The FIA published the final entry list for the 2009 season which contained a few changes to the previous versions.
The change that grabbed the headlines (okay, created a tiny ripple) was the fact that Brawn have been assigned car numbers 20 and 21. The FIA have decided that Brawn is technically a new entrant, seemingly because Honda had a commercial agreement that it would participate in F1 as Honda.
Force India moved up the grid as a result and have been assigned numbers 18 and 19. The two Toro Rosso drivers, Sébastien Bourdais and Sébastien Buemi have swapped numbers so that the more experienced of the two has the lower number — an uncontroversial practice.
But I am fascinated that Ferrari have seen fit to swap the car numbers of their two drivers. Team can allocate their numbers in whatever way they see fit (with the exception of number 1). But clearly Ferrari have made a conscious decision to demote Räikkönen.
For his entire Ferrari career, Felipe Massa has been the “second” driver, at least as far as car numbers go. This is also reflected in his pay packet, which is allegedly significantly lower than Kimi Räikkönen’s.
This year it’s different. Räikkönen’s contract may ensure that he still gets paid the megabucks. But this year he will have to race in the number 4 car, while Massa takes number 3.
It might seem like a small thing, and in a way it is. But it’s very interesting that earlier entry lists had the drivers swapped around with Kimi as driver number 3 and Massa as number 4. This means that at some point over the winter, Ferrari have made the decision to officially make Räikkönen the number two driver, at least as far as the FIA entry list goes.
The entry list was published on the same day as Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali gave an interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport which James Allen analysed:
You don’t need to be a genius at reading between the lines to get what Domenicali is saying here. A repeat of last year’s performance would signal the end of Kimi at Ferrari.
Is the number swap another subtle hint from the Ferrari team that Räikkönen must improve or else?