What's in a number? Drivers' permanent numbers and the reasons behind them

A look at what lies behind the grid's selections for 2014 and the numbers' historical F1 relevance

By James Galloway.   Last Updated: 21/01/14 2:54pm

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Formula 1's move to permanent numbers has prompted plenty of interest in the build-up to the 2014 season, so with the allocations for the new season and beyond now out, here's a rundown of the reasoning behind the selections.

Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull

Number: 1 for 2014 and 5 for career.

Why? Vettel's status as the reigning World Champion means he had the option to follow tradition and carry the coveted number '1' on his Red Bull in 2014, a privilege the German has duly taken up. However, his selection of '5' for the remainder of his career in the years when he isn't the title holder holds personal career significance:

Anything else? The number '5' is most famously associated with Nigel Mansell, who made 'Red Five' his signature badge when he drove for Williams in the 1980s and 1990s, including his title-winning year of 1992. It was also the number Michael Schumacher's Benetton carried during the German's first championship year of 1994 while Fernando Alonso's Renault also ran '5' during the Spaniard's own maiden title-winning campaign 11 years later.

Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull

Number: 3.

Why?

Anything else? Like his new team-mate's number, '3' has been no stranger to race, or championship, winning cars in recent time. The number has been carried by drivers including Jenson Button (twice), Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa over the last decade and prior to the standardised teams' numbering system introduced in 1996 was exclusively used by Tyrell's drivers (including Sky F1's Martin Brundle in the mid-1980s) from 1974.

Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes

Number: 44.

Why? Hamilton's number selection also has significant personal relevance as '44' is the number he carried as a rising star of the junior karting scene in the Champions Of The Future series in 1996. Coincidentally or not, the number is also the total of all of his previous car numbers (2, 22, 1, 2, 3, 4, 10) in F1.

Anything else? Unsurprisingly, Hamilton brings '44' out of a long F1 retirement - indeed the last drivers to run with numbers as high as 40 on their cars were Friday runners Neel Jani (40) and Franck Montagny (41) in practice at the 2006 Brazilian GP. The last driver to run with Hamilton's 44 was also a Briton, albeit a little-known one, when Melchester Racing's Tony Trimmer used it en-route to failing to qualify for the 1977 British GP.

Nico Rosberg - Mercedes

Number: 6.

Why?

Anything else? While never actually carried by Nico himself hitherto in F1, '6' was the number on his father Keke's Williams when he won the world title in 1982, and then again in 1984-85. The number then became associated with Ricardo Patrese, at first Williams and then during the Italian's final F1 campaign with Benetton, in 1988-1993 and in more recent time was the number Kimi Raikkonen won the championship with in 2007.

Fernando Alonso - Ferrari

Number: 14.

Why?

Anything else? More commonly associated with midfield teams, '14' nonetheless was the number Alonso's friend and former Red Bull driver Mark Webber carried when he won his first two F1 races in Germany and Brazil in 2009.

Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari

Number: 7.

Why? Not one for sentimentality, Kimi Raikkonen went for a straightforward selection: "It's the number I already had last year and I saw no reason to change it." So there you have it.

Anything else? Seven was both Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell's respective final numbers in F1.

Romain Grosjean - Lotus

Number: 8.

Why? Writing on his Facebook page, Grosjean explained: "Simply I like this number, plus it has some signification to me. My wife was born the 8th of December, we started dating in 2008 and besides, to my eyes my son is the 8th wonder of the world. That's why I picked up number 8."

Anything else? Like his former Lotus team-mate Raikkonen, '8' was Grosjean's car number in 2013 - which he might now consider to bring good luck given it was his best season in F1 to date. The Frenchman also carried it in his less successful half-season debut with Renault in 2009. It was also the number on Mika Hakkinen's 1998 title-winning McLaren.

Pastor Maldonado - Lotus

Number: 13.

Why? Arguably the most surprising selection of all given the number's association with bad luck in many parts of the world, Maldonado has yet to explain his reasons for opting for what he clearing hopes will be 'lucky' 13.

Anything else? For precisely the widespread superstition attached to '13', the number has never been officially allocated by the FIA since a standardised numbering system was adopted in 1996. In fact only twice before in F1's six-decade history has a car carried the number: Moises Solana, who retired, at the 1963 Mexican GP and female driver Divina Galica in her failed attempt to qualify for the 1976 British GP.

Jenson Button - McLaren

Number: 22.

Why?

Anything else? More commonly associated with F1's backmarker teams, by a quirk of fate '22' was the number carried by consecutive British World Champions in 2008-2009 as Lewis Hamilton, after McLaren were disqualified from the previous year's constructors' standings over Spygate', and then Button at Brawn claimed the title.

Kevin Magnussen - McLaren

Number: 20.

Why?

Nico Hulkenberg - Force India

Number: 27.

Why?

Anything else? Perhaps the most famous of all F1 numbers, '27' was carried with distinction by a succession of Ferrari drivers from 1981 until 1995. The first, and most notable, was Gilles Villeneuve whose swashbuckling style made the number revered before his death in 1982, and thereafter Michele Alboreto, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Jean Alesi. The only year during that period it moved away from Maranello was following Prost's arrival as reigning World Champion in 1990, the number switching to McLaren and Ayrton Senna - who won the title with it himself.

Sergio Perez - Force India

Number: 11.

Why? "Ever since I was a kid I always wore the 11, in karting. Actually my email has 11 in it as well," explained Perez. "A lot of things have to do with 11 so I identified myself with that number."

Anything else? Eleven was the first number used by future double World Champion Mika Hakkinen at Lotus in 1991 and Jody Scheckter's title-winning number at Ferrari in 1979.

Adrian Sutil - Sauber

Number: 99.

Why? Explaining his decision to opt for the highest available number to Sky Sports News, a deadpan Sutil said: "It's quite easy to explain: in my life it's only the maximum!"

Anything else? Sutil certainly breaks with F1 tradition by opting for such a high car number, with '99' having only previously been seen when the Indy 500 was part of the World Championship in the 1950s.

Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber

Number: 21.

Why?

Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso

Number: 25.

Why? As with many of his fellow drivers, Jean-Eric's number selection has been influenced by his karting career:

Anything else? The number habitually carried by the lead Ligier driver prior to the change in numbering system in 1996.

Daniil Kvyat - Toro Rosso

Number: 26.

Why? Although born on the 26th of April, the Toro Rosso rookie has given a more cryptic reason for selecting the number for his debut season:

Felipe Massa - Williams

Number: 19.

Why?

Anything else? The first F1 number carried by Massa's idol Ayrton Senna at Toleman in 1984 and eight years later by Michael Schumacher when the German won his first GP at Spa for Benetton.

Valtteri Bottas - Williams

Number: 77.

Why? With a double 'T' in your surname, the marketing opportunities of '77' were obvious for Bottas:

Jules Bianchi - Marussia

Number: 17.

Why?

Max Chilton - Marussia

Number: 4.

Why? Chilton's selection of '4' represents the perfect numerical substitute for the letter 'A' in his first name:

Kamui Kobayashi - Caterham

Number: 10.

Why? The returning Kobayashi has selected the number he first carried in F1, when he stood in for Timo Glock in 2009 at what turned out to be the final two races of Toyota's F1 sojourn.

Marcus Ericsson - Caterham

Number: 9.

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