Verstappen is on a statistics hunt and joins three greats

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Verstappen is on a statistics hunt and joins three greats

Max Verstappen once again achieved a number of special milestones during the Grand Prix weekend in Japan. The three-time world champion also continued his statistics hunt at Suzuka and joins three greats. What quantities are they and when can he devour the next one? F1Maximaal delved into the statistics.

Verstappen is currently making a flying start to his 2024 season. With the exception of a rare retirement in Australia, where he did not progress beyond lap three due to problems with his car, the Dutchman was always the first to cross the finish line. At Melbourne Park, the brake caliper turned out to be the only competitor that could keep him from winning. In Japan it was business as usual again: Verstappen took pole position on Saturday, and redeemed it without any problems on Sunday.

Three titles, three thousand laps in the lead

It should have actually happened during the Australian Grand Prix, but it went up in smoke, literally and figuratively: Verstappen’s three-thousandth lap in the lead. It therefore only happened two weeks later during the Japanese Grand Prix. After Verstappen crossed the finish line first and led almost all laps of the race at Suzuka, he has now led for a total of 3009 laps. Verstappen’s impressive new statistic does not yet come close to the record, which is still held by Lewis Hamilton, who at the time of writing is in the lead on 5455 laps, but it is a special new statistic from the Dutchman.

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Verstappen is on a statistics hunt and joins three greats
Table 1. Verstappen rises to fourth place in the list of drivers who managed to lead the most laps.

3009 laps in the lead is certainly impressive from Verstappen, and he is now approaching a top three of multiple world champions. Only Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher and Hamilton are still above the three-time world champion in this statistic. Verstappen will have to wait a while until he can move up one spot again, because he will not be able to catch Vettel at the next race in China. After all, Verstappen must be in the lead for 492 more laps. If he leads every lap from now on, he will pass the four-time world champion in Zandvoort.

Vettel took his final lap in the lead at Aston Martin

With his new personal record, Verstappen places himself in fourth place in the list of drivers with the most laps in the lead, between Vettel in P3 with 3501 laps and Senna in P5 with 2931 laps. Vettel managed to set his personal best, and P3 on the rankings, of more than 3,500 laps at the front of the Formula 1 field late in his career, when he unexpectedly ended up at the front of the field in his Aston Martin during the 2022 Grand Prix of the United States. Vettel did not simply relinquish the position, because Hamilton needed three overtaking attempts to regain the lead.

The same Hamilton currently holds the record for most laps in the lead with 5455 laps. The Briton managed to set his record of more than 5,000 laps in the lead two years ahead of Vettel’s record, by taking the win during the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Hamilton only had to overtake teammate Valtteri Bottas during the Italian race to take the record. The Brit was helped by the Finn himself, because Bottas had to enter the pits before Hamilton. The seven-time world champion was lucky that he could wait until the safety car. Verstappen still has a while to go before he can take Hamilton’s record, but for now the Dutchman can certainly be proud of his impressive personal statistics.

Verstappen is also rising in the rankings of another statistic

Pole positions were usually not Verstappen’s strongest point during a race weekend. It did not help the world champion that his Red Bull car was often better adjusted to the race, but this seems to have changed in the meantime. Verstappen took his fourth pole position in a row at Suzuka, taking all the poles of the 2024 season so far. This puts the Dutchman on par with the series of Ayrton Senna, Jacques Villeneuve, Vettel and Hamilton.

However, the record for the most pole positions in a row at the start of a season is still held by Alain Prost, who took pole position each time in the first seven weekends of 1993. The Frenchman’s record streak started that year at the opening race in South Africa, and only ended at the Canadian Grand Prix. Only Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell came close to Prost when they achieved a series of six pole positions in a row in 1988 and 1992 respectively. With his pole position series of four, Verstappen is currently in a shared fourth place in the rankings. We look at how Verstappen’s colleagues achieved their four pole positions in a row.

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Verstappen is on a statistics hunt and joins three greats
Table 2. Verstappen still has a while to go before he can dethrone Prost.

Senna immediately set the tone in 1991

The first of the four drivers to have a series of four pole positions in a row at the start of a season is the legendary Brazilian driver Senna. It is not even the Brazilian’s best record for consecutive pole positions, as the Brazilian managed to set that earlier in his career by taking pole position eight times in a row. However, this was not at the start of the season, so it is not included in the statistics above. Yet the series of four poles in a row was also very special for the then McLaren driver.

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senna prost japan1989 mclaren
Senna set his record of four consecutive poles at the start of the 1991 season (Photo: McLaren F1 Media)

In 1991, the Formula 1 season started in the United States, on the street circuit in the city of Phoenix, where Senna immediately held sway by taking pole position. The Brazilian also set the right tone for the rest of the season by claiming his first victory of the Formula 1 season from pole. Senna continued to string together pole positions up to and including the Monaco Grand Prix, where the F1 legend also claimed victory from his fourth pole position that season.

At the following Grand Prix, held in Canada, Senna’s pole position streak was over, and Williams driver Riccardo Patrese was allowed to start the race on the first grid spot. Due to problems with the dynamo of his McLaren, Senna was unable to finish the race, which also put an end to his winning streak. The race was won by Senna’s compatriot Nelson Piquet.

Villeneuve loses series thanks to teammate Frentzen

In 1997, the trend of four consecutive pole positions at the start of the season continued, as Villeneuve also started his Formula 1 season in the same way as Senna and Verstappen. Villeneuve took the first starting spot during the qualifications in the opening race of Australia, and the subsequent Grands Prix of Brazil, Argentina and San Marino.

Villeneuve’s pole series came to an end during the fifth race, in Monaco, because the Canadian had to tolerate two German drivers in front of him on the streets of Monte Carlo: Williams teammate Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Michael Schumacher. It was the first pole position for Frentzen. However, the German was unable to capitalize on this, and compatriot Schumacher took the victory. Both Frentzen and Villeneuve were unable to finish the race, both men crashed during the race, making it a bad day for their Williams team.

Vettel takes revenge on teammate Webber, Hamilton repeats Vettel’s trick

Vettel also participated in the trend of starting the season, in his case 2011, well with four pole positions in a row. From the opening round at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne to the Turkish Grand Prix, the German driver started from P1. During the fifth race weekend of the year, the Spanish Grand Prix, Vettel had to leave pole position to his Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber after missing some speed due to problems with his KERS system. Vettel did take revenge again during the race on Sunday, by winning this race, with a little help from Fernando Alonso, who battled with the rest of the vanguard.

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Verstappen is on a statistics hunt and joins three greats
Vettel also secured four pole positions in a row during the four opening races during the 2011 F1 season (Photo: Pro Shots)

Four years after Vettel’s opening series of four pole positions in a row, Hamilton repeated the German driver’s trick. In 2015 he was also allowed to start the first four races of the year from pole position, from again the opening round in Australia to the fourth race in Bahrain. Hamilton’s Waterloo, just like Vettel’s, also came during the Spanish Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg managed to beat his then Mercedes teammate Hamilton by just three tenths and was allowed to start the Spanish Grand Prix at the front of the grid. The German driver also managed to win the race at Barcelona from his pole position, immediately beating Hamilton.

During the next Grand Prix on this season’s Formula 1 calendar, held in China, Verstappen can again rise one place in the rankings of the most pole positions in a row at the start of a season. There the Dutchman can take his fifth pole of 2024, and thus be on the same level as Senna and Mika H√§kkinen.

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