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Why does Lewis Hamilton not race with #1 in Formula One?

Jake Nichol November 12, 2021
F1 Grand Prix of Portugal
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Lewis Hamilton’s #44 race number in Formula One is iconic, but why does he not race with #1? What has he said about it, and has he ever run #1 in an grand prix?

In the midst of F1’s most gripping title fight for years, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are fighting for every point going.

Hamilton’s #44 Mercedes trails Verstappen’s #33 Red Bull by 19 points with 107 left up for grabs.

Verstappen has said this weekend that he would run #1 on his car in 2022 should he win the ’21 title, but why does Hamilton not use it as world champion?

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Hamilton’s right to use #1

In 2014, F1 switched its number format to allow drivers the chance to select their own permanent race numbers.

Drivers could opt for any number they wished from 2-99, with #1 being reserved for the reigning world champion.

2013 champion Sebastian Vettel used #1 in his ’14 title defence, with Hamilton taking the title that year.

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However, since then, the Briton has not elected to use the #1 on his Mercedes, preferring the use of #44 – the number he chose in 2014.

Indeed, the #1 has not been raced in F1 since the 2014 Abu Dhabi GP.

Vettel was the out-going world champion, with Hamilton going on to win six of the next seven world titles.

Nico Rosberg won the 2016 crown, but quit days later, meaning he never got the chance to race with #1.

Why does Hamilton not use #1?

Very simply, Lewis Hamilton does not race the #1 because he does not like it.

#44 is a number Hamilton used in his karting career and has family ties for the 36-year-old.

Interestingly, if you take all the race numbers Hamilton has used in F1 over his career, they total 44.

He has used #2, #22, #1, #2, #3, #4, #10 and #44 in his long career.

Has Hamilton ever raced with #1?

Back in 2009, Hamilton ran the #1 sticker on his McLaren.

These were the days before the driver could chose their number, with Hamilton running it as reigning world champion.

He won twice with it in Hungary and Singapore as McLaren suffered an off year.

Since then, Hamilton has run with #1 twice in practice sessions at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

He did so in 2018 and 2019, saying it was a gesture towards the mechanics and team members on his side of the Mercedes garage.

Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.