2022 F1 driver race numbers: Who uses what number and why?

All Formula 1 drivers choose a permanent race number with which they use throughout their F1 career and only the reigning world champion is allowed to change numbers. But which drivers use what number and what is the story behind their choice?

2022 F1 driver race numbers: Who uses what number and why?

In Formula 1, all drivers use a fixed race number. The championship introduced this concept in 2014 to increase the recognition of the drivers on the track for the fans. In previous years, the starting numbers were handed out based on the final ranking in the previous world championship standings.

Now only the world champion for the new season can choose to change his number: he gets the offer to replace the permanent number with the #1. All other drivers must stick to their chosen number. 

Behind the choice of each number there's a story for many drivers. It could be their lucky number or they have special memories of the number. This article lists all the numbers for the 2022 Formula 1 season and the explanations behind them. 

List of F1 drivers' numbers in 2022:

Will Max Verstappen drive with race number 1 in 2022?

As reigning world champion, Max Verstappen has the right to choose #1 for the 2022 Formula 1 season. Immediately after winning the championship in the finale in Abu Dhabi, the Red Bull driver already announced that he will change his usual #33.

"I will indeed drive with number 1", he confirmed after the title win. "You don't often have the chance to do that, maybe it's my only chance. I think it's a beautiful, I'm definitely going to stick it on the car."

Earlier he said that it is also interesting for marketing reasons because of the new merchandise line that can be developed.

In 2014 Sebastian Vettel was the last driver to use the #1. In subsequent years, the title went to Lewis Hamilton, who stuck to his #44, or to Nico Rosberg. The German hung up his helmet immediately after his world title and could therefore no driver could use the #1 in 2017.

Why did Max Verstappen pick #33?

In the years before his first world title Max Verstappen drove in Formula 1 with #3. The story behind this choice is quite simple: in his youth the Dutchman had the #3 as a lucky number. He wanted to use it in F1, but the number was already taken by Daniel Ricciardo, so Verstappen then chose to use #33, "for double happiness". 

 

"As a kid I raced around with this number, so I thought it would be fun to use #33 in Formula 1 as well," he explained on social media, accompanying a photo of an electric toy car he drove around the family's garden.

At other times in his career he has also driven with a #3, while in the European Formula 3 Championship, the Dutchman raced as #30 and on his debut for Toro Rosso he used #38.

F1 drivers' numbers for 2022 and the story behind their choice

McLaren F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo uses #3. The smiling Australian was a big fan of American racing legend Dale Earnhardt, multiple NASCAR champion, in his youth. The American, who died on 18 February 2001, drove for a long time in the series with #3 and as a tribute Ricciardo chose the same number. After his victory in the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, Ricciardo was rewarded with a ride in his idol's NASCAR.

Lando Norris has given his McLaren the #4, explaining: "The story is that there is no story. It fits well with the hashtag #L4ndo, but it's not a number I've used in all racing classes."

Norris is a big fan of MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi and considered using his #46, but said he didn't want to be a 'copycat' so opted for the #4.

Aston Martin F1 driver Sebastian Vettel has chosen #5. The German has had great successes in the past with this number. He won the 2001 European Karting Championship in the ICA Junior class on a kart bearing #5. He later learned about the nickname from F1 legend Nigel 'Red Five' Mansell. Moreover, in 2010 he won his first Formula 1 title in the car bearing this number with Red Bull. In addition, the Roman designation of the number five is the 'V', which in turn is the first letter of Vettel's surname. "That 5 kept coming back everywhere," he said.

The years in which he defended his world title, the German came out with #1.

Nicholas Latifi has raced with #6 since his Formula 1 entry at Williams. The number refers to his hometown of Toronto, nicknamed "The Six". The nickname was made popular in recent years by rapper Drake. The city consists of six districts (Old Toronto, Scarborough, East York, North York, Etobicoke and York) and the area code of Toronto starts with a 6. Latifi also drove in three of his four Formula 2 seasons with a #6, although that was by coincidence as in junior single-seater classes, race numbers are still assigned based on the previous season's championship results.

Nikita Mazepin uses #9. The Haas F1 driver was born in 1999 and earlier in his career he chose #99 whenever possible. However, that number was already in the hands of Antonio Giovinazzi, forcing him to opt for the single nine.

AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly has #10. The Frenchman won the 2013 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup with that number and is also a big fan of footballer Zinedine Zidane, who played with number 10 in the French team. 

Sergio Perez uses the number #11 on his car. The origin is not in motorsport, but in football. The Mexican is a big fan of Club America, especially of former player Ivan Zamorano. "I liked how Bam-Bam played, how he scored. I became a fan of his and decided to race with that number. To this day I've always used #11 everywhere, right down to my email address!" Perez said.

Alpine F1 driver Fernando Alonso uses #14. On 14 July 1999, at the age of 14, he became world champion in karting with #14. "From that moment I knew #14 was my number," he said.

Charles Leclerc competes in Formula 1 with the #16. The Ferrari driver was born on 16 October 1997. His preference was initially for the lucky number seven, but that was already taken by Kimi Raikkonen. Next, Leclerc wanted #10, but that was already driven by his good friend Pierre Gasly. After some simple maths, he decided on #16: "Because one plus six is seven," he explained.

Lance Stroll has fitted his Aston Martin with #18. In the early days of his career he won the Italian Formula 4 Championship with this race number. Moreover, shortly after his 18th birthday, he made his Formula 1 debut with Williams. "A bit superstitious, but I like to hold on to little things that are important to me. I don't want to change them," said the Canadian.

Alexander Albon returns to Formula 1 this year after a season's absence. He has to stick with #23, which he also used in the first phase of his F1 career. In the world of sports, this is an iconic number. Basketball players LeBron James and Michael Jordan played with this number, as did footballer David Beckham for part of his career. Like colleague Lando Norris, Albon is a big fan of Valentino Rossi. In his karting days, the British Thai raced with his #46, but decided to opt for half of that number in F1.

 

Guanyu Zhou, the only rookie on the Formula 1 grid in 2022, has opted for #24. This number was last used in 2012 by Timo Glock. The Chinese driver has chosen this number as a tribute to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, of whom he is a big fan. Bryant played the last years with the Lakers with number 24.

Esteban Ocon uses the #31. The Alpine F1 driver took his first title in karting with that number in 2007. He still considers that one of the best years of his career. He also drove his Formula 1 test debut in October 2014 in the service of Lotus with #31.

Yuki Tsunoda opted for #22 for his F1 debut at AlphaTauri. The Japanese driver drove #11 in his early karting days and wanted to use that number in Formula 1 as well, but that start number is already occupied by Sergio Perez. Tsunoda simply doubled the number and ended up with #22.

Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton races with #44. The Briton drove his first kart race with this number, but didn't know what race number to choose at the time, so he took the number from the licence plate of his father's car: F44.

With that number he laid the foundation for his successful career and therefore wanted to use it in Formula 1. Even in the years when he was entitled to race with #1 as world champion, the Briton stuck to his #44.

Mick Schumacher ended up with #47 due to a "funny coincidence". The Haas F1 driver, son of seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, preferred numbers four and seven. However, these were already occupied by Lando Norris and Kimi Raikkonen. With #4, he won the 2018 European Formula 3 Championship title, while his father Michael has seven F1 titles behind his name. "And if you add up all the birthdays of our family, you get to 47!", to complete the picture.

Carlos Sainz has given his Ferrari #55. "The S of my first name is like a 5 and so is the S of my last name, so that makes #55". Moreover, the #5 is his favourite number, but that was already taken by Sebastian Vettel. With this self-invented word game he reached #55.

George Russell uses #63. "My brother used to kart with the number 63, so this has become our family number ever since," he said. With some creativity, 63 can also be read as GR, which are the initials of the newly-appointed Mercedes driver. Others see it as GB, which stands for Great Britain. 

Alfa Romeo newcomer Valtteri Bottas will race with #77. The Finn, like several other drivers, wanted the lucky number seven. However, this number was already taken by his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen. Bottas therefore chose #77, which he cleverly applied to his personal merchandise with the logo Bo77as.

Which race numbers cannot be used in Formula 1?

Formula 1 drivers cannot pick to use the number 17. Jules Bianchi was using this number at the time of his serious accident at Suzuka in 2014. He later succumbed to injuries from that crash. As a tribute, the F1 organisation decided to withdraw this race number. 

How long is a driver entitled to an F1 starting number?

A driver who leaves F1 can still use his old number for up to two years in case of a possible comeback. During this period the number cannot be used by another driver. For example, Fernando Alonso could return after his absence of two seasons and choose #14 again, which is why Alexander Albon will drive with #23 again this year. When a driver returns after a longer absence, he must choose a new starting number.

These starting numbers cannot be used in 2022:

Start number

Belonged to

Expires

7

Kimi Raikkonen

End of 2023

8

Romain Grosjean

End of 2022

20

Kevin Magnussen

End of 2022

26

Daniil Kvyat

End of 2022

99

Antonio Giovinazzi

End of 2023

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