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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

Sao Paulo Grand Prix Talking Points: Is this Formula 1's greatest ever individual season?

F1 leaves Sao Paulo and the final triple header of the season in the same place it has been pretty much all year: in awe of the achievements of Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

And while it was hardly a race for the ages, it still brought about plenty of things to discuss as we move into the final two races of the year.

So with that in mind, let’s move into another edition of F1 talking points.

The greatest individual season ever?

Another race, another win by Max Verstappen. I could honestly come here after every race and just copy and paste this and it would always be accurate. But what might also be accurate is the fact that Verstappen is putting on the single greatest F1 season ever seen in the 73 year history of the sport.

In winning in Brazil, Verstappen won his 17th race, extending his record of most wins ever in a season. However if you are to look at it from a win percentage, meaning just what percentage of the races in the season he has won, he has reached another milestone.

Verstappen’s win percentage for 2023 now sits at 85%, 10% higher than the previous win percentage record set by Alberto Ascari in 1952 of 75% after the Italian won six of the eight races that season.

(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

With two races remaining, Verstappen could not win the final two races and will still hold the record with 77%. If he does win the final two races, his win percentage would sit at an incredible 86%.

If we put that into context with the other dominant seasons by one driver, the next best win percentage behind Verstappen and Ascari is Michael Schumacher, who won 72.22% of races in 2004. After that you have to go back to Jim Clark in 1963 who won 70% of that year’s races and then Sebastian Vettel who 64.82% of races in 2013.

It’s hard to look past those numbers against any argument that this is by far the greatest individual season ever completed by a Formula 1 driver.

Alonso is still happy

F1 gossip. Isn’t it great?

After a string of races in which Aston Martin and Fernando Alonso struggled to showcase the pace that had elevated them to multiple podiums at the beginning of the year, many in the paddock were claiming the Spaniard was unhappy and was set to retire or end up at Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen in 2024.

But then Brazil happens. Alonso (and Aston Martin) find form again and everybody applauds the stunning drive by the two-time Champion as he claimed his first podium since the Netherlands in epic style, beating Sergio Perez over the line by less than a tenth for third place.

It has been an odd year for Alonso and for many observers seeing him as happy as he has been in a long time. With a few bad races, frustrations surely crept in, but the fact that we have witnessed a side to him that has never before seen definitely shows that a few bad races aren’t enough to make him want to throw it all away and try again somewhere else.

Let’s just hope the Aston can keep the pace is showed in Brazil for the final few rounds and into 2024.

Norris joins unwelcome club

It seems each week we have a new section dedicated to poor Lando Norris coming so close to another win. And this time, it might be even more painful reading for Norris fans.

By securing his 13th career podium, Norris now equals the record set by Nick Heidfeld for most podiums in F1 without ever winning a race. The pair sit one race clear of Stefan Johannsson, two clear of Chris Amon, and three clear of Romain Grosjean.

If anything such a statistic shows the level of consistency and speed shown by Norris and the other drivers, but it’s one of these records that seemingly will just hover over him until he is finally able to breakthrough for that elusive win.

An elusive win that you still have to say is a matter of when, not if.

Stroll critics silenced once again

Another section that I have inadvertently brought back is my Lance Stroll watch, which has apparently just turned into a continued defense of him, particularly when his strong performances go unnoticed.

While all eyes were on Alonso in green, Stroll delivered a great drive to finish in fifth in the main race. This came after a strong early lap in a rain affected Q3 on Friday put him in third on the grid, before holding off the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz quite comfortably for the entire race on Sunday to earn ten crucial points.

It has always been a vicious cycle for Stroll during his time in F1. Have a few bad races, the wolves come calling for him. Have a few good races, those same wolves are as silent as they have ever been.

In my nearly 30 years following the sport, I struggle to think of a single driver who has ever been scrutinised as much as Stroll and the disparities that he faces between a good and a bad race. Which is a real shame, because while yes, having your father own the team you race for brings extra eyes to you, it still completely diminishes his actual ability and skill that has often been shown and backed up by several of his peers.

Here’s hoping the last two races of the year can continue to flow towards the side of good, rather than the bad.

(Photo by Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Double Aussie pain

A quick note on the Aussie drivers, who after a strong Mexico, fell right back to earth in Brazil. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Oscar Piastri were involved in the opening lap scuffle during the main race on Sunday, and after having pitted before the red flag was brought out, found themselves foul of a peculiar rule that had them a lap down before the restart, completely comprising both of their races.

Considering both showed decent pace in the race and their respective teammates finished strongly in the points, it was a disappointing end to the weekend for Ricciardo and Piastri.

With Las Vegas next though, let’s all hope the roll of the dice comes back in their favour.

This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here


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