Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen has joined McLaren

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by ANP via Getty Images) /

Max Verstappen has joined Bruce McLaren on the short list of drivers to win two consecutive Formula 1 races from 10th place or lower on the grid.

With his dominant victory in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen has joined McLaren.

No, seriously.

Verstappen entered the summer break fresh off a Hungarian Grand Prix victory which came after he had started in 10th place at the Hungaroring due to a technical issue in Q3.

Then at Spa, he was the fastest qualifier by a wide margin, but a predetermined grid penalty due to an engine change meant he would start at the back of the grid, which ended up being 14th place with several others also receiving similar penalties.

By lap 12 of Sunday’s 44-lap race around the 19-turn, 4.352-mile (7.004-kilometer) Stavelot, Belgium road course, he had worked his way up to the lead. While he did have to briefly relinquish that lead during his pit stop, he wound up leading 32 laps.

Not in more than six decades had a driver won two straight races after starting in 10th place or lower in both.

The only other driver to pull off this feat? Bruce McLaren. He started the 1959 season-ending United States Grand Prix at Sebring International Raceway in 10th place, and he started the 1960 season-opening Grand Prix of Argentina at Autodromo Oscar Alfredo Galvez in 13th.

These two wins were the first two wins of McLaren’s career, but they were his only wins of the 1959 and 1960 seasons.

So Verstappen has joined McLaren on this exclusive list, and of the two, he is the only one to pull it off in the same season.

Let’s also make one thing clear: unlike other situations of drivers “joining McLaren”, this one won’t trigger dueling press releases.

Verstappen’s drive to the front from 14th place also matches seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton’s worst winning grid position, which is tied for ninth on the all-time list. Hamilton pulled it off in the 2018 German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring.

Among active drivers, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso leads in this category with the eighth lowest winning grid position of all-time, having started in 15th at Marina Bay Street Circuit en route to his 2008 Singapore Grand Prix (aka the Crashgate race) win.

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Verstappen’s most recent win, which was his third in a row, ninth in 14 races this year, and 29th of his career, has given him a 93-point advantage over teammate Sergio Perez in the driver standings with eight races remaining on the schedule, with Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc five points behind Perez in third place. Race wins pay 25 points.