SAO PAULO, Brazil — Max Verstappen said he will run the number 1 on his car next season if he wins this year’s Formula One championship.
Verstappen, who leads Lewis Hamilton in the championship by 19 points with four races to go, chose 33 as the number to accompany him for the rest of his career. F1’s rules allow a reigning champion to swap from their chosen number to No.1 if they are the defending champion, although no driver has done this since Sebastian Vettel in 2014.
In the years since, Hamilton has always opted to run the No. 44, while Nico Rosberg retired from F1 after winning the 2016 world championship.
Verstappen said swapping to the number 1 could be a unique opportunity for an F1 driver and joked it had the added bonus of being good for his brand.
“Absolutely,” Verstappen said when asked about taking the number.
“How many times do you have the opportunity to drive with No. 1? And it’s good for merchandise as well, so it’s smart to do that!”
The talk about the number on the car was as close as Verstappen really got to talking about his position on the verge of a first world championship. The Dutch driver has been remarkably calm in the face of pressure this season and was seemingly unfazed by moments like his first home grand prix in the Netherlands or going toe-to-toe with one of F1’s all-time greats.
He said he remembers what happened over the course of the two races before F1’s summer break, when he went into the British Grand Prix with a 32-point lead over Hamilton and left the Hungarian Grand Prix trailing the Mercedes driver by eight points.
“Well, it’s very simple, to be honest, because if you don’t think about it, you don’t have any dreams or whatever. I am just really focused.
“In four races, a lot of things can happen. We are looking good, but things can change very quickly. I already said that after the race in Mexico … I mean, I’ve had a bigger lead already in the championship and that disappeared within two race weekends, so we have to again try to do the best we can here, and again after this weekend we will try again to try and win the race.
“My approach every single weekend is the same, so we will not change that.”
Verstappen said he has not sought the advice of former world champions, even the father of his girlfriend, Kelly, three-time world champion Nelson Piquet.
When asked if he’d sought advice during a visit to Piquet’s garage ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Verstappen said: “We didn’t really talk about that because I don’t need advice, and anyway, we just had a good chat about all kinds of stuff.
“I know what I have to do inside the car, so I don’t need to speak to anyone about that. I’m a relaxed person anyway, and it’s good to just spend time with your family-in-law as well for the first time instead of speaking through FaceTime, so it was more important to just spend time.”