Ranking Formula 1's Greatest Driver Nicknames

Oliver HardenFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2014

Ranking Formula 1's Greatest Driver Nicknames

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    Unlike other sports, nicknames tend to mean something in Formula One.

    While footballers' nicknames, for example, are made by simply adding a "y" on the end of someone's surname—Ryan Giggs is fondly, if predictably, known as "Giggsy"—those of Formula One drivers have an underlying story.

    They tell a tale of either a driver's driving style, his personality, his habit of crashing, his services to a particular team, his form at a given circuit or even his looks.

    You can tell a lot about a driver judging by their nickname alone—so we've listed the nine greatest monikers in the history of the sport.

    In terms of criteria, those with the most accurate reflection of their owner are ranked the highest—with extra brownie points handed to those which make us laugh.

Honourable Mentions

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    Fernando Alonso earned the nickname "Teflonso" after Martin Brundle made the comment during BBC Sport's television coverage of the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix.

    It refers to Alonso's involvement in the "Spygate" and "Crashgate" controversies of 2007 and 2009, both of which the Spaniard was affected by but not directly involved in, with Brundle linking Alonso to Teflon, the non-stick tape.

    Meanwhile, three-time world champion Sir Jack Brabham was nicknamed "Black Jack" due to his tough, firm persona.

    Five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio is fondly known as "El Maestro" (which translates as "The Master") in his homeland of Argentina, while two-time title winner Mika Hakkinen was just one of a number of Finnish drivers to be known as "The Flying Finn."

9. James Hunt: Hunt the Shunt

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    Given his off-track exploits and playboy lifestyle, you would be forgiven for assuming James Hunt would have had a nickname with a greater meaning than his tendency to crash Formula One cars.

    The moniker, however, stuck—although as the above video shows, Hunt was at pains to point out that his crashing record wasn't entirely self-inflicted.

    The British icon, though, went some way to laying that reputation to rest by claiming the 1976 world championship.

8. Pastor Maldonado: Crashtor

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    True nicknames are increasingly rare in the modern era of Formula One, but Pastor Maldonado's is gathering more weight and growing more appropriate as every week passes.

    Since arriving in Formula One at the beginning of 2011, the Venezuelan has made a habit of crashing into everything in sight.

    He has crashed on the first and final laps of races, demo runs on city streets and even on the entrance to the pit lane, taking several of his fellow competitors along for the ride.

    Crashtor Maldonado has a nice ring to it.

7. Graham Hill: Mr. Monaco

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    Graham Hill became the original "Mr. Monaco" after winning at the principality on five occasions between 1963 and 1969.

    His final victory at Monaco turned out to be his last in Formula One, with a crash at the 1969 United States Grand Prix leaving Hill with two broken legs and unable to summon the type of performances which led to him claiming two world championships.

    Although Ayrton Senna surpassed Hill's record by claiming his sixth and final win on the French Riviera in 1993 before Michael Schumacher drew level with the British driver's tally in 2001, Hill remains the first man to have truly mastered the streets of Monaco.

6. Niki Lauda: The Rat

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    One of Formula One's cruelest nicknames belongs to Niki Lauda, the three-time world champion whose bucked teeth led to the Austrian being likened to a rodent.

    The film Rush sees Lauda referred to as a rat by 1976 world champion James Hunt in a derogatory fashion (above), but Lauda told Bob McKenzie of the Express that in reality it was conveyed in a humorous way between the drivers.

    Lauda, though, had the last laugh.

    As he scooped title after title and as his legendary status increased, he upgraded to the nickname of "King Rat." 

5. Nigel Mansell: Il Leone

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    Ferrari fans, above all else, like to see their drivers make an effort.

    When Nigel Mansell, the last driver to be handpicked by team founder Enzo Ferrari, arrived at the Prancing Horse in 1989, it was the perfect match.

    Mansell's highly committed, aggressive, spectacular style endeared the 1992 world champion to the tifosi, who christened him "The Lion."

    For a driver who once collapsed whilst pushing his car across the finish line, it was an accurate nickname.

4. Alain Prost: The Professor

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    Alain Prost's nickname is arguably the most complimentary of any Formula One driver.

    "The Professor" moniker is a reference to the four-time world champion's extensive repertoire and how he would use tactics, politics and mind games—as well as raw pace—to beat his more naive, but perhaps faster, rivals.

    Prost's close relationship with Jean-Marie Balestre, his compatriot and former FIA president, gave him an advantage in the political arena, although his abrasive personality meant he could often be a source of friction within his own teams.

    His rivalry with Ayrton Senna, the three-time world champion, is the most obvious example of this.

    Prost performed perhaps his most memorable mind game on Senna in the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, dramatically increasing his pace just as Senna, the race leader, eased his own. The Frenchman's quick lap times encouraged Senna to hit back, but in doing so the Brazilian crashed, handing Prost the victory.

    In a sport which requires brain and brawn, Prost—unlike many of his peers—had both in abundance. 

3. Nico Rosberg: Britney

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    Given his fresh-faced appearance and blond locks, the comparisons between Nico Rosberg and pop singer Britney Spears were inevitable—but it is the story behind the nickname which ranks this so high.

    As told by Andrew Benson of BBC Sport, Rosberg hit then-teammate Mark Webber from behind on the first lap of the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix in Webber's last race for Williams before the Australian's move to Red Bull.

    At the back of the field—Rosberg with a broken front wing and Webber with a missing rear wing—the Williams drivers then faced a race back to the pits, with the team aiming for the German to be serviced first due to Rosberg's car having sustained less damage.

    Rosberg led his teammate through the final corner at Interlagos before his lack of front-end grip saw the rookie lose control and plough violently into the wall.

    As he passed the scene of the accident, Webber received another team radio message to remind him to allow Rosberg to box first, to which he simply replied: "Britney's in the wall."

    The nickname stuck, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button wishing Rosberg a happy birthday ahead of the 2010 European Grand Prix, before the German was the subject of a hilarious practical joke later that season.

2. Michael Schumacher: The Red Baron

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    Despite making his Formula One debut in a green Jordan, winning his first world championship in a blue Benetton and retiring in a silver Mercedes, Michael Schumacher's career is defined by the colour red.

    The seven-time world champion drove for Ferrari for 11 seasons between 1996 and 2006, transforming the Prancing Horse from serial underachievers to all-conquering pace-setters.

    Prior to his arrival, Ferrari had last won a constructors' title in 1983—but the Italian team triumphed on six consecutive occasions from 1999, with Schumacher recording five drivers' championships between 2000 and 2004 and breaking several F1 records in the process.

    Even when the German came out of retirement to drive for the newly-established Mercedes team at the beginning of 2010, Schumacher climbed into a Silver Arrows cockpit wearing the red helmet design of his late-Ferrari days—a clue, perhaps, of where his loyalties will always lie.

1. Kimi Raikkonen: Iceman

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    Kimi Raikkonen's nickname is surely the most accurate of any.

    His blunt, straightforward and monosyllabic style in interviews is a far cry from the approaches adopted by his media trained, PR-friendly peers—which has the strange effect of leading us to warm to the Iceman.

    Raikkonen has embraced the moniker, branding his helmet and his official website with "Iceman" logos, whilst reinforcing his careless reputation by walking away from interviews, pushing photographers to the ground and berating his own team via pit-to-car radio.

    The Finnish driver's unique persona was fully exploited by Lotus when he drove for the Enstone team between 2012 and 2013, while Raikkonen single-handedly rewrote the selfie rulebook at the Chinese Grand Prix earlier this year.

    "Iceman" by name, Iceman by nature.