The 2019 season sees five drivers join the grid who have not previously had their own driver number allocated to them. We take a look at the new numbers for this season, why the drivers chose them and the history each number has in the sport.
#4 LANDO NORRIS
The number 4 has appeared on 137 different drivers’ cars since F1 began; including Juan Manuel Fangio’s when he won the title in 1954. Drivers on the 2019 grid who’ve previously used the number are Kimi Raikkonen (in 2002 and 2009), Lewis Hamilton (in 2012) and Robert Kubica (in 2008). Both Kubica and Hamilton won with the number on their car, with Hamilton’s win at the 2012 US Grand Prix being the last victory to date for car number 4.
The most recent driver to use the number was Max Chilton, with it appearing on his Marussia in the 16 races which he contested in 2014; the first season in which drivers could choose their own race numbers.
Norris said he considered his childhood hero Valentino Rossi’s 46 as his race number, but decided he didn’t want to be a ‘copycat’. In the end he chose number 4 for purely aesthetic reasons, notably that it works in the hashtag ‘#L4NDO’.
The number 4 car has won 37 Grands Prix in F1’s history. Former British McLaren drivers David Coulthard, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton all scored wins for the team with the number 4 on their car, and are the only three McLaren drivers to have done so. A good omen for Lando Norris?
#23 ALEXANDER ALBON
Just like Norris, Alexander Albon will be using a number which last appeared on Max Chilton’s car. The Marussia driver was assigned the number 23 for the 2013 season. In total, the number has appeared on 112 drivers’ cars so far in F1, including Jan Charouz, Dani Clos and Rodolfo Gonzalez, who each made appearances only in Free Practice. Daniel Ricciardo is the only driver on the 2019 grid to have previously run with the number 23, having done so for HRT in 2011.
And just like his fellow former F2 rival, Albon’s choice of number also derives from his childhood hero Valentino Rossi. Albon used to race with the number 46 in his karting days, but has halved the number to arrive at 23!
— Alex Albon (@alex_albon) December 18, 2018
The number 23 car has taken victories four times in Formula 1, and has taken a podium finish on 15 occasions. The drivers to have won with the number are Jim Clark, at the 1964 Belgian Grand Prix, Heikki Kovalainen at the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix, and Rubens Barrichello, who won with number 23 at the 2009 European and Italian Grands Prix.
#63 GEORGE RUSSELL
George Russell will become the first driver to use the number 63 on his car in Formula 1 since Danny Oakes at the 1953 Indianapolis 500. In fact, the only time the number has been used in F1 is at the Indianapolis race, in 1950 by Joe James and Bob Gregg, in 1951 by George Fonder, in 1952 by Dick Fraizer and by Oakes in 1953. On all five appearances, the driver of car 63 failed to qualify, so the number has never actually been used by a driver in an F1 race.
It’s quite a coincidence that George Fonder, one of only eight drivers named George to have raced in F1, should also be on the list of only five drivers who’ve used the number 63 on their car!
Russell has used the number 63 since his karting days. The number also appears in his Twitter handle, and the numerals are used to represent his initials on his 2019 helmet.
#88 ROBERT KUBICA
Just seven drivers have previously used the number 88 in F1. It was used by six drivers in the Indianapolis 500 between 1951 and 1959. Duncan Hamilton used it in 1951, George Tichenor in 1952, Manuel Ayulo then used it for the next three years at the event before Johnny Thomson used the number in 1956 and Eddie Sachs raced with it in both 1957 and 1958. Gene Hartley was the final driver to use 88 in the Indianapolis 500 while it was a round of the F1 championship in 1959. He finished 11th in the event, the best finish so far for a car using the number. 57 years later, Rio Haryanto used 88 as his number for the 12 races which he competed in in 2016 with Manor, finishing a best of 15th at that season’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Robert Kubica has chosen number 88 as his number as eight is his favourite number. With the number 8 already taken by Romain Grosjean, Kubica decided to use two eights instead!
#99 ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI
Similar to 63 and 88, the number 99 was used by nine drivers for the Indianapolis 500. It was used every time the event was a round of the championship, with varying levels of success. Emil Andres and Kenny Eaton used it in 1950, Lee Wallard in 1951 and 1954, Tony Bettenhausen in 1952 and 1956, Cal Niday in 1953, Jerry Hoyt in 1954, Art Cross in 1955, George Amick in 1958 and Paul Goldsmith used the number in 1959 and 1960. Amick and Goldsmith both achieved podium finishes with the number, while Wallard won the 1951 Indianapolis 500 in the number 99 car; the only time the number has won in F1’s history.
99 would return in 2014, when Adrian Sutil chose it as his driver number. Driving for Sauber, he failed to score a point over the course of the season, managing to finish a best of 11th in Australia and Hungary.
During his two races for Sauber in 2017, when he replaced the injured Pascal Wehrlein, Antonio Giovinazzi raced with the number 36; the same number which was on his car during his practice outings with Sauber in 2018. For 2019, as a full time driver, the Italian has chosen 99 as his race number. The Italian previously used the number in his karting days.
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. The blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics.
Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and Motorsport Guides and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast. His work has appeared on WTF1, BadgerGP, motorsport.com, Sky Sports F1 and BBC Radio 5 Live. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast.