Even the very best F1 drivers suffer winless streaks in their careers, with Lewis Hamilton currently going through the longest barren period in his Formula 1 career.
But while his run without a victory since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix stands at 25 races at the time of writing, if you look back through the history of the sport, the seven-time World Champion’s winless streak is actually dwarfed by other title winners’ droughts of taking to the top step of the podium.
With that, we’re going to look at the longest winless runs in F1 history from drivers, after they have become World Champions.
So, for context, this will not include the beginning of Jenson Button’s career after he took 113 races to register his first victory in F1, in Hungary in 2006. Nor will Nico Rosberg be counted, as after he won his sole World Championship, he immediately retired.
In terms of criteria, then, we are looking at the drivers for which World title glory has come, and then race-winning machinery has gone from underneath them, making the longest gaps between race victories after winning a title.
None of the achievements of these drivers should ever be detracted, and their titles are enshrined into F1 history forever – but some of the biggest names in the sport’s history are not immune from this list, so let’s take a look at them.
Jack Brabham – 45 (Portugal 1960 – France 1966)
In between Jack Brabham’s second and third World Championship-winning seasons, he would go on a barren run that would see him not win a race at all between 1960 and 1966.
His move from Cooper to begin his own team in 1962 was a bold move, but the Brabham cars looked relatively competitive without taking wins – taking his first podium in his own car in only his second season there.
But the eventual arrival of the Brabham BT19 chassis in 1966 would see the Australian leapfrog his way to the front of the field, and the end of his 45-race run without a win in France would be the first of four in a row on his way to his third title. Like London buses and all that…
John Surtees – 47 (Italy 1967 – Italy 1972)
1964 World Champion John Surtees would win his final F1 race in Italy in 1967 and, while he notched a couple more podiums in the remainder of his career, he would unfortunately not stand on the top step again.
His final three seasons spent with his privateer Team Surtees brought with them the natural teething problems that would be expected in moving into Formula 1, having already had success in CanAm and Formula 5000.
But 25 retirements in 47 starts did not help matters either, stretching back to Surtees’ time with Honda and BRM – though he remains the only person to become a World Champion on both two and four wheels.
Nelson Piquet – 47 (Japan 1987 – Japan 1990)
Piquet’s third World title was wrapped up in Japan in 1987, even though he retired from that race in particular – with his last previous win coming in Italy.
But once that third championship was confirmed, it would be a while before the Brazilian would find his way back onto the top step, with an ultimately unsuccessful move to Lotus coming after his time at Williams.
Two winless seasons at Lotus was followed by a move to Benetton for 1990, and after consistently finishing inside the points for most of the year, he topped off the campaign by taking victory in both Japan and Australia to end his particular barren spell.
Mario Andretti – 50 (Italy 1978 – Caesars Palace 1982)
Like Piquet, Andretti’s last victory came before his World Championship was officially confirmed, winning the previous round in Zandvoort before title glory was sealed in Italy – albeit in solemn circumstances after his Lotus team-mate Ronnie Peterson crashed and subsequently died of his injuries in the same race.
Alongside uncompetitive Lotus and Alfa Romeo cars which would follow for multi-series motorsport legend Andretti, unreliability would also prove to be his enemy – with a whopping 29 of his 50 winless races ending in retirement, including the final start of his career at Caesars Palace in 1982.
There would be a final flourish before the curtains were drawn on his Formula 1 career however, as the round before at Monza saw Andretti take third place while driving for Ferrari. A ‘bucket list’ item for many a driver down the decades.
Michael Schumacher – 60 (China 2006 – Brazil 2012)
While Michael Schumacher was fighting tooth-and-nail with Fernando Alonso for an eighth World title in 2006, he was doing so in the knowledge that he was about to retire from Formula 1.
Well, for three years, as it would turn out.
The German great returned in 2010 with Mercedes with unfinished business, believing he still had it within him to add to his record-breaking title and win tally.
But with Mercedes, he would find himself unable to challenge the dominance of Red Bull through the three years of his comeback, with young team-mate Nico Rosberg also proving to be difficult to beat in their time together. A final podium at Valencia was the only time he finished in the top three in his second Formula 1 spell, before retiring fully at the end of 2012.
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Sebastian Vettel – 65 (Singapore 2019 – Abu Dhabi 2022)
Sebastian Vettel’s 53rd and final win in Formula 1 came six years after his last title in the sport, though he was still able to mount title challenges against Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in subsequent seasons – albeit with Ferrari falling short.
But after winning in Singapore in 2019, Vettel would not stand on the top step again in F1, with Ferrari producing a car in 2020 that was nowhere near capable of challenging for wins, combined with the news that he would not be having his contract renewed beyond the end of that season.
The newly-rebranded Aston Martin would be his destination for the final two seasons of his glorious career, with a podium in Baku in 2021 being the peak of his finishes with ‘Team Silverstone’ before he bowed out of the sport at the end of 2022.
Graham Hill – 72 (Monaco 1969 – Monaco 1975)
In a roundabout way, it almost seems fitting for the man dubbed “Mr Monaco” that his final race victory, and final F1 weekend outright, would come at the streets of Monte Carlo.
After winning his second title in 1968, a fifth win in Monaco for Graham Hill the following year for Lotus would end up being the last of his career, and like others before him, he took on a deal with Embassy Racing which included his own eponymous rights being in the name in the final seasons of his career, and the two-time World Champion would end up competing in the lower reaches of the field for his latter years in Formula 1.
Jenson Button – 78 (Brazil 2012 – Monaco 2017)
Unfortunately for 2009 World Champion Button, his long association with McLaren also coincided with the team’s gradual decline in competitiveness throughout the mid-2010s, culminating in their ultimately-failed Honda reunion that saw team-mate Fernando Alonso slam their power unit as a “GP2 engine”.
After taking his 15th career victory at Interlagos in 2012, only one more podium finish would come for the popular Briton, whose time with McLaren would see the team slide down the order through the following season.
A double podium in the opening race of 2014 sparked hopes of a recovery at the start of the turbo hybrid era, but his P8 finish in the standings that year would be the final time he crossed the 100-point barrier in a season, with the team’s infamous Honda partnership beginning the following year, prior to his retirement at the end of 2016.
He filled in for Alonso in Monaco in 2017 for a one-off return, which would be the final start of his Formula 1 career.
Emerson Fittipaldi – 81 (Great Britain 1975 – United States 1980)
Like a couple of the names before him, Emerson Fittipaldi took a risk in running in his own team after leaving McLaren at the end of 1975, having taken the title the year beforehand.
His win at Silverstone in 1975 would be the last of his career, before teaming up with sponsor Copersucar as they looked to build a team from the ground up to be successful in Formula 1.
Unfortunately, it would not bring the success he would have wanted, even though three points finishes in their debut season will have been no mean feat at that point.
Two more podium finishes would follow, but 10th in the championship in 1978 would be his best finish over the course of a season through the remainder of his career.
Kimi Raikkonen – 112 (Australia 2013 – United States 2018)
For a driver of Kimi Raikkonen’s talent to have ‘only’ stood on top of the podium 21 times in 103 top-three finishes – one of only six drivers in history to reach 100 podiums – it felt like an increasingly agonising wait for him to get back into winning ways in his latter spell at Ferrari.
He won his title with the Scuderia in 2007 and, after a standout period with Lotus, he returned to Maranello again for 2014, forming a double World Champion team alongside Alonso, before Sebastian Vettel would replace the Spaniard a year later.
While he continued to rack up his already substantial top-three tally, he largely had to play second fiddle compared to Alonso and Vettel in their time with the team, but in Austin in 2018, 112 races (and 30 podiums) after his last win, he crossed the line first and in typical Iceman fashion greeted the news with: “Yeah, thank you. F***ing finally.”
Sadly, that would prove to be his final win in F1, with a move to Alfa Romeo meaning the last 60 races of his illustrious career would pass without another victory – which in itself would be enough for a separate entry onto this list.
Jacques Villeneuve – 130 (Europe 1997 – Germany 2006)
In a similar vein to Piquet and Andretti, Villeneuve did not stand on the top step of the podium when his World Championship was confirmed, finishing third at Jerez after an infamous crash with title rival Michael Schumacher that saw the German disqualified from the whole Drivers’ Championship that season.
But Villeneuve’s win in Luxembourg would not just end up being the final victory of his title-winning season in 1997, it would be the last of his Formula 1 career.
A tail-off in form with Williams in 1998 saw him move to upstart team British American Racing for 1999, but an inauspicious start saw him retire from each of the first 11 races of the year, and things would not improve much from there for the Canadian and BAR.
The 2000 season did start promisingly for him, with a P4 and P5 finish in the first three races of the year, but BAR’s inconsistency would ultimately cost him in his search to add to his victory tally.
Two podiums for BAR in 2001 would be as high as Villeneuve would stand in the F1 field for the remainder of his career, with moves to Renault and Sauber not yielding competitive enough machinery before he left the sport in 2006.
Fernando Alonso – 159* (Spain 2013 – Saudi Arabia 2023)
Could Alonso’s move to Aston Martin be the one that finally allows him to challenge for the opportunity for his winless streak in F1 to stop extending? He’ll certainly hope so, and on early evidence, the signs are looking good.
Few would have predicted his home triumph in Barcelona in 2013 would end up being his last win in Formula 1, but after driving a series of uncompetitive Ferraris and McLaren-Hondas, he opted to take a two-year sabbatical from the sport before starting again with Alpine in 2021.
A podium in Qatar in 2021 was the best Alonso would manage in his third spell at Enstone, before making a surprise switch to Aston Martin for the 2023 season.
Approaching a decade without a win, the two-time World Champion has been chasing that elusive 33rd career win for a long time – but he appears to have his best chance for several years to finally break that duck.