The 2022 season was a record-setting year to remember for Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen.
But he has been even better in 2023.
After securing his first Drivers’ Championship on the final lap of the 2021 campaign, Verstappen left little doubt in 2022. He locked up his second-straight title at the Japanese Grand Prix, with four races remaining on the docket. He set a new F1 record with 15 wins on the year, surpassing the mark of 13 set by both Sebastian Vettel in 2013 and Michael Schumacher in 2004. Verstappen’s 15 wins accounted for 68% of the victories that season, a mark which placed him fifth on the all-time percentage list for a single season. His margin of victory over Charles Leclerc in the Drivers’ Championship — 146 points — ranked second all-time, behind only Vettel’s 155-point win over Fernando Alonso during that 2013 season.
But again, he has been even better in 2023.
Verstappen rewrote the F1 record book this season, thanks in part to a dominant stretch that saw him win ten-straight races, setting a new F1 record by topping the nine-straight victories recorded by Vettel in 2013. He locked up his third-straight Drivers’ Championship in the F1 Sprint race at the Qatar Grand Prix, meaning he was a champion with six grands prix remaining on the schedule. With his win at the São Paulo Grand Prix, he recorded his 17th victory of the season, surpassing his own record from a year ago. With two races left, his margin over teammate Sergio Pérez in the Drivers’ standings is a whopping 266 points, putting him well on pace for the biggest margin of victory in an F1 season.
In fact, Verstappen’s 524 points on the year — ahead of his total from last year with three race weekends left — are more than every other team on the grid. That’s right, Verstappen could theoretically have locked up Red Bull’s second-straight Constructors’ title on his own. Something the driver himself admitted was possible ahead of the British Grand Prix.
With his win in Brazil, Verstappen set another F1 record, breaking a mark that has stood for over 70 years. That victory gave Verstappen a win in 17 of the 20 grands prix this year, a winning percentage of 85%. Even if he fails to win either of the final two races — the Las Vegas Grand Prix or the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix — he will have won 77% of the grands prix this year.
That breaks the 75% mark set by Italian driver Alberto Ascari back in 1952, when he won six of the eight races that year.
Beyond the success this season, Verstappen’s dominance has set Red Bull up for an even stronger 2024. While Team Principal Christian Horner believes the cost cap restrictions will play an even bigger role in tightening the field next year, Verstappen’s record-setting season has allowed the team to start focusing on their challenger for next year, putting Red Bull in a perfect position to extend their dominance into 2024.
Of course, there will be detractors. There always are. Many will point to just how dominant the RB19, Red Bull’s challenger for the 2023 campaign, has been. It was clear during pre-season testing in Bahrain that the RB19 was going to be the sport’s dominant force this season, and it helped power to the front of the field.
But there have also been moments where you see Verstappen’s brilliance shine through, and his ability to put that RB19 anywhere he wants, as if the car is simply an extension of his body, faster than anyone in the field. A prime example comes from qualifying ahead of this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, a race where qualifying certainly is everything. Needing a lap at the death to put the RB19 on pole position, Verstappen delivered, with a final sector for the ages.
There are others, such as his incredible drive at the Miami Grand Prix, where he started ninth but victory feeled inevitable as he charged through the field. Or a dominant performance during qualifying ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix that was difficult to put into words, although Horner and others made their best attempts:
“I think what we have witnessed today is something very special. That last lap, just have a look at Turn Five. That first sector was absolutely mighty,” Horner told Sky Sports F1 at the time. “That first run looked good enough to get the job done but then he went quicker again. All his laps have been stunning today. An absolutely mind-blowing performance.”
“I’m still breathless watching that. I think that was one of the great qualifying laps in F1 history,” said former driver and current Sky Sports F1 analyst Karun Chandhok.
“There’s not much left on the table. The detail with which he drove - pinching little bits on the entry into Spoon Curve, 130R not using all the width. He thought about every metre and for me that’s a driver who’s ahead of the car,” added Chandhok.
“Christian was saying that’s one of the special laps and he’s right. If they didn’t have Max in the car, they would be second on the grid.”
What we have seen this season from Verstappen — and yet may still see down the stretch — has truly changed the game in F1. During a season where the sport continue to see growth worldwide, and pushed even deeper into the American market with a record three races in the United States, including the upcoming inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, Verstappen has raised his game even more.
By delivering a season for the ages, and one that will be talked about for years to come, if not longer.