What better place than the “The Temple of Speed” for Max Verstappen to set a new Formula One record with 10 straight wins.
A victory at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza next weekend would break the mark he shares with Sebastian Vettel. Perhaps fittingly, it would be on the track where Vettel clinched the first of his 53 GP wins in 2008.
The now-retired Vettel went on to dominate F1 and won four consecutive world titles with Red Bull, the last of them in 2013 — the year he won nine straight races.
Vettel was Red Bull’s first superstar in its first ultra-dominant era, but Verstappen is now leaving him in his tracks. Vettel looked unstoppable only when at his very best, but Verstappen looks untouchable most of the time.
Verstappen’s victory at the rain-soaked Dutch GP on Sunday matched Vettel’s mark of nine straight wins in a season, and moved him onto 46 overall. With so many years left ahead of him, the 25-year-old Dutchman is set to crush Vettel’s career tally for wins.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton holds F1 records with 103 wins and 104 pole positions. But even the seven-time F1 champion never managed more than five consecutive wins during his heyday with Mercedes, doing so twice near the end of title-winning campaigns in 2014 and 2020.
It is a point seemingly not lost on Verstappen.
For while some observers say it’s easier for him because he has such a fast and reliable car, he counters that argument with a pointed reminder of years gone by.
“I think there have been more dominant cars in the past than what we have at the moment and they haven’t been able to do so, to win nine in a row,” said Verstappen, who alluded to Mercedes without mentioning the team. “It’s never that straightforward.”
Verstappen’s march toward a third straight title does look straightforward now, considering he has a 138-point lead over Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez in second place. He leads Perez 11-2 for wins this year, underlining the gulf in performance between them.
Verstappen was only nine years old and just getting to grips with racing in karts when Fernando Alonso clinched his second F1 title in 2006 — achieving a career-best four wins along the way.
The 42-year-old Spaniard is considered one of the greatest talents of his generation, a refined craftsman, shrewd tactician and master of all conditions.
Alonso has competed against the very best over two decades, and speaks in glowing terms about Verstappen.
“It is underestimated sometimes what Max is achieving,” said Alonso, who has been stuck on 32 race wins for 10 years. “I think to win in such a dominant manner in any of the professional sports, it is so complicated.”
Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press