Sebastian Vettel insists that he had always set his sights on making the #5 his permanent identity in F1, even before his hero was injured in a skiing accident.
With the FIA releasing the definitive list of numbers chosen by drivers in the first season of personalisation after Michael Schumacher suffered severe head injuries in a fall while on holiday in France, there have been suggestions that Vettel made his choice as some sort of tribute to the man who's records remain in his sights. The younger German, however, insists that that is not the case.
“Of course, several other drivers have also brought #5 the world title, including Michael and Nigel Mansell, but I have chosen it because I carried it so successfully in karts in 2001 and again when I first became F1 world champion,” he told Germany's Sport Bild
, recalling both his earliest and more recent triumphs.
Vettel will not get to carry the #5 until he allows someone else to win the F1 world title, as he intends to keep the iconic #1 to symbolise his position at the head of the sport.
Denied that opportunity for the past three seasons, the German's rivals will generally carry different numbers to usual in 2014, with Fernando Alonso opting for #14, again on the basis of his karting successes, Nico Rosberg going for #6 in deference to his father's world title in 1982 and Lewis Hamilton picking #44 as another number that carries significance to his early career. Only Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean will carry the same numbers as they did in 2013, with the Finn explaining that he simply could not be bothered to move away from #7!
Vettel, meanwhile, will have another distraction this season, amid reports that partner Hanna Prater has given birth to a daughter in the couple's adopted home, Switzerland. The pregnancy was only revealed in December.