Formula 1: Max Verstappen not 'washed up', ends 133-day drought

Max Verstappen hadn't won a Formula 1 race on a Sunday since November, prompting jokes about how his dominance may have come to an end.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka Circuit, Formula 1
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka Circuit, Formula 1 / Clive Mason/GettyImages

Prior to this month, the last time Red Bull's Max Verstappen didn't win a Formula 1 race, it was Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. who ended his record-breaking 10-race winning streak in Singapore. Verstappen responded by winning the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit, which would ultimately start another nine-race winning streak.

Sainz ended that winning streak as well, doing so in Melbourne two weekends ago after Verstappen was forced to retire with a mechanical issue. It marked the three-time reigning world champion's first DNF since the 2022 Australian Grand Prix at the same venue.

Ironically, the Japanese Grand Prix was shifted up from its usual late-season date to serve as the fourth of 24 races on this year's schedule, so it just so happened that that race once again followed up a rare Verstappen non-win.

And just like he did last year, Verstappen dominated the 53-lap race around the 18-turn, 3.609-mile (5.808-kilometer) road course in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, Japan.

Verstappen had not won a Sunday Formula 1 race since November.

Verstappen's DNF in Melbourne prompted online jokes and memes about the 26-year-old Dutchman being "washed up", given that he had gone 19 weeks without a Sunday race win entering the Japanese Grand Prix.

The season's first two races at Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were just the second and third Saturday races since 1985, thanks to a Ramadan-related schedule change. Verstappen dominated both races, but in the first Sunday race since the 2023 season finale in Abu Dhabi, he lasted only two laps.

And yes, before lap two concluded in Japan, he found himself out of the RB20 once again.

But that was due to a red flag, ironically caused by two former Red Bull drivers.

Two of the other 15 weeks during Verstappen's winless Sunday stretch were off weeks between races this season. The other 13 were literally the offseason between the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

And how fitting it was for Verstappen to end the drought on day number 133, given his current world championship car number (No. 1) and his career car number (No. 33).

Verstappen dominant again

Verstappen took the pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix, his third straight for this particular race and his fifth straight going back to the end of last season, and only failed to lead laps after pitting for new tires.

He crossed the finish line more than 12 seconds ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, who has finished runner-up behind Verstappen in all three of Verstappen's wins this season. Perez placed fifth in Melbourne and sits second behind Verstappen in the world championship standings through four races.

Verstappen has now won 20 of the last 22 races, 17 of which on Sundays. He has led the standings after a record 43 consecutive races, winning 34 times during that stretch.

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The next race on the Formula 1 schedule is one which Verstappen has never won, that being the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai International Circuit. This race has not been contested since 2019. It is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 21, and it is set to be broadcast live on ESPN beginning at 2:55 a.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it!