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Since 2014, the Formula 1 drivers are able to select their own numbers, with the potential to create iconic combinations. They are able ot select any number between #2 and #99, as long as has not been taken by another driver who has competed in Formula 1 for the running season or the previous two. In addition to those 98 options, #1 is also available, but only for the defending champion. The selection holds a personal meaning for most of the competitors, so let’s revisit their choices and see the reasons behind them.
- 1 Max Verstappen
- 2 Sergio Perez
- 3 Fernando Alonso
- 4 Lance Stroll
- 5 Lewis Hamilton
- 6 George Russell
- 7 Carlos Sainz
- 8 Charles Leclerc
- 9 Lando Norris
- 10 Oscar Piastri
- 11 Pierre Gasly
- 12 Esteban Ocon
- 13 Nico Hulkenberg
- 14 Kevin Magnussen
- 15 Valtteri Bottas
- 16 Zhou Guanyu
- 17 Yuki Tsunoda
- 18 Nyck de Vries
- 19 Alex Albon
- 20 Logan Sargeant
Despite sporting #1 for the past two seasons, Max Verstappen’s number of choice is #33. That was not his first option though, as that was #3. However, that number was available, since it was taken by Daniel Ricciardo, his future Red Bull teammate, one year earlier. Thus, the Dutchman elected to take #33 as his number, before running #1 in celebration of the World Championships he won in 2021 and 2022.
He is famous for his time on the racetracks, but Sergio Perez has a deep love for football as well and it becomes apparent from his number selection. His #11 comes from Ivan Zamorano, who played for Checo’s favourite team, Club America, from 2001 to 2003, as his career was winding down. The Chilean was one of the most famous strikers of his era and enjoyed great success in his time, playing for Real Madrid and Inter Milan, among others.
A childhood memory has inspired Fernando Alonso to choose #14 for his F1 cars. On the 14th of July 1995, Fernando Alonso became a World Champion in karting. Even more remarkably, he was driving a kart with #14 and he was 14 years old at the time, so this coincidence means the Spaniard now considers #14 as his lucky number and has placed it aboard his Ferrari, his McLaren, his Alpine and his Aston Martin since 2014.
Success with #18 in the past has led Lance Stroll to keep this number for Formula 1. The Canadian, who has admitted in the past that he is superstitious, won the 2014 Italian F4 Championship and the 2015 Toyota Racing Series under that number and elected for it when he made his debut in 2017 for Williams.
One of the most iconic combinations ever since Formula 1 allowed drivers to pick their numbers is Lewis Hamilton and #44. The inspiration came from the numberplate of the car his father, Anthony, was driving. At the time, the first three digits of British numberplates contained a letter, followed by two numbers. In the case of Anthony Hamilton, that was F44. Lewis kept #44 and used it during his karting days. In 2014, it became his number in F1 and he has won six World Championships with it, having declined the option to use #1 as the reigning champion.
Family connections are the reason behind George Russell’s choice of #63. It was his older brother that drove with this number in his karting days, mainly in amateur levels, since his racing career never took off. While he was not able to progress through the ranks, the younger Russell was able to achieve that and has carried the number all the way to Formula 1.
When it comes to Carlos Sainz, his ultimate choice was only his third preference. His first was #19, but that was already taken by Felipe Massa. His second option was #5, but that was also not available, as it was Sebastian Vettel’s number. As a result, he went in the same direction as Max Verstappen, his teammate at the time, and doubled his number digits to create #55. Despite not being his first choice, he has utilised the number, often marketing himself as Carlo55ainz.
Charles Leclerc was in the same boat as his teammate, since he is also racing with his third option. For him, #7 was the first choice, but was already occupied by Kimi Raikkonen. Next he hoped to get #10, but Pierre Gasly had made his debut half a season earlier and the number was already his. Thus the Monegasque, who was born on October 16th, chose #16. The number is also close to #17, now retired in honour of his godfather, Jules Bianchi.
For Lando Norris, the number selection was a bit of a different process. The McLaren driver has claimed that he has no favourite number, but he went for #4 since that was one that would fit perfectly in the negative space of his personal logo, between the initials of his name, as is visible in the picture below.
It may seem like a weird choice, but Oscar Piastri’s #81 comes from a young age. The Aussie was asked to pick a number for one of his first races and when he went to buy stickers from a shop, only #1 stickers were available in stock, so he entered as #11. However, in later days that number was selected by another driver, so he swapped to #81 and stuck with it ever since.
Much like Sergio Perez, the inspiration for Pierre Gasly to use #10 came from football. For the Frenchman it was a different player and a compatriot, Zinedine Zidane. The football legend used the number when he played for the French national team from 1994 to 2006, but not in his tenure in either Bordeaux, Juventus or Real Madrid.
Another driver with a number choice stemming from his childhood and karting days is Esteban Ocon. As is apparent from the following tweet, the driver of Alpine used #31 when he won his first national karting championship in France and opted for the number in 2016, when he debuted for Manor.
It's now official i will be having the "31" as my race number, i won my first national championship with this one😉! pic.twitter.com/GhRLJsLQVP
— Esteban Ocon (@OconEsteban) August 15, 2016
A driver whose number choice does not bear any historical meaning is Nico Hulkenberg. The 35-year-old birthday is on August 19th and 19 plus 8 equals 27, so he chose that. It is one of the most iconic numbers in F1, mainly associated with Ferrari and Gilles Villeneuve, but that appeared not to be a factor for The Hulk.
Kevin Magnussen’s choice was an easy one to make. The Haas driver made his selection in 2014, when he debuted for McLaren, and kept the number he raced with in 2013, when he was crowned champion in the Formula Renault 3.5 series. He also used it in his days with Renault and Haas, later in his career.
Much like some of the other drivers on his list, Valtteri Bottas did not get his first choice, which in his case was #7. Thus, he went for the digit twice and formed #77 to put on his Williams initially, and his Mercedes and Alfa Romeo in later years. He was taken advantage of it though, marketing himself as “VAL77ERI BO77AS” for commercial purposes.
Looking at his crash helmet colours, which is painted in yellow and purple, it is no secret that Zhou Guanyu is a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and, especially, Kobe Bryant. To honour the basketball legend, the Chinese driver is racing with #24, the number Bryant wore for the second half of his career and won two NBA rings with.
For the first time in this list, we come across a number that has been used by another driver before. Yuki Tsunoda is racing with #22, just like Jenson Button did from 2014 to 2017. Since it had been vacant for three years though, it was available for the Japanese driver to use when he made his F1 debut in 2021. His preference was #11, which he used in karting, but he doubled it to #22, a number used by two of his favourite drivers, the aforementioned Jenson Button and Takuma Sato.
Nyck de Vries
Another driver that races with a previously-used number is Nyck de Vries. The Dutchman, who elected to race with #17 in Formula E, was unable to make the same selection for Formula 1, as it has been retired in honour of Jules Bianchi. Thus, he went for #21, formerly of Esteban Gutierrez, who used it in 2014 and 2016. As of now, the Alpha Tauri driver has not given a reason for the reasons behind his choice.
The number #23 is legendary in sports, since many famous athletes have worn it. The inspiration behind Alex Albon choosing the number is not one of those though, but another. Namely Valentino Rossi, whose connection with #46 is one of the most iconic. However, the Thai driver said that he will only use half the number, since he cannot replace The Doctor himself!
— Alex Albon (@alex_albon) December 18, 2018
Logan Sargeant is about to start his Formula 1 career with #2 on his Williams. It is not the first time we see this number on the grid post-2014, since it was used by Stoffel Vandoorne during his time in F1. The American’s favourite number is #3, but since it was not available -with Daniel Ricciardo only leaving F1 last year- he has gone for #2, which he used in Formula Renault Eurocup back in 2018.
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