Racing numbers are an integral part of any form of motorsport. The rules regarding racing numbers in Formula 1 have changed over the years, leading to many people being confused as to how they work in the sport and how F1 numbers are assigned.
F1 numbers are chosen by the drivers. Ever since 2014 the drivers have been allowed to choose their own numbers, which they must keep for the entirety of their careers. Drivers are allowed to choose numbers between 0 and 99, with number 1 being reserved for the previous World Champion.
Many fans prefer this method of selecting numbers for drivers compared to the previous method that had been used for several years. We’ll take a closer look at the old method below, and we’ll give you a list of the numbers all F1 drivers are currently using.
How Do They Assign F1 Numbers?
Ever since the 2014 season F1 drivers have been allowed to choose their own race numbers. This decision was very popular amongst fans and drivers alike, as it allows drivers to choose a number with which they have a personal connection.
This is something that we often see in American branches of motorsport, but it’s not as common to see in European racing. The concept was a first for Formula 1 as drivers didn’t have much of a say in the numbers they got in the past.
Many drivers selected numbers that were important to them, and these often had a story attached to them. Others, however, simply chose a number for the sake of it. Kimi Raikkonen for example, chose the number 7 because that’s the number he had at the end of 2013 before the rule changes.
Some drivers put a bit more thought into their number choice. For example, Charles Leclerc wanted the number 7, but it was taken by Kimi Raikkonen. So, he chose the number 16 instead to symbolize one plus six equaling seven. 7 is Leclerc’s favorite number, and 16 is his birthday (16 October), so it was a good fit.
Have F1 Drivers Always Been Able to Choose Their Numbers?
F1 drivers have not always been able to choose their numbers. Drivers only started being allowed to choose their own numbers, from 0-99, in 2014. Before that, they were assigned to drivers based on where the team finished in the previous season’s Constructors’ Championship.
How Were Numbers Assigned In The Past?
Formula 1 drivers didn’t always have the freedom to choose their own numbers though. This rule only came into practice in 2014, which means that many legendary drivers in the past such as Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna missed out on the opportunities to choose their own numbers.
In the early days of F1, numbers were simply assigned to cars and that was the number the driver had to use for the rest of the season.
However, eventually a system was developed in order to determine car numbers. The previous season’s World Champion would be given car number 1, with their teammate being given car number 2. From there numbers were ordered by the previous constructors’ championship results.
So, if we were to take 2022 as an example using the old system, we would see Max Verstappen using car number 1 and Sergio Perez using car number 2. Mercedes finished highest in the constructors, so they would have cars 3 and 4 with Hamilton getting the number 3 car because he finished higher in the drivers’ standings than George Russell.
Next, we would see Ferrari with cars 5 and 6. Red Bull would be skipped even though they finished the constructors in second as they got cars 1 and 2 based on the drivers World Champion. Car number 5 would be given to Carlos Sainz since he finished higher than Charles Leclerc who would have car number 6, and this would continue through numbers 19 and 20.
An Exception To The Rule
During the 2008 season McLaren had to use numbers 22 and 23 on their cars despite finishing second in the previous season’s constructors’ championship. This is because the team had been disqualified from the 2007 season’s constructors’ championship over controversial cheating allegations.
Do F1 Drivers Keep Their Numbers?
F1 drivers do keep their numbers, even if they move teams. We saw this with Carlos Sainz, who kept his number 55 when he moved from McLaren to Ferrari. If a driver leaves the sport, they can retake their number if they return within 2 years, but after that someone else can take it.
Because F1 drivers are now able to choose their numbers, they usually want to keep them for as long as they can. The numbers often have a lot of sentimental meaning to the drivers, so it makes sense that they would keep them for their entire career.
Can F1 Drivers Change Their Numbers?
F1 drivers can only change their number if they win the World Championship, as they could then opt to use the number 1. Drivers would rarely have reason to change their numbers anyway, as since 2014 they have been able to choose their own when they enter the sport.
What Are The Rules When It Comes To Choosing Numbers?
With these rules being changed in 2014 and drivers being allowed to choose their own numbers, there were a few conditions that came along with it. Rules were put in place to ensure that it didn’t become too confusing when choosing race numbers.
The Number 1
The first rule was that the number 1 is reserved for the World Champion, so no one is allowed to choose it unless they have won the world championship in the previous season. This is why Max Verstappen is using the number 1 in 2022 instead of his usual 33.
Leaving The Sport
Drivers are allowed to keep their number for up to two years after leaving the sport in case of a possible comeback. We’ve seen this with Fernando Alonso who was able to keep his number 14, and Alex Albon who is able to use his number 23 again this season.
Sticking With 1 Number
F1 drivers have to use their numbers for their entire career, unless they have left the sport for more than two years. This is why Charles Leclerc won’t be able to use his number 7 that he wanted to, even though Kimi Raikkonen left Formula 1 at the end of 2021.
Reserve drivers also have to have their own numbers in case they are called up to participate in a race.
Who Uses Number 1 In F1?
The number 1 has always been reserved for the previous season’s world champion in F1. It has only ever appeared on a driver’s car when they have won the championship. The last driver before Max Verstappen to use the number 1 in F1 was Sebastian Vettel with Red Bull in 2014.
Michael Schumacher is the driver who has used the number 1 the most as he has won 7 world championships. Lewis Hamilton has also won 7 world championships but has only used the number 1 once in his Formula 1 career (in 2009) as he chose to stick with the number 44 after winning the world championship in 2014.
World champions don’t have to use the number 1 anymore thanks to the 2014 rule changes. A driver can choose to keep their usual permanent number even if they won the world championship the previous year, as we’ve seen with Lewis Hamilton.
Why Didn’t Hamilton Use Number 1?
Despite winning six world championships after the rules changed in 2014, Lewis Hamilton decided to stick with his now iconic number 44. The only time that Hamilton has used the number 1 in Formula 1 was when it was assigned to his car in 2009 after he won the world championship in 2008 (prior to drivers being allowed to choose their own numbers).
Hamilton decided to keep his number 44 as it’s the number he had throughout his junior racing career. He first chose the number when he entered his first ever karting championship. He didn’t know which number to choose, so he took the number of his father’s number plate.
Hamilton experienced a lot of success while using the number 44, winning many races and championships in karting and other junior racing series. He decided to keep the number in Formula 1, even after winning multiple world championships.
When Was The Number 1 Not Used In The Past?
It might seem like a special scenario not having the iconic number 1 on a car in Formula 1, but it has happened in the past. There have been occasions where drivers have retired after winning a world championship, which meant that the number 1 wasn’t used.
This has happened a couple of times in the past, with Nigel Mansell winning the championship in 1992 but switching to IndyCar for the 1992 season, leaving Damon Hill who replaced him using the number 0. Niki Lauda’s number 1 car also didn’t feature in some of the 1976 races following his accident at the Nürburgring.
Alain Prost retired at the end of the 1993 season, which meant that no one could use the number 1 car in 1994. Instead, his Williams teammate Damon Hill once again used the number zero on his car, with Ayrton Senna claiming the number two car as he took the vacant Williams seat.
Why Is The Number 13 Not Used In F1?
The number 13 is not used in F1 due to superstition. Ever since 1926 the number 13 was only used twice in the sport’s history. Even with assigned numbers and numbers given based on championship rank, the number 13 has always been avoided in Formula 1.
The number 13 was never assigned, and the number 14 was reserved for one car teams, third drivers or reserve drivers. This is why we often used to see numbers going two higher than the number of cars on the grid (for example cars 21 and 22 on a 20 car grid).
This mainly down to superstition. Prior to 1926, there had been two fatal accidents with cars who bore the number 13. The number was used again in 1963 Mexican Grand Prix and also in the 1976 British Grand Prix, but the car using the number 13 did not qualify for the latter race.
It wasn’t until 2014 when we saw the number 13 on a Formula 1 car again, chosen by Pastor Maldonado. It’s unclear why he chose this number, but it’s believed in some cultures that 13 is a lucky number.
What Is The Most Frequently Used Number In Formula 1?
The most frequently used number in Formula 1 is the number 8, appearing in 988 out of 1057 races (as of Abu Dhabi 2021). The number can’t be used again until a rookie chooses it in 2023 as Romain Grosjean used the number in 2020 and, as we mentioned earlier, there has to be a two year gap before it is used again.
Which F1 Numbers Are Retired?
Formula 1 only has one retired number. The number 17 has been retired since 2014 when Jules Bianchi suffered an accident at the Japanese Grand Prix. Bianchi eventually succumbed to his injuries and is the last driver to have been killed in the sport.
The number 17 cannot be chosen by any driver. However, any other number can be chosen despite there being multiple other deaths in F1. The difference is that other numbers weren’t chosen by the drivers, but rather assigned to them, which effectively gives the number less meaning.
There are no set rules for retiring a number in Formula 1 since it has only been done once, out of respect for Bianchi. It’s unclear if any other factors will have an influence on a number being retired. Perhaps an iconic number, such as Lewis Hamilton’s 44, could be retired one day, as he has etched his name into the record books of Formula 1.
List Of The 2022 F1 Driver Numbers
The 2022 F1 driver numbers are:
- 1 – Max Verstappen, Red Bull
- 3 – Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
- 4 – Lando Norris, McLaren
- 5 – Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
- 6 – Nicholas Latifi, Williams
- 10 – Pierre Gasly, Alpha Tauri
- 11 – Sergio Perez, Red Bull
- 14 – Fernando Alonso, Alpine
- 16 – Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
- 18 – Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
- 20 – Kevin Magnussen, Haas
- 22 – Yuki Tsunoda, Alpha Tauri
- 23 – Alex Albon, Williams
- 24 – Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo
- 31 – Esteban Ocon, Alpine
- 44 – Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
- 47 – Mick Schumacher, Haas
- 55 – Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
- 63 – George Russell, Mercedes
- 77 – Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
F1 numbers are assigned by the drivers choosing them. This wasn’t always the case, but in 2014 the rules changed to allow drivers to choose their own numbers, as long as they adhered to various rules. The previous season’s world champion can also use the number 1 instead of their usual number.