Thursday, December 8, 2022

2022 Formula One Milestones

We did this with IndyCar earlier in the week and we will do it with Formula One today. In what matched the longest Formula One season in terms of number of races, there were plenty of historic moments in this season. With only a few weeks removed from the 2022 season ending, we will highlight some of the milestones reached during the year.

Max Verstappen: 15 Victories
What does it mean: It is the record for most victories in the season. The 2022 season was tied for the longest season on record, comprised of 22 races, but Verstappen broke the record that Michael Schumacher set in 2004 with 13 victories, and which Sebastian Vettel tied in 2013. 

It was a slow start, as Verstappen won only once in the first three races after two mechanical failures took him out at Bahrain and Australia. But Verstappen quickly got on pace, winning five of the next six races, putting him on pace to win 14.667 races. After two more non-victories, he won five straight to close out the European season.

He had 11 victories through 16 races with six races remaining. He won four of the final six, breaking the record at Mexico and padding the record in Abu Dhabi.

Max Verstappen: Winning Percentage of 68.18%
What does it mean: This was a record season for number of victories, but with 22 races, the proportion wasn't the highest. However, it is still rather impressive. 

Verstappen's winning percentage of 68.18% is the fifth best in Formula One history. It trails only the following seasons:

Alberto Ascari - 1952 (75% - 6/8)
Michael Schumacher 2004 (72.22% - 13/18)
Jim Clark - 1963 (70% - 7/10)
Sebastian Vettel - 2013 (68.42% 13/19)

There have been 73 seasons. This was better than 68 other seasons!

Max Verstappen: 1,855 laps led
What does it mean: Entering 2022, Verstappen had led 1,239 laps, 17th all-time. 

After leading 616 laps, Verstappen is now ninth all-time. This season alone saw him pass Kimi Räikkönen, Juan Manuel Fangio, Damon Hill, Mika Häkkinen, Nico Rosberg, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Fernando Alonso. 

That is eight world champions combining for 18 titles. Expect this climb to continue. 

Sergio Pérez: Four Career Victories
What does it mean: Pérez won the Monaco Grand Prix and then won the Singapore Grand Prix. 

Four grand prix victories don't sound like much, but Pérez's victory at Monaco meant he surpassed Pedro Rodríguez, making Pérez the all-time leader among Mexican drivers in victories.

For almost 50 years, Rodríguez was the only Mexican grand prix winner, and his brief career was long the high point for Mexican motorsports. He was always viewed as a driver whose career was greater than the numbers and could have done much more. 

Pérez persevered for most of his Formula One career, scoring podium finishes at Sauber, flaming out at McLaren, holding on at Force India and eventually winning at Racing Point, which led to the opportunity with Red Bull. He put in a decade before getting this break and I think his talent was always respected even if it took this long for him to shine. I am happy we are getting to see it.

Even if Verstappen won't give him sixth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso: 355 Starts and 358 Entries
What does it mean: We have a new record-holder. 

Alonso surpassed Kimi Räikkönen's records in both categories. The Spaniard got the starts record with his 350th start at the Singapore Grand Prix and Alonso claims the entries record the following weekend with his 354th appearance at the Japanese Grand Prix. 

This a record of longevity, and considering Alonso stepped away from Formula One after the 2018 season, I am not sure anyone expected him to come back and top these categories. He will be back for at least 2023. You don't get the sense Alonso is moving on anytime soon. There are going to be 24 races next season. Are we looking at the first driver to enter 400 races? It is lining up that way.

Lewis Hamilton: 310 Starts and Entries
What does it mean: This was not Hamilton's greatest season. In some terms it was his worst, but Hamilton did hit a few milestone points this season. 

He became the sixth driver to enter and start 300 grand prix. The 300th came at the French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard. By starting all the races, he moved up to fourth in both categories, surpassing Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button in the process. 

Alonso could reach 400. Hamilton is another possibility. He would need at least four more seasons. This is a man that lives on one-year deals and Hamilton could walk away at any point. Still an impressive career.

Sebastian Vettel: 300 Entries
What does it mean: We said goodbye to Vettel this season as the 35-year-old announced his retirement. It is significant shift considering how long Vettel had been around, what he accomplished and now it is over. 

There is going to be a strange quirk in the record books. Abu Dhabi, the 2022 season finale, was the 300th race Vettel entered in, but, thanks to an engine failure on the pace lap for the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi was only Vettel's 299th start.

To further add insult to injury, Vettel missed the first two races of 2022 due to COVID. He exits his career seventh in both categories, but one shy of a third century mark in one of them. That kind of perfectly sums up the final four seasons of Vettel's career.

Daniel Ricciardo: 232 Starts
What does it mean: Ricciardo ended the 2022 season with the second longest consecutive start streak in Formula One history. His 232 starts trails only Lewis Hamilton, who went 265 consecutive races from the 2007 Australia Grand Prix through the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix. 

Ricciardo debuted with Hispania Racing Team at the 2011 British Grand Prix. It was the first grand prix at Silverstone using the new pit lane and start/finish line location between Club corner and Abbey. His teammate was Vitantonio Liuzzi and the car was powered with a Cosworth engine. 

In-between, Ricciardo more to Scuderia Toro Rosso, won at Red Bull, ran with Renault and won with McLaren despite general disappointment in his results. He returns in a reserve role for Red Bull in 2023. An odd demotion that no one would have foreseen five years ago. 

Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly: 100 Starts
What does it mean: Both French drivers hit the century mark in starts during the 2022 season. 

Ocon was first at the Austrian Grand Prix. Gasly was second at the Belgian Grand Prix. What is the significance? They are the tenth and 11th French drivers respectively to start at least 100 grand prix. France is now tied with the United Kingdom for most drivers to reach 100 starts. 

It makes sense but is still impressive.

Carlos Sainz, Jr.: First Career Victory
What does it mean: The 2022 British Grand Prix was a phenomenal race that saw many drivers in contention for victory over the 52 laps. However, it was Carlos Sainz, Jr. that ended up on top for this first career victory. 

What was so special about this victory? It was his 150th start, the second most before a first career victory, trailing only Sergio Pérez's 190 starts.

It was the 33rd victory for a Spanish driver, putting Spain tied with the United States for the 11th most grand prix victories. 

Sainz also became just the second Spaniard to win a Formula One race after Fernando Alonso. This made Spain the 17th nation to produce multiple Formula One winner and it leaves only six countries to have produced just one grand prix winner (Netherlands, South Africa, Colombia, Monaco, Poland and Venezuela).

George Russell: First Career Victory
What does it mean: Russell won the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix, leading a British 1-2 with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in second. 

This did feel two years overdue for Russell considering how close he was to victory when he stepped into the Mercedes for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix around the Bahrain perimeter circuit when Hamilton was out due to COVID. 

Even more special is Russell became the 20th British driver to win a grand prix, extending Britain's record for most different grand prix winners. It is five drivers clear of Italy and the United States with France six back.

Haas F1: 144 Races Started
What does it mean: This was the seventh season for Haas F1 in Formula One, and it is starting to climb up the record book. But it is also climbing up the categories no one wants to own. 

With 144 races completed for the team, Haas is now fourth all-time in most starts without a grand prix victory trailing only Arrows (383), Minardi (340), Force India (203) and Lola (146). 

The good news is it has some time until it catches Arrows and Minardi. There may still be hope for the team. The bad news it is now second all-time in most races without a podium finish. It surpassed Osella for second earlier this year. 

Additional good news is Minardi is still 196 starts ahead of Haas, so Haas may have over eight seasons until it is challenging for this mark. However, I bet it doesn't want to get any closer to the tops of these lists.

Kevin Magnussen: 142 Race Entries
What does it mean: From the Haas team to a Haas driver, Kevin Magnussen was an unlikely participant on the 2022 Formula One grid. On January 1, no one foresaw Magnussen running this season. Even on February 1, no one could have anticipated it. 

On March 9, 11 days before the 2022 season opener, Magnussen was back in the Haas seat after the team terminated its contracts with Nikita Mazepin and his sponsors in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Magnussen was back and finished fifth on his return at Bahrain. He completed all the races and now has a multi-year deal with the team and will be back for the 2023 season. 

However, like Haas F1, Magnussen is moving up some less than desired lists. With 22 starts in 2022 and zero victories, Magnussen is now ninth all-time in most races without a victory. He is also poised to climb much higher up this list if he doesn't win next season.

2022 Japanese Grand Prix: 53.583 kilometers per hour
What does it mean: For starts, 53.583 kilometers per hour converts to 33.295 miles per hour. This year's Japanese Grand Prix was the slowest race in Formula One history. 

After heavy rain and red flag periods, only 28 of 53 laps were completed.

To give you an idea how slow this race was, it was 21.281 km/h slower than the previous slowest race, the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, which famously took over four hours to complete and saw Jenson Button win with a final lap pass on Sebastian Vettel after Vettel went off the circuit. 

The next slowest race was the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix, the second grand prix in Formula One history. That race was run at 98.701 km/h, the slowest race without a red flag interrupting the action. That race from 72 years ago was still over 45 km/h faster than this year's Japanese Grand Prix. 

Those are the only three races in Formula One history to average under 100 km/h. That is three out of 1,079 races, 0.278%. Not all history is spectacular, but some is just too darn staggering to ignore.