When Sebastian Vettel equalled Alberto Ascari‘s record of nine consecutive wins in Formula 1 at the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, the consensus was it would never happen again.
Driving for Red Bull, Vettel won the final nine races of the 2013 F1 season, whilst Ascari‘s streak came over the 1952 and 1953 seasons when the calendar had single figure events.
Fast forward to 2022 and Max Verstappen has all but won the championship. There are a few records he could break though, including the most podiums in a season, most wins in a season and the record held by Vettel, and Ascari if you include his streak over two different campaigns.
How realistic is it that Verstappen can beat what was thought to be a record that would stand the test of time?
What does Verstappen have to do?
Verstappen is currently on a run of five races wins, something that seemed highly unlikely earlier in the year when Ferrari had the car to beat.
Some mighty performances including drives through the field at the Hungaroring and Spa-Francorchamps, plus winning from seventh in the latest race at Monza, has seen Verstappen win every race since the French GP in July.
There are six events remaining so Verstappen will need to win every race up to, and including, the Sao Paulo GP at Interlagos on November 13 which is the penultimate round of the season.
Remaining races in F1 2022 season
October 2: Singapore GP – Marina Bay Circuit
October 9: Japanese GP – Suzuka
October 23: United States GP – Circuit of the Americas
October 30: Mexico City GP – Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
November 13: Sao Paulo GP – Interlagos
November 20: Abu Dhabi GP – Yas Marina Circuit
Singapore could be the stumbling block
Verstappen‘s streak could come to an end as soon as the start of October at the returning Singapore GP.
Due to the humidity, the length of the race which often approaches the two-hour mark and the relentlessness of the track, Singapore is the biggest test on the F1 schedule.
One of Ferrari‘s biggest strengths is the way it rides the kerbs and the acceleration of the car out of the corners. This will make Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz a big threat to Verstappen.
Mercedes too should be strong, potentially like they were at Zandvoort when Verstappen had to perform at his best to win, before the virtual safety car and safety car.
If there is one track of the remaining venues where on paper Red Bull might not have a car to win, it will be Singapore.
But, we all know how good Verstappen is on street circuits and it’s not like the RB18 is too shabby in the corners either.
It’s just a case of everyone else being more competitive and the margin for error will be very small on an unforgiving track.
After Singapore, things look good for Red Bull
The teams will still be bringing some major upgrades to their cars, especially at Singapore as there will have just been a three-week break.
Looking at the strengths of the Red Bull from the latest events though, they should be pretty mighty in Japan, USA, Mexico and Brazil.
They have dialled in the front end of the car nicely to suit Verstappen and the downforce produced by the floor means he and Sergio Perez can take bundles of speed into the high and medium speed corners.
Red Bull have got on top of the bigger 18-inch Pirelli tyres too, which is critical for one lap pace and degradation.
Weight reduction has been a key area of improvement for Red Bull as they have shed around 20kg since the start of the season in Bahrain which has given them free lap time.
Due to the budget cap, they may elect to now put more focus onto 2023 which may allow other teams to catch up.
The way Verstappen is driving though, as long as he has a car which is not more than a couple tenths off the pace, he will be right there at every Grand Prix.
How realistic are Verstappen’s chances?
Five wins in a row is a big ask, even if you have a dominant car, which for the most part of 2022, has not been the case for Red Bull.
They have simply capitalised on Ferrari‘s mistakes and maximised their performances which has given Verstappen a lead of 116 points over Leclerc.
All it takes is one first lap incident, a reliability failure or some bad luck for Verstappen‘s chances of equalling or beating Vettel and Ascari to go up in smoke, potentially literally.
The fact this is even a conversation is impressive enough because there are thousands of factors that need to come together to win a Grand Prix.
When Vettel won his ninth race in a row in 2013 at Interlagos, he said: “Guys, I am so proud of you. I love you. Remember this, enjoy this moment. Yes, we did it! This is unbelievable.”
It was unbelievable, and that’s what Verstappen has to better. Beating the unbelievable. Should he do it, we really would run out of superlatives to describe the world champion.