Formula One

Most dominant F1 seasons: The drivers that left the opposition miles behind

Max Verstappen is having a historic season in 2023, highlighted by his ten consecutive Formula 1 victories, a new record in the sport. With twelve wins in fourteen races, an 85.7% success rate, this season will surely end up as one of the most dominant F1 seasons by drivers.

In this article, we will look into dominance from the drivers’ side, so seasons like the ones of 1988 and 2016 will not be mentioned, as they featured prominent battles between teammates at McLaren and Mercedes respectively.

Alberto Ascari, 1952

Alberto Ascari's was the first of the most dominant F1 seasons.
Photo by PictureAlliance / Icon Sport

Alberto Ascari entered the 1952 season with two wins to his name, both at the back end of the previous season. It was a strange campaign, as the withdrawal of Alfa Romeo had two big effects. Firstly, the lack of manufacturers led to the championship being run under Formula 2 regulations. Secondly, defending champion Juan Manuel Fangio was left without a seat.

Ascari, a Ferrari driver, missed the first race of the season, in Switzerland, as he elected to instead participate in the Indianapolis 500. The race was part of the championship at the time, but the Italian was the only European participant and he retired from the race eventually. He returned against his normal competition at the third round of the season, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Fangio had finally found a seat, but a serious accident in a non-championship event left him with serious back injuries. Ascari dominated from pole in Belgium, winning by almost two minutes. The margin was even bigger in the next two races, at France and Great Britain, while three more victories took his streak to six. All six wins were accompanied by the fastest lap, with five of them from pole.

With six wins in eight races, there was no question regarding the champion, as Ascari earned his first crown. Another one followed the next season, which started off with three more Grand Prix victories. A messy divorce from Ferrari meant he left the team and his untimely death in 1955 left Italy mourning.

Jim Clark, 1965

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Photo by Grand Prix Photo / Icon Sport

While Jim Clark had seven wins in ten races en route to his first championship in 1963, we have selected 1965 to make the list. In the latter season, Clark was utterly dominant winning six of the first seven races. The one he did not emerge victorious was the Monaco Grand Prix, where he did not even compete. Instead, he raced at the Indianapolis 500, which he won.

The season even included four Grand Chelems – races where Clark took pole, led every lap on his way to victory and took the fastest lap. It also featured one of the sport’s most amazing triumphs, as he won the Belgian Grand Prix in pouring rain, despite a faulty gear lever. He had to hold it into place for most of the race, meaning he had to drive one-handed for a substantial amount.

A faulty fuel pump while battling for the win at Monza led to retirement and meant his streak was over. Two more mechanical issues in the last two races ended his amazing season on a bittersweet note. Tragically, this was Clark’s last F1 title, as reliability cost him the 1967 crown and his sad death in the following year meant he would not have another opportunity.

Michael Schumacher, 2002

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Photo by Grand Prix Photo / Icon Sport

Again, we had to make a choice between multiple seasons for a driver, as 2004 could have easily made the list for Michael Schumacher. His consistency in 2002 was something to behold though.  The German, already a four-time World Champion, finished all seventeen races on the podium, with eleven wins, five second-place finishes and one third-place finish.

His worst result of the season came in the second race, at Malaysia It was a race that started with a first-corner crash that damaged his front wing and concluded with him recovering to third at the chequered flag. At Austria, he was controversially given the win by Rubens Barrichello thanks to team orders. He gave the victory back though, letting his teammate win at the United States GP.

Such was his dominance, that the title was wrapped up by mid-July, at the eleventh race of the season at Magny-Cours. His gap of 67 points to Barrichello is the largest between first and second as a percentage. It was his fifth crown, making him just the second five-time champion. Two more followed in the next two seasons, as Schumacher and Ferrari created an unforeseen dynasty in the sport.

Sebastian Vettel, 2013

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Photo by XPB / Icon Sport

With three titles already under his belt, Sebastian Vettel entered the 2013 season as the big favourite. For the first few races, it did not look like the season would be a stroll in the park for the German, as he was just four points clear of his opposition by the fifth race of the season, at which point he had two victories, one additional podium and two fourth-place finishes.

But after that he was in another league. A retirement from the lead in Silverstone was the only low point of the last thirteen races, a span in which Vettel won eleven races. Most famously, he won the last nine races of the season, to tie Ascari’s record. All that despite his teammate, Mark Webber failing to win any races all-year long and finishing the season in third.

There were plenty of highlights in that amazing run, perhaps none more indicative than his margin of victory in Singapore. There, Vettel won by 32 seconds, a gap he achieved in just the second half of the race, since a safety car intervention closed the pack down.

Lewis Hamilton, 2020

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Photo by Picture Alliance / Icon Sport

On the back of three consecutive titles, Lewis Hamilton entered the 2020 season as a six-time champion. But the 2020 season, his last championship run to date, was his most dominant by far. In a season which was affected by the pandemic and included a revised calendar of seventeen races, the Brit won eleven races and stepped on the podium an additional three times.

Hamilton missed the podium just three times; the first when a post-race penalty demoted him from third to fourth in the first race of the season, the second when another penalty for entering the pitlane while it was closed in Monza led to seventh-place finish and the third when he missed the weekend at Sakhir because of contracting COVID-19.

The season included memorable moments for Hamilton, including taking pole by 1.3 second in the wet at the Red Bull Ring, winning despite a puncture on the last lap at Silverstone and sealing his record-equalling seventh title in Turkey, in a wet race he won by over half a minute.

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