Number 99 on a Mercedes F1 car? That can only mean one thing: Adrian Sutil is making a shock comeback next year! No, wait, that’s not right…
The 99 is actually on the car because that’s the number of three-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, who got a chance to test Hamilton’s 2014 title-winning Mercedes around the Silverstone International circuit earlier this year. It’s a shame it was only the International circuit because it makes it difficult to actually tell how quick he was, although 50.4 seconds seems pretty fast.
Lorenzo isn’t the first motorcycle legend to try out F1 machinery in recent times. Five-time champion Mick Doohan had a go in a Williams at Catalunya in 1998, and Valentino Rossi famously had multiple tests with Ferrari in the mid-2000s. He was even rumoured to make the full-time switch at one point but ultimately decided to remain in MotoGP.
Going further back it wasn’t unusual for riders to make the switch to four wheels. Both Johnny Cecotto and Mike Hailwood won motorcycling world championships before going on to race in Formula 1, while John Surtees remains the only man to have won championships on both two and four wheels.
Even though he enjoyed the experience (who wouldn’t?!) and performed well, it seems highly unlikely that Jorge would ever contemplate making the transition, especially as he’s signed to ride for Ducati next year. Also, his nickname is ‘Hammer and Butter’, so there would be complications over how his engineers tell him to push. Lewis already has “It’s hammertime!” sewn up, so Lorenzo’s phrase would have to be “It’s butter time!”, and that just sounds dodgy.