The number 1 returns to Formula 1 in 2022 with reigning World Champion Max Verstappen opting use the number on his car. But did you know there are four champions who never raced with the number on their car?
Mike Hawthorn was the first World Champion never to race in car number 1. Hawthorn won the title in 1958, despite winning only one race that year compared to Stirling Moss’ tally of four victories. Hawthorn clinched the title at the season-ending 1958 Moroccan Grand Prix, which remains the only F1 race to be held in Morocco.
Upon winning the title, Hawthorn immediately announced his retirement from F1. Sadly, Hawthorn died only three months later in a road car accident. With Hawthorn not present on the grid in 1959, Jack Brabham, Rodger Ward and Jean Behra ran the number 1 on their cars during the season despite not being World Champions.
A similarly tragic fate befell Jochen Rindt, who became Formula 1’s only posthumous champion in 1970. Rindt lost his life following a crash at Monza in qualifying for the 1970 Italian Grand Prix. At the time of his death, Rindt had a sizeable lead in the Drivers’ Championship, with Jacky Ickx being the only driver who could overtake his points tally. Ickx’s fourth place at the United States Grand Prix confirmed Rindt’s title win.
Nigel Mansell came close to winning the title on a number of occasions throughout his illustrious Formula 1 career. He finally won the championship for the first and only time in 1992, doing so in dominant fashion. Mansell opted not to defend his title in 1993, meaning he never ran with the number 1 on his car. He instead moved to the IndyCar series in America, where he added another championship to his CV.
Mansell did later return to F1 in 1994 and, despite reigning World Champion Alain Prost having retired from the sport at the end of 1993 and Williams being the reigning teams champions, the British driver was not eligible to run the number 1 on his car. Instead he raced in car number 2 in the four races which he contested that year.
Nico Rosberg is the fourth and most recent World Champion to never race with the number 1 on his car. After a season-long title battle with team-mate Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg clinched the title at the final race of the 2016 season. Soon after, having accomplished his goal, the German announced his retirement from Formula 1.
Rosberg celebrated his title victory with a show run in his title-winning W07 in December 2016. Even then, he still ran with the number 6 on his car.