Formula 1: The scariest element of Max Verstappen’s dominance

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Images)
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Images) /

Max Verstappen is looking exactly like what you’d expect a two-time reigning Formula 1 world champion to look like early in the 2023 season.

Following Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has won 17 of the last 23 Formula 1 races going back to last April.

The two-time reigning world champion has now led the standings after 21 consecutive races and is aiming to become the first driver to lead them after every race on the calendar since Lewis Hamilton pulled it off in 2015. In fact, no driver has even won the season opener and the title in the same year since Nico Rosberg in 2016.

Verstappen opened up the 2023 season by winning the Bahrain Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit, but a drive shaft issue hindered him in qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at Jeddah Corniche Circuit. He started the race in 15th place and made his way up to second to finish behind teammate Sergio Perez.

Then in Melbourne, Red Bull weren’t as dominant as they have been in most recent races going back to last year, but Verstappen still managed to overcome a poor start (and restart) and pull a lead of more than 10 seconds on Hamilton (before, continuing the trend of the “bad” weekend, briefly driving off course and losing about three and half seconds of that gap).

He held onto the lead following the final restart (even though it technically wouldn’t have ended up counting if he hadn’t, due to the order being reverted following the ensuing incident) to secure his 37th career Formula 1 victory, good for sixth place on the all-time list.

But what is particularly notable about Verstappen’s strong start to the 2023 season is the fact that neither of his two wins have come at tracks on the list of 21 tracks where he had previously won.

He had never previously won at Bahrain International Circuit in eight starts, having recorded top finishes of second place in 2020 and 2021, and he had never previously won at Albert Park Circuit in six starts, having recorded a top finish of third in 2019. Ironically, he had previously won at Jeddah Corniche Circuit, where he placed second. He finished in second in 2021 and won in 2022.

Max Verstappen has now won at 23 tracks, including 20 that are on the 2023 Formula 1 schedule.

Of course, with a car as dominant as the RB19 has been, differences in tracks don’t necessarily mean as much from team to team as they would with more competitive frontrunners.

But as we saw this past weekend, even in an uncharacteristically difficult weekend for the Milton Keynes-based team, Verstappen still took the pole position, opened up a double digit-second lead, and led 47 of 58 laps en route to listening to another rendition of the Dutch and Austrian national anthems and experiencing another champagne shower from atop the podium.

There are just three tracks left on the 2023 schedule where Verstappen has never won, and one of them has never hosted a race. He is winless at Marina Bay Street Circuit, which is scheduled to host this year’s Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, September 17. In six starts there, his top finish is second place in 2018.

He has only made one start at Losail International Circuit, when he finished the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix in second place. This year’s race is scheduled to take place on Sunday, October 8. And then, of course, he has never competed at Las Vegas Street Circuit, which is scheduled to host the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix on Saturday, November 18.

Next. All-time Formula 1 wins list. dark

Verstappen is set to go for his second consecutive Azerbaijan Grand Prix victory at Baku City Circuit on Sunday, April 30 (7:00 a.m. ET, ESPN) after having been denied the victory with a late tire blowout in 2021.