The Dutch Grand Prix marked an impressive record-equalling moment for Max Verstappen. He now shares the record for most consecutive Grands Prix victories with Sebastian Vettel, with both drivers taking nine wins on the bounce in 2023 and 2013 respectively.
The record books show that these two drivers stand head and shoulders above the rest in this statistic. This remarkable run of success hasn’t been matched by any other Formula 1 great. Michael Schumacher’s best streak ended at seven race wins, Lewis Hamilton could do no better than five in a row, and neither Senna or Prost could get beyond four wins.
Officially, the third-longest win streak is shared between Schumacher (2004), Nico Rosberg (2015 – 2016), and Alberto Ascari (1952). But it’s the latter of these three drivers that needs to be mentioned in the same record-equalling conversation as Vettel and Verstappen.
It wasn’t just ‘Vettel’s record’
After Verstappen’s ninth win in a row at the Dutch GP, Formula 1 credited both Vettel and Ascari with the record, but much of the noise around the weekend was about Verstappen attempting to equal ‘Vettel’s record’.
By definition, Ascari’s run of seven consecutive victories starts with his win at the 1952 Belgian GP, and ends at the 1953 Argentine GP. With F1 calendars back then consisting of only eight or nine races, this run was bookended by the same event in consecutive years: The Indy 500.
With Ascari continuing to win after the 1953 Indy 500, here’s why he should be considered a joint-record holder with Vettel and Verstappen.
The first running of the Indianapolis 500 took place in 1911, and was quickly established as one of the biggest motor racing events in the world. This prestige was enticing enough for the FIA to include the event as part of the seven-race schedule for the first Formula 1 World Championship in 1950.
The Indy 500 was the only non-European event on the first F1 calendar, and could be considered to be Formula 1’s first attempt at trying to entice the American market. It wasn’t until 1953 that F1 added another non-European round to the schedule; the Argentine Grand Prix.
The high-profile nature of the Indy 500 meant it retained a place on the F1 calendar until 1960, but one big issue persisted: Almost nobody from Formula 1 entered.
Due to the Indy 500 not being an officially sanctioned FIA event, it ran to different regulations, set by the American Automobile Association. To all intents and purposes, the Indy 500 wasn’t, and never has been, a Formula 1 race. As such, the European-based teams did not consider the outlier race to be worth the time, effort or money.
The drivers didn’t often bother, either. Ascari broke the mould by deciding to race in the 1952 Indy 500 – which was listed as round two of the F1 season – but even this effort had a knock-on effect and caused him to miss the season-opening Swiss Grand Prix.
His Indy 500 effort didn’t go well. Along with Ferrari struggling to match the pace of the regular Indy 500 teams, Ascari’s car suffered a wheel failure partway through the race.
After that, very few drivers would touch the Indy 500 race until the 1960’s, when it mercifully fell off the official F1 calendar and was contested in one-off appearances by the likes of Jim Clark and Graham Hill.
Whilst Ascari had been preparing for Indy, the Swiss GP had been won by his Ferrari teammate Piero Taruffi. Thanks to regulation changes and a reduction in competition, Ferrari were about to embark on one of their most dominant seasons in their history.
Ascari’s return to F1
Ascari’s return to the championship for round three started with a comprehensive pole position, fastest lap and victory at the Belgian GP, which started his dominant run to the 1952 World Drivers’ Championship. Ascari winning all remaining Grands Prix meant that, if you exclude the Indy 500, Ferrari had also won every single Formula 1 race from the 1952 season.
The Italian began the defence of his title with a win at the first Argentine Grand Prix in the following season, his seventh win in a row, before the streak was ended by the 1953 edition of the Indy 500. Normal service resumed, and no Formula 1 driver attended.
Ferrari and Ascari returned to winning ways to take two further victories at the Dutch and Belgian Grands Prix and secure a commanding championship lead despite the increasing threat of Maserati and Juan Manuel Fangio.
His nine-race Formula 1 winning streak (excluding the Indy 500 gap) – was ended at the 1953 French GP, which was won by teammate Mike Hawthorn after a race-long battle between Ferrari and Maserati. The winning run was over, both Ascari still went on to take the Drivers’ Championship, his second and final title in F1.
As the records define it today, Ascari’s win streak ended as soon as he failed to participate in the 1953 Indy 500. However, if we’re having an honest conversation about what events really made up a Formula 1 championship, a fair argument can be made for ignoring America’s race at ‘The Brickyard’.
The seven-race official win record stood until 2004, when it was eventually equalled by Schumacher, but the ‘common sense’ win record, as of the Dutch Grand Prix 2023, is shared between Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and, the last Italian to claim an F1 championship, Alberto Ascari.
Ascari’s winning run – timeline
Swiss GP – Did not compete (due to preparing for Indy 500)
Indy 500 – Did not finish
Belgian GP – 1st
French GP – 1st
British GP – 1st
German GP – 1st
Dutch GP – 1st
Italian GP – 1st
Argentine GP – 1st
Indy 500 – Did not enter
Dutch GP – 1st
Belgian GP – 1st
French GP – 4th
British GP – 1st
German GP – 8th
Swiss GP – 1st
Italian GP – Did not finish