The greatest winning streaks in F1 history
At the European Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel became the only F1 driver to score six wins and two seconds place finishes from the first eight races of a season. When you combine that with his strong finish to last year, Vettel has now claimed victory in nine of the last twelve Grands Prix, and has gone mighty close to winning the other three.
The young German is looking very good for the championship at this early stage of the season, but even Vettel’s impressive form can’t beat some of the great winning streaks in Formula One history.
Alberto Ascari, 1952 – 1953
Alfa Romeo withdrew from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1951, and with few other manufacturers fully recovered after the war, there simply weren’t enough large Formula One cars available to put together a competitive season of racing. As such, the 1952 and 1953 World Championships were run to Formula Two regulations and this hugely benefited Ferrari who dominated both years comprehensively.
Alberto Ascari missed the first race of the 1952 season, but won every other Grand Prix that year on his way to the title. He would have scored the maximum number of points available to him had he not shared a point for setting the fastest lap (which was awarded in the fifties) at the season ending Italian Grand Prix.
Ascari followed up that success by winning four of the first five Grands Prix in 1953. This was made even sweeter when his nearest championship rival, Juan Manuel Fangio, retired from three of those early rounds. The history books say Ascari won the 1953 title by just 6.5 points, but that was because drivers only counted their four best results of the season.
Ascari’s record of nine consecutive World Championship Grand Prix victories stands to this day – although technically they were Formula Two races (not F1) and some clever wording ensures this ignores the Indianapolis 500 which also counted towards the championship.
Ferrari would love a bit of that form in 2011.
Juan Manuel Fangio, 1954-1955
When the World Championship was run to Formula One regulations again in 1954, it was Mercedes that got the jump on the field. Juan Manuel Fangio won six of the eight races that year, and continued with similar form in 1955. It was easy to dominate a Grand Prix season when the number of races was so small, and Fangio was helped by his rivals who stole points off each other. In 1954 he had a 16 point gap after just three races – which is mighty impressive when drivers only received 8 points for a win.
In 1955 Fangio won every Grand Prix except two, and it’s often rumoured that he merely ‘gifted’ one of those near the end of the season to his teammate. Stirling Moss has always said that he thought Fangio let him win the British Grand Prix, although the great five times champion denied that himself. Ever the gentleman.
Juan Manuel Fangio, 1957
Between them, Juan Manuel Fangio (driving for Maserati) and Stirling Moss (driving for Vanwall) won every race of the 1957 season. Unfortunately for Moss, it was Fangio who took four of the first five race victories and sealed the title with time to spare.
Jack Brabham, 1960
The Cooper Car Company entered eight Formula One races in 1960, and Jack Brabham won five of them in a row whilst surging towards his first World Championship. Only Ascari and Schumacher have won more consecutive events, and it would have been six in a row had Brabham not spun at Monaco.
Jim Clark, 1963
The Lotus 25 was the first Grand Prix car to feature a fully stressed monocoque chassis and in 1963 it was easily class of the field. Jim Clark won seven of the season’s ten races, and only mechanical problems stopped him from claiming two more. Lotus also carved up the non-championship F1 races that year, with Clark taking five wins from the six events he finished without mechanical drama.
With three races to go in 1963, Clark had scored 51 World Championship points. The man who eventually finished second in the title chase, Graham Hill, had scored just 13.
1964 looked set to follow the same storyline when Clark scored victory in three of the first five races. It was a great start to his World Championship defence, but unreliability hurt Clark dearly and he lost the title in the final round to the Ferrari of John Surtees. An ominous warning for Sebastian Vettel perhaps.
Jim Clark, 1965
1963 was a great season for Jim Clark and Lotus but it was overshadowed by the enormous success that followed two years later. The Scotsman crushed his opposition in 1965 by winning six of the first seven Grands Prix. The only race that he didn’t win was the Monaco Grand Prix, and that was because he skipped the event to race at Indianapolis instead (which he also won).
In addition to winning Indy, and thumping the F1 field, Clark also won the Sebring Three Hour sportscar race, a touring car race at Goodwood, a sportscar race at Silverstone, heat one of the Brands Hatch Race Of Champions, the French Formula Two Championship, and the Tasman Cup. Not a bad year at all.
It would seem that Clark’s decision to skip Monaco, and mechanical failures in the final three F1 races, were all that prevented him from taking victory in every Grand Prix that year. As per 1963, drivers only counted their best six results, which gave Clark the maximum number of points possible.
Jackie Stewart, 1969
Sebastian Vettel is the first driver to score six wins and two second places in the first eight races of a Grand Prix season, but Jackie Stewart came very close to beating that in 1969. Stewart also took six wins and a second place, but was denied a seventh victory by a halfshaft failure at Monaco. He had a similar, but marginally less successful start, to the 1971 season as well.
There were only 11 championship races in 1969 which meant Stewart won the title with ease.
Jochen Rindt, 1970
Jochen Rindt’s winning streak in 1970 might not be as impressive as others listed here (five wins from eight races) but it was enough to make him the sport’s only posthumous champion after being tragically killed in practice for the Italian Grand Prix.
With five races to go in 1970, Rindt had a 35 point lead over Jacky Ickx who eventually finished in second place.
Niki Lauda, 1976
Ferrari did not completely dominate the start of 1976, but Niki Lauda had scored five race wins and three other podiums before the German Grand Prix on August 1st. At that stage of the season he had double the number of points of James Hunt, but was unable to win the championship due to his horrific life threatening crash at the Nurburgring. To this day, Hunt’s title success remains the biggest championship turnaround in history.
McLaren, 1988 – 1989
After a competitive decade of racing in the eighties, McLaren totally obliterated the opposition in 1988 and 1989. Of the 32 races held during that time, the team secured 30 pole positions and 25 race victories. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost shared the spoils between them, which kept the Drivers Championship alive with excitement, but rarely has one team been able to exert such dominance over its rivals. The success continued with more titles in 1990 and 1991.
Nigel Mansell, 1992
The Williams FW14B was a sensational Grand Prix car, and in the hands of Nigel Mansell it broke all sorts of records in 1992. Mansell became the first driver to win ten races in a season and seal the championship with five races remaining. He still holds the record (shared with Michael Schumacher) for most consecutive wins at the start of a season, and most pole positions in a single year.
By the time Mansell had secured the 1992 World Championship at the Hungarian Grand Prix, he had taken nine wins and two second places from eleven rounds. Mansell was on top of his game and, like Sebastian Vettel in 2011, had the car to match.
Michael Schumacher, 2000-2002
When Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, and Michael Schumacher created the ‘dream team’ at Ferrari, it was only a matter of time before the Scuderia began dominating Formula One. At the end of the 2000 season, the tidal wave of Ferrari victories that swept over the sport for almost five years had begun.
The 2000 World Championship featured very competitive fight between Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen, but it was the German who prevailed by winning last four races of the year. His success rolled into 2001 where he was able to wrap up the championship with four races to go.
It was hard to imagine Ferrari topping that, but in 2002 they managed to do so with a stunning run of success. Schumacher won 11 races out of 17 and finished 67 points ahead of second place in the championship.
Between 2001 and 2002, Michael Schumacher took victory in 20 of the 34 races contested. The next most successful drivers were Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello with just four wins each over the same period. Only regulation changes were able to halt Ferrari’s dominance in 2003, even though they still won both World Championships.
Michael Schumacher, 2004
The pinnacle of the Schumacher era at Ferrari was undoubtedly the 2004 season when, incredibly, Michael won 11 of the first 12 races. The only race that Schumacher didn’t win during that hot streak was the Monaco Grand Prix where he crashed out of the lead. McLaren and Williams had both introduced cars with design flaws early in 2004 which amplified Ferrari’s massive championship victory.
Throughout Formula One history only five drivers have scored five or more wins in a row. Michael Schumacher did it twice during 2004.
Schumacher’s success with Ferrari ensured that he remained crowned Formula One World Champion for 1,813 consecutive days, possibly the most impressive statistic of them all. It will be a long time before Sebastian Vettel, or anyone, is able to match that.
Jenson Button, 2009
Before Sebastian Vettel, the most recent driver to string a decent number of wins together was Jenson Button. The Brit won six of the first seven races in 2009 to setup his fairytale championship victory with BrawnGP. It was a nervous finish to the year for Button who watched his championship lead whittled away by the improving Red Bull team. He ended up just 11 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel after the final race.
Many fans are hoping for the complete reversal in 2011.