For the third consecutive Formula 1 season, Red Bull's Max Verstappen is set to use the No. 1 on his car in 2024.
The reigning world champion has the right to use the No. 1 instead of the number he had previously chosen for his Formula 1 career, and Verstappen has taken advantage of all three of his opportunities to use the number.
With the No. 33, the number Verstappen initially chose for his career, set for its third consecutive season not in Formula 1, does this mean that the 26-year-old Dutchman will lose the right to use it?
There is indeed a two-year window during which a number must be inactive before it can be claimed by another driver.
However, that window is dependent on the career of the Formula 1 driver himself, not necessarily the number.
A driver's number only becomes up for grabs if the driver has not competed for two entire consecutive seasons. Because Verstappen himself still competes in the sport, the No. 33 won't be available to anybody else for the 2024 season, despite the fact that it hasn't been used since 2021.
This means that Verstappen can still choose to go back to the No. 33 in 2025, regardless of what happens in 2024.
Verstappen recently commented on the matter, according to Autosport.
""How often do you get the chance to drive with starting No. 1 in your Formula 1 career? You never know. I can always go back to No. 33 if I am no longer world champion. But as long as I am world champion, I will use No. 1 every single year.""- Max Verstappen
If he is a four-time reigning world champion entering 2025, he could select the No. 1 once again, or he could go back to the No. 33. And if he doesn't win the 2024 title, the No. 33 would still belong to him for 2025.
The same is true for 2026 and beyond. Even if he wins the next 10 world championships, he can still go back to the No. 33 whenever he chooses to do so, and even if his run of world titles comes to an end at any point during that span, he won't lose the right to use the No. 33 the following season.
The 2024 Formula 1 season is scheduled to get underway on Sunday, March 3 with the Bahrain Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit.