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:


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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!