With the Max Verstappen and Red Bull juggernaut claiming another comprehensive victory at the Belgian GP, the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship looks set for an early conclusion.
Whilst everyone at the Milton Keynes team will insist their approach will remain ‘one race at a time’, the reigning champions look on course to register one of the most convincing season campaigns in F1 history.
Records are likely to tumble for Verstappen, and one such metric to gauge season supremacy – the number of races remaining when a title has been claimed – may soon be under threat…
Disclaimer: This list was made up of the seasons in which the Drivers’ Championship was decided with the most rounds of the season to go. For ties, the seasons with the shorter number of races have been considered to be the more dominant. For example, seasons involving Sebastian Vettel (2013) and Lewis Hamilton (2015 & 2020) were also concluded with three rounds to go, but just missed out on a place in the top ten due to the length of their respective seasons.
10: Jackie Stewart – 1969 – after 8 of 11 races (72.7%) – 3 rounds to go
Having been defeated by Graham Hill in the final round of the 1968 championship, Jackie Stewart responded by taking his first Drivers’ title in convincing fashion and winning six of the eleven races that year in one of the first ‘winged’ cars in Formula 1.
He took all six of his wins within the first eight races of the year to ruthlessly draw the season to an early conclusion.
9: Jackie Stewart – 1971 – after 8 of 11 races (72.7%) – 3 rounds to go
With the 1970 season being an uncompetitive one for Tyrrell after a split with automobile designers Matra, the British team began building their own chassis and finally hit a breakthrough in 1971.
Equipped with a race-winning car, Stewart once again decided to end any thoughts of a championship battle by claiming most of his 1971 race victories in the opening stages of the season, and took six victories en route to the Drivers’ title
8: Jim Clark – 1963 – after 7 of 10 races (70%) – 3 rounds to go
It’s a common theme in Formula 1, but if you put one of the best drivers of a generation in a car from one of the best designers of a generation, then success often follows.
With Jim Clark driving the Colin Chapman-designed Lotus 25, the 1963 title was claimed with still over one-quarter of the season to go. The level of domination might have bordered on alarming had gearbox problems not ended his efforts to win the season-opening Monaco Grand Prix.
7: Jim Clark – 1965 – after 7 of 10 races (70%) – 3 rounds to go
After being pegged back in 1964, Lotus returned to Formula 1 superiority with the Lotus 33, and recorded similar statistics to claim the 1965 title. Missing round two of the season in Monaco prevented an even more convincing record book, but the Scotsman was busy taking victory at the legendary Indy 500 instead.
6: Max Verstappen – 2022 – after 18 of 22 races (81.8%) – 4 rounds to go
After the promise of a competitive new era of Formula 1 racing, the rapid development of the RB18 coupled with the merciless performances of Max Verstappen resulted in a dominant opening season to the return of ground effect Formula 1 cars.
With Red Bull winning every race so far in 2023, there’s every chance they can claim top honours with an even bigger margin, and possibly in less confusing circumstances than the 2022 Japanese GP.
5: Sebastian Vettel – 2011 – after 15 of 19 races (79%) – 4 rounds to go
This was the season where Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel really hit their stride. Following his against-the-odds championship success in 2010, the formidable duo became an unstoppable force in 2011.
The competitive rivalry between Vettel and teammate Mark Webber became a one-sided contest, and the record for the youngest double World Champion was claimed by the then-24-year-old at the classic F1 title-deciding venue: Suzuka.
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4: Michael Schumacher – 2004 – after 14 of 18 races (77.8%) – 4 rounds to go
The final season of Ferrari’s legendary streak of Formula 1 championships, the mighty F2004 car took all but three victories, with Schumacher taking 13 wins in the year.
With the sport and Formula 1 audiences having genuine concerns about one team’s domination, the points awarded per race was changed in 2003 from the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system, to a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system, with a view to championships staying alive for longer into the year. Without this switch, Ferrari’s 2004 season would have been much higher on this list.
3: Michael Schumacher – 2001 – after 13 of 17 races (76.5%) – 4 rounds to go
Perhaps a surprisingly high entry on this list, given that other seasons usually spring to mind when considering Ferrari’s early-noughties dominance.
With 2001 starting out as a competitive season – after six rounds Schumacher’s championship lead over David Coulthard was just four points – none of McLaren, Williams or Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello could maintain a consistent threat to the championship lead.
This squabble to be Schumacher’s main challenger contributed to an early season conclusion, and Schumacher finished the season with almost double the points of second-placed Coulthard.
2: Nigel Mansell – 1992 – after 11 of 16 races (68.75%) – five rounds to go
With the fast, but problematic, Williams FW14 car failing to end McLaren’s run of championship success in 1991, the evolved FW14B was the car to finally unleash the full potential of the Adrian Newey-designed car.
Equipped with innovative active suspension, the FW14B was often qualifying over one second faster than any other car, and with teammate Ricardo Patrese often nowhere to be seen, Mansell easily guided ‘Red 5’ to World Championship glory.
1: Michael Schumacher – 2002 – after 11 of 17 races (64.7%) – six rounds to go
In the middle of their five-season clean sweep of the championships from 2000-2004, Ferrari and Schumacher recorded, statistically, perhaps one of the most comprehensive performances of Formula 1 history. To rub salt into the wounds, their 2002 car was only ready to race at the third round of the year.
With teammate Rubens Barrichello being largely unable to match the pace, coupled with taking the brunt of any reliability issues, a then-record-equalling fifth world title was Schumacher’s to claim at the French Grand Prix, with six rounds to spare.
Where can Max Verstappen rank on this list?
With only a series of bizarre circumstances capable of stopping Verstappen claiming a third World Championship, the Red Bull driver is likely to challenge for several records during this dominant season.
The earliest event at which Verstappen can claim the 2023 title is the Singapore Grand Prix, in three races’ time, which would be round 15 of the 22-race championship. This would also require a very poor run of results for second-placed Sergio Perez.
If Verstappen succeeds in taking the championship in Singapore, he would have secured the title with seven rounds to spare, placing him at the top of this list.
But even if that lofty target cannot be achieved, he is still in a very good position to break his own record set in 2022.