World champion Lewis Hamilton is Formula One’s number one, and hopes to remain so this year, but do not expect to see it on his Mercedes when the season starts in Melbourne on Sunday.
For the double world champion, 44 is closer to the heart and that is what he will continue racing with rather than any single digit.
Under rules introduced at the end of 2013, drivers get to choose their numbers and keep them for the rest of their careers.
The number one is reserved for the world champion, if he wants to use it, and he must relinquish it when he loses the crown. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has had it since 2011 but is now number five at Ferrari.
“Everyone can use number one when they win the championship but it’s irrelevant for me,” Hamilton said when asked why he had decided not to switch. “Forty-four means more to me than number one. It doesn’t mean I’m not number one.
“The 44 is my family number. It’s the number I had when I first started racing. I won my first (karting) championship with 44. It means something to me.
“The number one itself, Vettel’s had it, (Michael) Schumacher’s had it, all the champions have had it. None of them had 44. 44 is mine.”
Hamilton knows the Melbourne season-opener will be a challenge as it’s a race he failed to finish last year but he remains in a confident mood.
The 30-year-old double F1 champion, inset, said every winter was different and felt he was heading for Australia ‘as good as we can be’.