One school of thought believes Max Verstappen is somewhat insecure after a triumphant but controversial conclusion to the exciting 2021 Formula 1 season. Other observers point out that the Dutch sensation has worked hard for the right. Regardless, Verstappen is taking advantage of a privilege Lewis Hamilton had eschewed in recent years by changing his car’s number for the new season.
For example, the Verstappen Red Bull F1 car will be the number 1 during the 2022 season, which starts on March 20 with the Bahrain Grand Prix. It is a reminder of the motorsport world that he is the defending champion.
Max Verstappen earned the right to change numbers by winning in Abu Dhabi
“To the victor go the loot” sums up the rule Formula 1 passed in 2014 to allow the reigning World Drivers’ Championship title holder to move his car from its regular number to number 1 for the new season.
After beating four-time defending champion Lewis Hamilton with a late pass in the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to break a points tie and capture the championship, Verstappen had the opportunity to switch numbers to celebrate his first season title. He seized the opportunity. Therefore, Verstappen will mothball the traditional number 33 of his Red Bull car when the FI season starts in just under two months, Crash.net reported.
“How often can you do that?” said Verstappen. “Maybe it’s the only time I can in my life. It’s the best song out there, so I’ll definitely put it on the car.”
At 24 and backed by Red Bull Racing, which has finally caught the Mercedes team building fast cars, Verstappen may be selling himself short. Based on driving skills and the dedication of their teams to compete for championships, Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have separated themselves from F1’s other 18 drivers. And with Hamilton retiring this winter or soon, Verstappen seems destined to win multiple drivers’ world championships.
Lewis Hamilton hadn’t used the number 1 designation on his Mercedes
Max Verstappen will be the first driver to use the number 1 since Sebastian Vettel drove it in 2014. Lewis Hamilton has not driven that number since the rule change, but he did use it in practice in November 2019. Until Verstappen’s nail-biting victory, Nico Rosberg (2016) was the only driver in the past seven years to secure a championship on Hamilton, but he retired later that same week.
Hamilton has held on to his number 44 after the last six of his seven championships. His car, however, carried the number 1 designation in 2009, when the old rule assigned numbers based on places in the standings from previous seasons.
Finally given the chance to pick his number, Hamilton has consistently gone with number 44, a nod to his days as a rising star in junior karting in the mid-1990s.
Why did Max Verstappen choose No. 33?
It is not unexpected that many Formula 1 drivers choose car numbers that have a personal meaning. In Max Verstappen’s case, he grew up thinking that three was his lucky number. Unfortunately for him, Daniel Ricciardo had already had four seasons in F1 when Verstappen arrived in 2015.
Therefore, Verstappen decided that he would drive the number 33 car once he reached Red Bull Racing.
Ricciardo was attracted to number 3 because it was the number on Dale Earnhardt’s car in the NASCAR Cup Series. After Ricciardo won the Italian Grand Prix last season, the McLaren team rewarded him with a ride in an Earnhardt car during the week of the US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.
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