For the first time in Formula One, drivers will be allowed to pick a number for their car which will last their entire careers—and the first few drivers have already made their preferences known.
The rule change was one of the less-publicised FIA directives, coming out at the same time as the "double points" rule, which has been dominating discussion amongst fans of the sport.
Drivers are allowed to give three numbers in order of preference. They will be assigned their number provided none of the other men on the grid have already picked it.
Valtteri Bottas of Williams was amongst the first to come up with his list:
So, It's the #77 I have applied for! 17 as 2nd choice and 11 as 3rd choice. #BO77AS— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) December 13, 2013
And according to ESPN, others have followed suit:
In order of preference, Nico Rosberg has selected numbers 6, 5 and 9, with 6 the number his dad Keke carried to the 1982 world title. Sergio Perez said during his Force India announcement that he would like number 11, Felipe Massa has picked 19 and Jean-Eric Vergne has requested 25, 21 or the 27 made famous by Gilles Villeneuve.
As the numbers above suggest, there'll be a bit of soul-searching amongst the drivers for a deep and meaningful number—but will fans prefer it to the way the numbers were assigned in the past?
The old system saw plenty of change—the world champion took No. 1 at the start of the following season, and his teammate took No. 2.
From there, the teams were arranged by the constructor's position in the championship, with each team having the freedom to award their two numbers to each driver according to preference—or, as was more often the case, the status within the team.
Fernando Alonso, for instance, was No. 3 this season for Ferrari—and there was precious little chance he would have accepted No. 4 to Felipe Massa.
The No. 1 driver tag remains an option for the world champion, but if Sebastian Vettel prefers a personal number, he can put that on the nose of his car instead.