Max Verstappen now must end an ominous streak
Not since the 2016 Formula 1 season has the winner of the season opener gone on to win the world championship. Max Verstappen is looking to change that.
While the Bahrain Grand Prix was somewhat of a chaotic race as a whole, it was business as usual up front to open up the 2023 Formula 1 season, with two-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen leading Sergio Perez across the finish line to secure a 1-2 finish for reigning constructor world champions Red Bull.
Verstappen, who is now an even bigger favorite to win the world championship than he was entering the first of 23 race weekends on the 2023 calendar, had never previously won the season opener. His first championship leads in his 2021 and 2022 title-winning seasons did not come until several races into the calendar.
Having earned his 36th career victory in race one of 2023, however, the 25-year-old Dutchman must now set his sights on ending an ominous streak.
Not since the 2016 Formula 1 season has the winner of the opener gone on to win the title.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won every title from 2017 to 2020, but it was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who won the openers in 2017 and 2018 and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas who won them in 2019 and 2020. Hamilton won the opener in 2021 while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc won it in 2022.
In all six of those seasons, the winner of the season opener finished in second place in the standings.
In 2016, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg won the first four races. While he eventually lost his lead in the standings to Hamilton, he was able to get it back and hang on to win his first and only world championship. From 2014 to 2020, the 2016 season was the only season in which Hamilton did not win the title.
Fortunately for Verstappen, he has already ended one streak. Not since the 2016 season opener had a driver won the season finale of one year and the season opener of the next, when Rosberg pulled it off after winning the final three races of the 2015 season. Verstappen won last year’s finale in Abu Dhabi to close out a record-breaking 15-win season.
No driver has led the Formula 1 standings wire to wire since Hamilton in 2015.
The second race on the 2023 Formula 1 schedule is the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 19. ESPN is set to broadcast the race live from Jeddah Corniche Circuit beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don’t miss it!