ABU DHABI — Lewis Hamilton has no plans to make the number one a permanent fixture on his car, despite running with a car displaying it in Friday’s opening practice session.
Hamilton asked for special permission to carry the number — traditionally reserved for the reigning world champion — on the front of his car for the opening practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. His usual career number, 44, remained on the back end of the car. The number one had been removed completely by second practice and replaced with the usual digits.
A regulation change in 2014 meant all drivers had to pick a number to carry with them for the rest of their time in F1. It also stated that using No. 1 was optional and until this weekend had not featured on a car since the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix — Sebastian Vettel had opted to carry it as defending champion that year.
For the next two years, Hamilton stuck with 44. He was beaten to the title by his teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 but the German driver retired at the end of that season before having to choose between numbers one and six for his title defence. This year, Hamilton successfully defended his crown in the number 44 car, wrapping up the championship at the Mexican Grand Prix in October.
It means Mercedes has never displayed the winners’ mark on its car since joining in 2010 — it could have if Jenson Button had remained at the Brixworth-Brackley outfit after the takeover of Brawn GP at the end of 2009, but he decided to join Hamilton at McLaren for that season.
Hamilton wanted to bring that run to an end this weekend.
“I personally don’t like it, don’t like it at all,” Hamilton said on Friday evening. “The reason I did it is I’ve been here for six years and I remember when the team had number one, Jenson got the world title and moved to McLaren and brought it with him… It’s strange McLaren could have number one on the car. The next team can, wherever you go.”
“Since we’ve been world champion we’ve never had number one on the car and I thought it would just be cool to have it on the car for just one session. So at least they have a picture somewhere that they can be really proud of where we were number one.
“44 doesn’t really… that’s my special number but everyone on my car, particularly, they were saying to me they are travelling and they’ll see a bus number 44 or a flight number 44, it’s becoming a part of their lives which is great as it’s exactly how it is with me.
“It was just for one session, it doesn’t really mean anything.”