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The Mystery Behind How F1 Drivers Choose Their Numbers

In 2014, F1 drivers gained the freedom to choose numbers, departing from the previous system based on team performance. Number 1 is reserved for the reigning world champion, while 17 is retired in honor of Jules Bianchi.

Utsav Chaudhary
Last updated: 31.03.2024
How F1 Drivers Choose Their Numbers

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Key Takeaways:

  • Formula 1 drivers select their racing numbers, with changes in the system occurring since 2014.

  • Initially, numbers were based on team performance; now, drivers can choose from 2 to 99.

  • Number 1 is reserved for the reigning world champion; 17 is retired in honor of Jules Bianchi.

Formula 1 is gaining popularity globally and with its immense succession comes the roleplay of the team’s star drivers. But how do you recognize which driver is driving at which number and for which teams on the track? Well, this is  F1 and nothing here looks so simple. The strategy behind the driver’s numbers was not the same as it is in today's hybrid era. The driver’s number was assigned according to the team’s ranking in the previous FIA World Constructor Championships implemented nine years ago.

 

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But today things have changed alot. New regulations implemented in the year 2014, also brought some changes regarding the numbers issued to the drivers on the grid. During the V6 hybrid eras, the team and the governing body FIA decided to give freedom to drivers to choose their F1 driver numbers. So several new factors were kept in mind while numbering the drivers. Here in this article, we will tell how the drivers pick up numbers for themselves and what factors the numbers should depend on while badging it with one’s identity.

 

How do F1 drivers choose their numbers?

In 2014, the team that performed well and topped the Constructor titles would ultimately get Number 1 and Number 2 for their drivers. Whereas, the rest of the drivers of another team would be numbered from 3 to 99 depending upon the performance of the team and their ranking in the Constructor Championship. These numbers were based on the team’s performance in the previous year’s championship ranking. However, after introducing the hybrid era, major changes were brought to choosing the F1 driver’s numbers for racing.


Lewis Hamilton 44
Lewis Hamilton 44


After the year 2014, the FIA decided that drivers or racers who are racing in the F1 would have the right to choose any numbers from 2 to 99 as their F1 driver numbers irrespective of the team's performance. But once the number is chosen would be stuck with them as their identity throughout their Formula 1 racing career. These numbers play an important role in the identification of the F1 drivers. But a few drivers can’t pick up because of the extension halted by the FIA.

 

These numbers are 1 and 17. Well, these two numbers are not just ordinary numerical figures but a call sign for the few in the world of F1 racing. The Number 1 is reserved for the World Champion driver or the reigning world champion for the ongoing current season. If the champion driver is not willing to use Number 1 as his identity then he has the power to choose any other numbers but the Number 1 call sign would be inactive for that particular season. Then comes the Number 17 which is retired in honor of Jules Bianchi.

 

Current Drivers And Their Formula 1 Driver’s Number

Hope you understand that F1 Drivers numbers are necessary for their identity on the track. But what makes it curative for just normal numbers? See, the choice or the factors depending upon the curated driver numbers can be anything. No such essential factors were implemented in picking up the numbers. These numbers can be picked up by any personal preferences, choices, liking, or anything else.

 

Let's take a few examples from the current grid. Max Verstappen, before winning the F1 Championship, was driving under Number 33 which he picked up before entering F1 Racing. But, when he won his first ever F1 Drivers Championship Title, he chose Number 1 as his identity. This number still holds by him as he won consecutive Championship titles in 2022 and 2023 respectively.



On the other hand, 7-time World Championship Winner Lewis Hamilton chosen Number 44 even when he won consecutive 6-World Drivers Titles with Mercedes as his driver number. As the Number 44 was assigned to him during his initial karting age he is obsessed with it and impaired with him throughout his F1 career. Other driver's Numbers assigned can be seen in the list below.

 

F1 Racing Numbers 2024

F1 Drivers

F1 Numbers

Max Verstappen

Number 1 (Reigning World Champion)

Sergio Perez

Number 11

Charles Leclerc

Number 16

Carlos Sainz

Number 55

Oscar Piastri

Number 81

Lando Norris

Number 4

Lewis Hamilton

Number 44

George Russell

Number 63

Fernando Alonso

Number 14

Lance Stroll

Number 18

Yuki Tsunoda

Number 22

Daniel Ricciardo

Number 3

Esteban Ocon

Number 31

Pierre Gasly

Number 10

Valtteri Bottas

Number 77

Zhou Guanyu

Number 24

Alexander Albon

Number 23

Logan Sargeant

Number 2

Nico Hulkenberg

Number 27

Kevin Magnussen

Number 20

 

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