The Formula One world champion may appear on the grid with start number 1 the following season. Lewis Hamilton we never saw do it, but Max Verstappen does immediately choose to trade in his starting number 33 (temporarily). Why is that? GPblog explains it to you.
Drivers’ starting numbers in Formula One were originally assigned at each race by the organizers of the respective Grand Prix. Permanent numbers were then introduced in 1974. From 1996 to 2013, the team numbers were ordered according to the positions in the constructors’ championship of the previous season.
Hamilton stays true to number 44
When Hamilton made the switch from McLaren to Mercedes in 2013, he came to drive with number 10. Since 2014, drivers have been allowed to choose their own number in the premier class of motorsport. Hamilton’s choice fell on number 44. For the now seven-time world champion, that number has a special meaning. The British driver explains where it comes from. “When I started racing when I was eight, the license plate on my father’s car – he had a red Cavalier – was F44.” So Hamilton started using the number 44 as well. “Then it became the family’s lucky number.”
In 2015 Hamilton, like Verstappen now, was given the option to move away from his current number and opt for number 1. He decided not to? The reason lies not only in the meaning of the number 44, but there is something else. For that, we have to go back to 2009. Hamilton grabbed his first world championship in 2008 and was then forced to drive number 1. He didn’t quite like that. “It didn’t look so nice on the car. Number 44 looks much flashier.”
Max has his reasons
Verstappen let GPblog and others know the day after his first world title that he had opted for number 1. The 24-year-old from Limburg didn’t have to think about it for long. “How often can you do that? I don’t know, maybe it’s the only time in my life I can do that. It’s the best song there is. So yes, I will definitely put it on the car.”
Moreover, Verstappen also jokingly said, “And it’s also good for the merchandise.” He has a very good point there, of course. A lot of fans who currently already have a T-shirt or cap with number 33, will of course also want to own the merchandise with number 1. With millions of Dutch people watching Formula 1, this could also generate millions for Verstappen.
Verstappen goes after Vettel
Verstappen will become only the second driver after Sebastian Vettel to appear on the grid with number 1 since 2014. The German became champion on behalf of Red Bull Racing in 2013 and also chose number 1 then. Nico Rosberg quit after his title in 2016 and as already known Hamilton decided to stay true to number 44.