All Formula 1 driver numbers and why they were chosen?

F1's current system of driver numbers has already given rise to some iconic brands

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One of the more overlooked Formula 1 rule changes in 2014 – amongst the switch to V6 engines, a pole position trophy and double points for the season finale – was the move to give each driver a permanent career race number.

Strangely for the Ecclestone administration, it was really a change perfect for Liberty’s era of commercialisation as it helped tie each driver’s brand to their F1 profile, increasing the marketing for both with the likes of Team LH44, Bo77as or #L4ndo.

The previous system saw the numbers assigned each season and was just a bit of a mess, with the world champion taking one, their teammate taking two and the rest dished out per team based on the last season’s constructors’ championship, with the higher scoring driver the previous year taking the higher number of the pairing.

This system also skipped 13 for bad luck and was just generally hard to keep up with, but it did give F1 the quirk of having two consecutive world champions sporting the number 22 – usually reserved for backmarkers. McLaren‘s constructors’ championship disqualification the previous year meant Hamilton won his maiden title as 22, with Jenson Button following suit the following year in the unfancied Brawn GP.

Button even liked it so much that he took 22 as his permanent race number in 2014 for McLaren!

Which number does each F1 driver use?

Now F1 drivers are free to pick whatever they want aside from 1 – reserved for the world champion, 17 which was retired after the death of Jules Bianchi, and any number already in use.

They can even pick 13 if they want, though only Pastor Maldonado has run that gauntlet and promptly retired two years later, so maybe F1 was right to give it a wide berth pre-2014?

Numbers get ‘reserved’ for two years after a permanent driver’s last appearance so Mick Schumacher‘s 47 and Nyck de Vries‘ 21 are still unavailable, but the 40 used by Liam Lawson while deputising for Daniel Ricciardo is fair game as is De Vries‘ 45 from when he was Alex Albon‘s stand-in at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso could’ve been forced to switch his number if his pre-Alpine F1 hiatus had lasted much longer.

Despite this system only running for a decade there’s already been ten repeats by different drivers – bonus points if you can name them – and how many of the current grid can you remember without looking?

NumberDriverTeam
1Max VerstappenDrivers’ champion
2Logan SargeantWilliams
3Daniel RicciardoVisa Cash App RB
4Lando NorrisMcLaren
10Pierre GaslyAlpine
11Sergio PerezRed Bull
14Fernando AlonsoAston Martin
16Charles LeclercFerrari
18Lance StrollAston Martin
20Kevin MagnussenHaas
22Yuki TsunodaVisa Cash App RB
23Alex AlbonWilliams
24Zhou GuanyuStake
27Nico HulkenbergHaas
31Esteban OconAlpine
33Max VerstappenRed Bull
44Lewis HamiltonMercedes
55Carlos SainzFerrari
63George RussellMercedes
77Valtteri BottasStake
81Oscar PiastriMcLaren

Max Verstappen: 1 & 33

Hamilton famously shunned the world champion’s #1 in his years at the top of the sport, but Max Verstappen hasn’t been so shy since his first title in 2021.

His justification (which seems a fair point) is that he’ll have no choice but to return to #33 when he’s not champion so he might as well celebrate while he can, but after the last two years it’s hard to imagine Verstappen will lose it any time soon.

He initially wanted to pick #3 at the start of his F1 career but that was already taken by Ricciardo so Verstappen plumped for #33 instead for ‘double the happiness’

Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after Las Vegas Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Perez: 11

Surprisingly few drivers took their inspiration from former racing drivers that they idolised growing up, but Sergio Perez numbered himself after a football icon instead.

Nicknamed ‘Ivan the Terrible’, Chilean striker Ivan Zamorano starred for Perez‘s favourite team Club America in the early 2000s after stints at Real Madrid and Inter. He scored 33 goals in 63 games for The Eagles wearing No.11 and Perez doesn’t just model his race number after Zamorano, he even uses it in his email address!

Lewis Hamilton: 44

The first of many who chose their karting number, Lewis Hamilton didn’t know what number to pick for his first-ever karting race and chose #44 as F44 featured on his dad’s number plate.

Ironically, he took up his karting number just as he started moving away from his karting helmet in his F1 designs, but that old Senna-inspired lid and LH44 are still two of the most iconic links to Hamilton.

Curiously, 44 was also the sum of all of Hamilton‘s previous F1 numbers before he switched in 2014: 2, 22, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 10.

George Russell: 63

A first grand prix win for George Russell goes up in smoke in Sakhir | LAT Images/Mercedes F1 team

Russell‘s older brother Benjy started karting with 63 so when George also took up the sport, he kept it as the ‘family number’. And with some Photoshop creativity, he’s even managed to incorporate it into a GR logo – just about.

It is refreshingly different though, just four other current drivers have numbers over 50 and no one else has featured in the 60s since 2014.

Charles Leclerc: 16

#16 was actually Charles Leclerc’s third choice, but his lucky number seven and 10 were both taken when he made his F1 debut in 2018.

Instead, he opted for #16 as his birthday is October 16, 1997 and “One plus six equals seven” – presumably proof of the advanced mathematical mind that allows him to navigate the technical side of F1 with such ease. Though apparently not part of his thinking, it’s next to his godfather Bianchi‘s number too.

Carlos Sainz: 55

Like his teammate, Carlos Sainz missed out on his first choice of number #5 thanks to Sebastian Vettel but appears to have decided that #55 is actually an upgrade: “The S of my first name is like a 5 and so is the S of my last name, so that makes #55”.

Lando Norris: 4

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning 2021 Russian GP with McLaren’s Lando Norris who finished P7 REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

Lando Norris is a Valentino Rossi megafan but didn’t want to copy the MotoGP legend outright and steered clear of #46, which is still yet to be used in the modern era of F1.

Norris claims that despite it fitting with his hashtag and branding, he just picked #4 at random.

Oscar Piastri: 81

Oscar Piastri initially started karting under #11 but was forced to switch at one stage due to a rival and stuck with #81 when he first came to Europe, racing in Formula Renault Northern Europe and scoring runner-up in his British F4 debut.

It’s not the only thing to change around Piastri‘s racing profile either, in 2019 he competed under a British racing licence and celebrated on the podium under the Union Jack to the tune of God Save the Queen.

There’s even video evidence of it, which is a good job because it seems so unbelievable now given his staunchly Australian personality.

Fernando Alonso: 14

Anyone who was in school in November 2011 and got to write 11.11.11 in their exercise books can relate to this one. Fernando Alonso became karting world champion on July 14, 1999 racing kart #14, so it obviously stuck from there!

Lance Stroll: 18

Lance Stroll admits he’s superstitious with his number – he won Italian F4 with #18 and his place in Williams‘ 2017 driver lineup for his maiden season in F1 was confirmed just a few days after he turned 18

Also, 18 million pounds is roughly a quarter of what Lawrence Stroll reportedly paid Williams to get his son into F1, and 150 times less than the Aston Martin owner’s net worth. Superstitions, eh?

Pierre Gasly: 10

Pierre Gasly in action at the 2023 Miami GP | Alpine

Pierre Gasly is a big fan of legendary midfielder Zinedine Zidane – who wore 10 for France – and also won the 2013 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup title in car #10.

Whether the two are linked by correlation or causation is unclear, but interestingly Gasly was joined on that championship podium by then arch-rival Esteban Ocon who was third and 36 points back.

Esteban Ocon: 31

Esteban Ocon ran number 15 that season and understandably didn’t look to carry that through, instead he uses the #31 that he raced to his first karting title way back in 2007, and used when testing for Lotus for his F1 debut in 2014.

Alex Albon: 23

Alex Albon turned 23 just days after his first grand prix, where he finished fourth in Australia, but that doesn’t appear to have factored into his thinking.

In fact nothing seems to have factored into his thinking too much, he took #23 because like Norris, he’s a big Rossi fan so it’s half the famous 46.

Logan Sargeant: 2

#2 wasn’t Logan Sargeant‘s first choice, but Daniel Ricciardo had taken number three so Sargeant dropped down one.

It was previously Stoffel Vandoorne‘s number, and didn’t serve the Belgian too well, but Sargeant ran #2 in his impressive Formula Renault debut campaign in 2018 where he finished fourth and beat fellow rookie Oscar Piastri.

Yuki Tsunoda: 22

Likewise, Tsunoda‘s preferred number was the #11 that he used in karting, but with Perez keeping that locked away then he doubled it and took #22 instead.

Daniel Ricciardo: 3

A bit of a different backstory to most, it’s no secret that Daniel Ricciardo idolised NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, who was killed in a crash when the Australian was 11 years old.

Ricciardo‘s described the decision to opt for #3 in 2014 as a ‘no-brainer’, and he quickly became synonymous with the number scoring three wins and five podiums in his first season at Red Bull and effectively ended Sebastian Vettel‘s career in Milton Keynes.

Valtteri Bottas: 77

Valtteri Bottas wanted #7 originally but priority went to the higher-placed drivers from 2013 when the numbers were first allocated. Bottas had finished 17th in his rookie season for Williams, beating Pastor Maldonado in an uncompetitive car and while compatriot missed the final two rounds for back surgery, still finished fifth with Lotus.

So Bottas had to settle for #77 instead, which has ended up working in his favour for his Bo77as branding.

Zhou Guanyu: 24

Zhou Guanyu‘s #24 is a tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who wore that number for the Los Angeles Lakers. The team retired both 24 and 8 (which Bryant used earlier in his career) used earlier in his career after he retired in 2017, making him the player in the league to two numbers retired – but it’s not thought that Romain Grosjean‘s #8 was also a tip to the Black Mamba.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January 2020, two years before Zhou made his debut in F1.

Nico Hulkenberg: 27

27 was an iconic number in its own right, though not for most of Nico Hulkenberg‘s lifetime. In 1974, teams were assigned permanent race numbers and Ferrari were given 11 and 12, but jumped up to 1 & 2 then back down to 27 and 28 thanks to Jody Scheckter‘s 1979 drivers’ championship win.

The permanent team numbers on the whole was a bit of a mess and nowhere near as permanent as advertised, but did mean that Ferrari had numbers 27 and 28 for much of the 1980s and 90s.

Gilles Villeneuve, Nigel Mansell and Jean Alesi sported #27 in their stints in Maranello, while it also adorned Senna‘s McLaren when the team took on loan for 1990.

As for Hulkenberg, his reasoning is based on history of a different kind – his birthday is August 19 so it’s the day and month added together.

Ayrton Senna drives for McLaren in 1990 | McLaren F1 Team

Kevin Magnussen: 20

The last of seven drivers still racing with the number they selected in 2014, Kevin Magnussen won the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 Series sporting number 20, the title that secured his F1 debut with McLaren.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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