unusual and has a certain charm to it, as well as the obvious car reference (albeit with an alternative spelling – Jensen is old car manufacturer).  Another great name is “Zsolt Baumgartner” – never much of a driver in terms of race results, but he had the name of a champion.

Essentially, the great classic driver names inspire visions of grandeur, sophistication, elegance, extraordinaire and almost super hero status.  The best names really do drill home the idea of fantasy, some being almost fairy tale or up there with some of the Greek Gods – imagine a driver called “Costas Aphrodite” for example – sounds like a champion already.

Anyway, enough of this – we hope you get the idea, here’s Badger’s Top driver names, share your favourites in the comments below, or even better – come up with your own fantasy driver names (there may be a prize for the best original name, with some bonkers justification of course…)

So, here’s our top 5 F1 driver names:

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In at five has to be “Fernando Alonso” – it creates a wonderful mental image and, ignoring any reference to Abba’s hit single of the 70s the name is pretty unusual and as a complete phrase it just flows perfectly.

Even his image matches the name, with his large proud mane and distinct facial features.

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At four is “Juan Manuel Fangio” – when two parts just won’t do, why not have three words to make up your racing driver name.  Like with Alonso, the name does just flow and can easily have a tone of enthusiasm applied to it.

The name sounds completely untouchable and you can imagine him having an aura of invincibility.

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“Didier Pironi” comes in at three – sounds exotic yet strangely familiar and again rolls off the tongue with ease, complete with a massive six syllables.

Almost cartoon character like – it creates an image of a man fighting with all his might against the odds, when only victory will do.

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In second place is the quite ridiculously brilliant “Emerson Fittipaldi” – again, plenty of syllables and it flows well.

It’s a solid sounding name that again brings to life the idea of stamping authority and nothing would stand in his way.

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At number one we’re going with “René Arnoux” – it’s our clear favourite, having a certain joie de vivre, je na sais quoi (insert commonly used French phrase here)

It’s the complete antithesis of something boring like “Damon Hill” or “Alan Jones” and again inspires a certain  exotic, untouchable image akin to some fantasy super hero.

And here is the man:

 

Arnoux in 2007 driving a Jean-Pierre Jabouille Renault from the 70s - credit: Darren (flickr) via wikipedia

So there you have it – that’s our top five f1 driver names, after discussion here at the Sett – what’s your favourite, and why.  Can you come up with a great fantasy driver name yourself – if so, share it below and justify it!

This article was originally published on Badger in 2009, but we thought that it’s about time we brought it back!

Adam Mills

Founder and Team Principal at Badger GP
Been a fan of F1 since the days of 'our Nige'. Enjoys the soap opera as much as the racing. A creative geek, with entrepreneurial tendencies who loves coffee, cycling, mod culture and music. Founded of Badger GP in 2008 to give informative, interesting yet entertaining content about Formula 1.

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  1. Names that probably flattered their talent:
    Esteban Tuero
    Allesandro Zanardi – cruelly shortened to the less glamorous Alex
    Gastone Mazzacane
    John Crichton-Stuart – the Marquis of Bute, the Earl of Windsor, Viscount Ayr, Lord Crichton of Sanquhar and Cumnock, Viscount Kingarth, Lord Montstuart Cumbrae and Inchmarnock, Baron Cardiff, and Viscount Mountjoy better know to us as Johnny Dumfries. Ah can you imagine Murray fumbling through that lot!

  2. Ciaran Buttonham says:

    What, no Scott Speed? Adam I am dissapointed in you.

    And Zsolt Baumgartner? I presume that’s not pronounced Zolt Bum Gardener now is it?

    Great read!

    Top Five

    5 Jenson Button
    4 Emerson Fittipaldi
    3 Didier Peroni
    2 Stirling Moss
    1 Scott Speed

  3. Adam Milleneuve says:

    Can’t believe I forgot Von Trips – he’d definitely be in the top 5!
    Scott Speed is just so ridiculous it’s untrue.

  4. Fred Schechter says:

    Yeah, can’t skip Scott Speed,
    but yes, Stirling Moss! Phil Hill (fantastic and not mentioned), Graham Hill was always a favorite too, just classic. Didier Pironi and Arnoux awesome.
    Most of all I’m partial to Jody Scheckter’s name,, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why,,,

  5. Bea Le Feuvre says:

    Just thought I ought to mention the great Jack BRABHAM – onomatipoeia springs to mind, a sort of no nonsense name, don’t mess with me, those titles, I just “Grab em” – it seems to be saying! He has got an impressive record too, of being the only one to win a world championship in one of his own cars!!!!

  6. For some reason i always liked Mika Hakkinen’s name although that’s probably because my dad used to think his name was Mika WHACKinen!

  7. Riccardo Monza says:

    I like the flamboyant foreign sounding names like;

    Emerson Fittipaldi
    Elio De Angelis
    Wolfgang Von Trips
    Pierluigi Martini
    Hernando Da Silva Ramos.

    It’s funny to see Rene Arnoux at the top of the best names, it has a ring to it, but I struggle to separate it from all the times I cheered when someone beat him in a race!

    Hunt the shunt had a certain ring to it, but not quite for the reasons we’re looking for here.

  8. Ah Elio De Angelis, that’s a good one.

    Also:
    Alessandro Nannini
    Michele Alboreto
    Enrico Bertaggia
    Tommy Byrne
    Giovanni Lavaggi

    And one of my favourites; Gianni Morbidelli

  9. Riccardo Monza says:

    Emilio De Villota sounds mighty!

    And who remembers a certain lady called Divina Galica?

    Wolfgang Von Trips still does it for me! Full name is;

    WOLFGANG ALEXANDER ALBERT EDUARD MAXIMILIAN REICHSGRAF BERGHE VON TRIPS.

  10. What about denny hulme? kinda makes it sound like he’s going to eat ya.
    Mike hawthorn kinda oozes class.
    Nice call on the Thomas Pitt fella, nice to see he was a kiwi too! You gotta wonder about brendan hartley, did he just a make a decision too early and has now missed his opportunity to race in F1 this year or did red bull make the call for him?
    Giancarlo Baghetti
    Lorenzo Bandini
    Bob Bondurant
    Vittorio Brambilla
    Paddy Driver
    Bernie Ecclestone, this name evokes rage into all those before him! lol Only 2 race starts though!
    Jose froilan gonzalez
    Arturo Merzario
    Robin Montgomerie-Charrington
    Maurice Trintignant
    Spider Webb
    François Cevert

    I wouldn’t want to put them in a top 5, but thought i would list some that have been missed.

    • You took the words out of my mouth! I think Tazio Nuvolari may be the greatest name ever, period. Next dog I get, Im naming himTazio Nuvolari, and I will never adress him without saying his full name.

  11. cross trainer says:

    Hi really enjoyed reading your article and was wondering What do you think of the classic book The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame ?

  12. F3 driver Renger van der Zande springs to mind. I hope he gets to F1 simply because of his name.
    I think you could put almost all of the female F1 drivers in this category. Maria Teresa de Filippis, Lella Lombardi, Divina Galica and Giovanna Amati all qualify with Desiré Wilson as a back marker. Interestingly although Desirés name may lack punch she is the only lady driver to have won in F1 (though not a proper F1 race).

  13. Jimmy Von Weeks says:

    What about Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh (who raced as B.Bira), the late Prince of Siam who raced in F1 between 1950 and ’54? Probably my favourite for its uniqueness.

  14. Avatar of geeksandlies

    This season (and 2010) see’s some cool names too:
    Kamui Kobayashi! Awesome name, it actually sounds fast!
    Paul Di Resta – Love this because if you had only heard the surname you would have expected the first name to be more inspired than simply “Paul”.
    Still like Rubens Barichello!
    Always though Karun Chandook sounded like a helicopter!

    How about an article for F1′s silliest names? a’la Scott Speed!!!

  15. Luca Badoer, for the obvious joke that’s in it:D
    Daniel Ricciardo
    Keizuke Nakajima: a name you just have to pronounce fast.
    Roland Ratzenberger, because you can’t pronounce the name without a German accent (with ze Germans ruling modern f1 and stuff I find it to be typically F1)

    Also, Sakan Yamamoto just sounds like a fancy Japanese Dj who also drives a car every now and then. Ow wait…

  16. kevinisawally says:

    I’ve only just discovered this thread and every single one of you has missed an absolute blinder of a name for a racing driver.

    Let’s consider a few basic necessities.

    For a cool sounding name for a racing driver you really need an Italian. Ideally he would be really good looking, dark hair, and wouldn’t it be just great if he was from a wealthy background, so with sophistication and suave, urbane manners. Something like the grandson of the founder of FIAT should do the trick nicely.

    And if this man was to only ever win one race it would have to be the Italian Grand Prix. In a Ferrari, naturally. Wouldn’t it be just great if he was the first Italian to win his home Grand Prix in fifteen years?

    Couldn’t happen, though, could it? And for it to happen to a man with the ideal racing driver’s name? Nah!

    Check out Monza and the Italian Grand Prix of 1966.

    His name? Ludovico Scarfiotti.

  17. Great stuff!

    These are soooooo Grand Prix…
    Stirling Moss
    Alessandro Nannini
    Wolfgang von Tripps
    Juan Manuel Fangio
    Jean Alesi

    Non-F1 but still top-drawer recent racing names
    Valentino Rossi
    Dario Franchitti
    Brad Keselowski
    Will Power
    Dick Trickle

  18. I like Alfredo Costanzo, and Niki Lauda makes quite a statement. Then there are the funny ones like Hans Stuck and Bengt Axel.

  19. Alberto Ascari!! It’s italian both names begin with A and have 3 syllables nice symmetry. It has the word “scar” in it. Don’t try to overtake me! i ascari you face-ah!

  20. Avatar of Dave Highkinen

    Antonio Mantavelli.

    Drove a one-off Micro-turbine powered car (based on a 1971 McLaren) which his team ‘Scuderia Motisi’ entered for the 1977 Monaco Grand Prix.
    His one and only appearance was marred slightly as his team, having spent their entire budget on the turbine technology, were forced to source a set of heavily-used ex-Ferrari tyres.
    He qualified last and crashed at Anthony Noghes on the first lap, the car having become jammed in reverse unbeknownst to Antonio prior to the start. The car was written off.

  21. Avatar of Pionir

    I’d obviously go with my namesake Didier Pironi, but a close runner up would have to be Zolt Baumgarner.

    Lets not forget the winner of the wooden spoon though – Robert Doornobs!

  22. My favourite has always been Michael Schumacher since i first saw him on TV in August 1991, and he will always remain with me all the time, even if he died like Aryton Senna, i shall never ever change my driver for all the money in the world.

  23. Haha this article is awesome. When I was a kid I noticed many of the names are unique and had a rhythm to them. It’s surprising how that tradition has continued throughout out the years. Even the new breed of drivers continue the trend. Esteban Gutierrez, Pastor Maldonado, Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo, Jules Bianchi, Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez. It’s interesting watching the lower ranks of open wheelers when you realise that guy is never going to drive F1 because his name doesnt fit the status quo!!

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