Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton famously races with the number 44 emblazoned on his Mercedes car. But why does he use this number?
Arguably the greatest F1 driver ever, the British ace possesses a catalogue of records in the sport. For instance, his seven world titles put him joint top of the all-time list alongside Michael Schumacher.
Additionally, Hamilton’s dazzling ability over a single lap means he holds the record for most pole positions in history, with 103. He also knows how to translate grid position into victory pretty well, too; the Mercedes man has won 103 Grands Prix, putting him top of that all-time list.
And even if he does not win, Hamilton generally finishes in the top three. Since taking third on his F1 debut back in 2007, Sir Lewis has finished on the podium on 183 occasions – again holding the record for the most.
So, with all the world championships and wins, how come Lewis Hamilton uses the number 44 instead of 1?
F1’s permanent number rule
Ahead of the 2014 season, Formula 1 announced new rules whereby drivers could select their own personal race number. This could be any digit from two to 99 – but two racers could not use the same one. Previously, drivers were assigned a number based on the team’s Constructors’ Championship position from the previous season.
The number 1 was not allowed on any car, unless the reigning champion wished to use it. This is what Max Verstappen has done; as the 2021 champion, he has chosen to have the No.1 in 2022.
Interestingly, this is the first time that the number 1 has been on the grid since 2014. Previous rules made the first digit obligatory for the reigning champion. The rest of the grid received their car number based on the last season’s Constructors’ Championship standings.
Before Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel had the number 1 whilst he was at Red Bull, after winning the 2013 title.
Similarly, Lewis Hamilton had the figure on his McLaren back in 2009, when the obligatory rules were still in place. He got the honour after winning the 2008 championship – his first world title. However, since 2014, Lewis Hamilton has stuck with 44.
Lewis Hamilton: why 44?
The British driver could have used the number 1 in 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021, but decided against it. He continued to use 44.
Hamilton chose this number for F1 as he used it back in his go-karting days as a kid. However, the original decision for 44 has a much more unique background.
In an interview with the BBC (via RacingNews365), he revealed that 44 came from part of his dad’s number plate. When asked why he does not change to 1, Hamilton said it is a question of mentality.
“Of course, each year I start, it’s a new fresh start for everyone,” he explained. “I always start with number 44 because that’s the number I had on my go-kart at eight years old.”
After great success racing with the digit, Hamilton decided that it should stay. He said that it “became the family lucky number”, according to The Express.
The number has clearly given Hamilton some good fortune, as the Brit has cemented a legacy as one of the all-time greats whilst driving with 44.
Featured Image Credit: Getty