The Interlagos race track was, this Sunday (5), the stage on which Max Verstappen, 26, broke a record that had lasted for more than 70 years in F1. By winning the São Paulo GP practically from start to finish, the Dutch driver ensured the greatest dominance anyone has ever achieved in the same season in the category.
With two more stages remaining until the end of the 2023 calendar, the three-time champion achieved a victory percentage of 85%, with 17 triumphs in 20 stages contested.
Even if he isn’t the one to reach the top spot on the podium in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, the Red Bull driver will end the year with a 77% success rate.
Since 1952, when the Italian Alberto Ascari won six of the eight stages that year and was champion with a 75% success rate, F1 has not had such great dominance.
Michael Schumacher was the only one who came close to this, also from Ferrari, in 2004, when he had 72.2%, with 13 victories in 18 races, but not even he surpassed Ascari as Verstappen did.
If the Italian’s brand has endured for more than seven decades, the Dutchman’s record promises to be even more difficult to achieve, especially due to the driver’s harmony with his car.
In addition to Red Bull currently having a compound that is vastly superior to the other cars on the grid, the three-time champion is the only one who can get the most out of the vehicle, something that Mexican Sergio Pérez has not been able to do.
Precisely for this reason, the favoritism of the owner of the number 1 car to win the last two stages of the year with the same ease with which he won at Interlagos is great. If he achieves this, he will end the year with an 86% success rate, in addition to moving up another position in the F1 victory ranking.
Currently, the three-time champion has 52 triumphs, one less than German Sebastian Vettel, the third biggest winner in the category, behind Schumacher (91) and Hamilton (103).
In front of an audience of 267,000 fans —a number that takes into account the three days of the event according to the organizers—, the Dutchman walked on the track while a bumpy race unfolded behind him from the start.
For Max, escaping the start unscathed has been the only moment of tension. “Then it’s simply looking after the tyres,” he said after the race.
Charles Leclerc, however, cannot say the same, after all he was not even able to line up on the grid and crashed on the opening lap. The Monegasque’s Ferrari had a hydraulic problem, he lost control and hit the tire protection, to the frustration of a large part of the fans at Interlagos. Alongside Lewis Hamilton, the Ferrari driver was the most applauded by fans at the racetrack.
“I lost the steering wheel and went straight, practically”, summarized the driver, who would start in second position.
Without it, 19 cars started, but only 15 completed the opening lap incident-free. Before the first corner, Haas’ Kevin Magnussem and Williams’ Alexander Albon crashed.
Some debris left over from the collision between Haas and Williams hit the cars of Oscar Piastri, from McLaren, and Daniel Ricciardo, from AlphaTauri. With the red flag that stopped the race shortly after the start, the pair managed to return to the race after repairs in the pits.
Oblivious to any confusion, Verstappen repeated what he had already done at the beginning of the race at the restart. In a short time, the Dutchman broke away from the pack and started running against the wind. “The car was good, I managed to open up compared to Lando, then I was very strong.”
Not even Lando Norris’ McLaren was able to threaten the Red Bull car, even though the Englishman, once again, had a good race. He completed the podium in second, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in third.
The Spaniard secured third place with one of the closest finishes of the season, competing for position with Sergio Perez, from Red Bull, until the final line.
In the end, they crossed the finish line separated by 0.053 thousandths. “It was an incredible result for the team, we suffered in the last two races, so the podium today is for everyone at the factory”, said Alonso.
In the fight for runner-up, the Mexican at least managed to finish the race ahead of the Englishman Lewis Hamilton, only in eighth place this Sunday.
The seven-time champion, who had started fifth, suffered with the performance of his Mercedes’ tires, and was unable to fight for a better position.
Shortly after the race, a dialogue between him and Toto Wolf, team leader, summed up their season well.
“Lewis, it was horrible for all of us. The car can’t stay like this from race to race, we need to find out what went wrong. Thank you for surviving this,” said Wolf, as Hamilton tried to find something positive from the weekend.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted, but we still did a great job over the weekend, with good pit stops”, replied the driver, who has a mathematical chance of fighting for runner-up. He currently has 226 points against Pérez’s 258.
With the title already secured, Max Verstappen reached a combined 524 points this weekend, more than Hamilton and Pérez combined.