There are some things in life that are cliché and slightly embarrassing, and yet necessary. One of these things, for example, is that, if one buys a Ferrari, it must be in red, because, even though that is cliché and slightly embarrassing, it is also necessary. Another one is: If you win a racing championship, you must take number one. Well, at least once.
Max Verstappen, bless his heart, knows this, and said this week that, if he wins the Formula 1 title this year, he will be replacing his current number 33 with the proper number one, which is reserved for the champion in Formula 1. It has not been used since Sebastian Vettel in 2014, however, because Lewis Hamilton prefers to keep number 44 and Nico Rosberg, the only other driver to win a title since then, immediately retired after winning the championship.
Verstappen knows what’s up, though, according to Formula1.com.
He’s previously brushed off talk of a maiden title, but here in Brazil the Dutchman gave a frank answer when asked if he would like to sport the world champion’s number 1 on his car for the 2022 season, instead of his current number 33.
“Absolutely, how many times do you have the opportunity to drive with number 1? And it’s good for merchandise as well, you know? So, it’s smart to do that,” he said with a chuckle.
It is interesting that Max says that number one would be good for merchandising. It has been assumed (by my colleagues) that is part of the reason that Lewis Hamilton hasn’t changed his number to one for a full season in recent years, beyond the fact that Hamilton also just seems to hate the idea, because keeping number 44 helps keep him humble, or some such.
That, of course, is how elite athletes think, in terms of various superstitions, while Verstappen’s reaction is the more human one. Because who didn’t dream of driving the number one car as a kid? How many times are you going to have the chance?
And you have to do the cliché and slightly embarrassing thing at least once, in any case, which Hamilton knows as well, as he used number one throughout the 2009 Formula 1 season, having captured his first title the year before. After you do that, as Lewis knows, you can do whatever you want.