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Formula 1 United States GP

Verstappen’s top 10 F1 wins ranked: 2022 Belgian GP, 2017 Malaysian GP and more

Just as when Motorsport.com first picked out Lewis Hamilton’s 10 greatest Formula 1 victories after his 50th success, now we do likewise in ranking Max Verstappen’s best triumphs after he reached a half-century of grand prix wins last weekend in Austin.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, celebrates on arrival in Parc Ferme

In claiming F1 win number 50 at the 2023 United States Grand Prix, Verstappen does so as the driver to hit that figure the second quickest in 181 races compared to Hamilton’s 50 in 185. Michael Schumacher holds the record in taking 50 wins from just 153 races.

With all that in mind, and as we can be very confident Verstappen will go on to secure even more F1 success given his Red Bull team’s current dominant position, now seems like a good time to rank the 10 best of those victories he has already secured.

For this list, we looked at Verstappen's experience at the time, the machinery at his disposal, the challenges he faced on any given weekend, as well as the nature of his success. We’ve also factored in his opposition strength and championship circumstances at the time of each win.

It will be quickly apparent that a couple of Verstappen’s most famous triumphs are absent from what is ultimately a subjective exercise. But given how his first win – famously on debut for Red Bull in the 2016 Spanish GP – only followed the intra-Mercedes collision between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the head of the pack, it simply cannot be compared to the many events where Verstappen himself has made the critical difference.

For the same reason, Abu Dhabi 2021 has been similarly discounted, even if the moment his first world title was secured is arguably the Dutchman’s greatest F1 moment…

10. 2017 Malaysian GP

Verstappen's second win came at Sepang in 2017

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen's second win came at Sepang in 2017

Verstappen start: 55
Verstappen win: 2
Car: Red Bull RB13
Started: 3rd

Verstappen scored this win – his second in F1 – on the weekend he turned 20. It included factors that have kept others off this list, such as the two Ferrari drivers losing out on starting first and second due to qualifying and pre-race engine air intake dramas and Mercedes being all at sea with the aerodynamic balance of an upgrade package.

But Red Bull at this stage still had a qualifying power deficit to Mercedes, which took pole with Lewis Hamilton, and so this offers mitigation we couldn’t apply to ‘near miss’ long list Verstappen win choices at Mexico 2017, Austria 2018 or Spa 2023.

In F1’s final race at Sepang, Verstappen held off Valtteri Bottas’s Turns 1-5 sustained assault, then, his RB13 finally more of a match for Mercedes in race trim, caught and passed Hamilton for the lead. For all Hamilton complained of his engine “de-rates” in the skirmish, this was the Briton near the peak of his F1 powers and so Verstappen’s tenacity to pass is a factor in why this race earned its spot.

After getting to the lead, Verstappen impressively dropped Hamilton by more than half a second a lap to the end of the race’s opening third, after which he then maintained his lead to the sole round of pitstops, then extended it. His winning margin was 12.7s, but putting 10 more seconds into team-mate Daniel Ricciardo caps the call to select this Verstappen win – especially given his was still then relatively inexperienced racing at the front.

9. 2019 Austrian GP

Max Verstappen's sixth win came after a terrific tussle with Charles Leclerc in Austria

Photo by: Lorenzo Bellanca / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen's sixth win came after a terrific tussle with Charles Leclerc in Austria

Verstappen start: 90
Verstappen win: 6
Car: Red Bull RB15
Started: 2nd

“A good day for F1”, declared the issue of Autosport magazine that contained our report of the 2019 Austrian GP.

This was the race where Verstappen’s passing aggression on long-time leader Charles Leclerc demonstrated his calculated battling brilliance – a lesson Leclerc would later apply himself in defeating Hamilton at the 2019 Italian GP – and in the process showed F1’s then racing rules were not anti-racing. After all, this was just two races on from Sebastian Vettel losing his Canada 2019 victory to a move forcing Hamilton towards a wall.

The difference here was that the stewards felt Verstappen wasn’t out of control and hadn’t been off the road as Vettel had, and that Leclerc trying to hang on around the outside was a factor in the clash that sent the Ferrari off. The incident occurred at Austria’s sharp and uphill Turn 3, one lap after Leclerc had been passed at the same spot but repowered out of the corner to retake the lead. Verstappen didn’t let him do that again.

Verstappen had started second and fell to seventh with a poor launch and Turn 4 lock-up. But that’s not enough to cost this win its spot on this list for two reasons.

One was how excellent Verstappen was in maintaining his tyres – helped by Leclerc’s early race with Valtteri Bottas shortening his first stint and giving Verstappen a late-race tyre life advantage in his second – in closing a 15s gap to the leader even as he passed Lando Norris and Kimi Raikkonen, overcut the lift-and-coast (for engine temperatures) hobbled Hamilton, and nailed Vettel and Bottas.

The other was that race-winning pass against seriously rapid rival armed with 2019-spec Ferrari engine grunt on a track with few corners. It sealed the win and set an early marker in what sets Verstappen apart in his generation’s talent peak.

8. 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Verstappen crushed one of F1's best cars in the Mercedes W11 for his 10th win at the 2020 Abu Dhabi GP

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Verstappen crushed one of F1's best cars in the Mercedes W11 for his 10th win at the 2020 Abu Dhabi GP

Verstappen start: 119
Verstappen win: 10
Car: Red Bull RB16
Started: 1st

The 2020 Abu Dhabi race was far from a classic GP. We called it a “turgid and lifeless” affair, with Verstappen utterly dominating from pole.

But it earns a place on this list because it was a statement drive to a 10th F1 win from Verstappen, in the process beating two examples of what should be remembered as one of the greatest F1 cars of all time: the Mercedes W11.

These had had their engine power output turned down to fears over MGU-K fires hitting customer units in practice (and Sergio Perez’s Racing Point in the race), but Mercedes insisted this wasn’t enough to explain its shock fourth defeat of another all-conquering season. Instead, it was missing pole to the rapid Verstappen, as Mercedes failed to get its soft tyres in the require operating window.

In the race, Verstappen was in command from the off and in rebuilding his lead post-raec-neutralised-pitstop – the safety car being called to cover Perez’s stricken car erasing his previous 3.3s lead built in just nine laps over Bottas.

Verstappen simply pulled off a masterful tyre management drive – his preferred style in turning a car so much early in corner entry allowing him to open the wheel at the apex and take stress off the tyres. It had long been a part of his game, but in the seasons that followed this contest it finally got the recognition it deserved.

Yes, Hamilton was recovering from COVID-19 and Bottas isn’t a top tier rival, but this was also a confidence-boosting win that supplied critical momentum to Verstappen’s first title winning season in 2021.

7. 2020 70th Anniversary GP

Verstappen overhauled both Mercedes' at the 70th Anniversary GP in 2020 to take win number nine

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Verstappen overhauled both Mercedes' at the 70th Anniversary GP in 2020 to take win number nine

Verstappen start: 107
Verstappen win: 9
Car: Red Bull RB16
Started: 4th

There was one element of Verstappen’s 2020 campaign that really stood out. This was how on so many occasions when Hamilton and Bottas were unleashing the W11’s full might, only he could keep them in sight – armed with the inferior RB16.

That scenario played out at F1’s muted 70th Anniversary celebration amidst the height of the pandemic keeping crowds away from Silverstone, but there was a critical difference here. This was that Verstappen caught, passed and beat the Black Arrows pair.

He did so in part thanks to Red Bull getting him through Q2 on the hard tyres and so starting on the best race tyre - per the rules back then - on a weekend where Pirelli had brought a compound range a step softer than those that were so famously tested in the 2020 British GP one week earlier. That gave him a strategic edge when the early safety car Mercedes had feared never arrived and Verstappen had quickly jumped Racing Point super-sub Nico Hulkenberg.

Once the Mercedes drivers had pitted out of his way to shed the mediums, Verstappen, having so amusing rebuffed Red Bull’s call to back off from Hamilton’s rear early in stint one with his “I’m not just sitting behind like a grandma” quip, actually lapped quicker than his rivals even as his aging hards wore further.

He jumped Hamilton when he did finally stop and would’ve got Bottas too but for a slightly slow Red Bull service. No matter, Verstappen was by Bottas in three more outlap corners – Mercedes just unable to push on the hards through a combination of its huge downforce levels eating into the fragile Pirellis in Silverstone’s fast corners, the day’s scorching temperatures and tyre pressures being raised to avert further blowouts after the incidents the previous week.

From there, Verstappen romped clear, pulling away when back on the hards for his third stint (he’d taken the mediums the Mercedes had started on and been working hard, unsuccessfully, to protect in stint one) to win by 11.3s over Hamilton. Bottas ended up third ruing his shorter middle stint leaving him exposed to Hamilton late on. But this was Verstappen’s day.

6. 2023 Miami GP

Verstappen recovered from ninth on a one-stop strategy to beat team-mate Sergio Perez in Miami in 2023

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Verstappen recovered from ninth on a one-stop strategy to beat team-mate Sergio Perez in Miami in 2023

Verstappen start: 168
Verstappen win: 38
Car: Red Bull RB19
Started: 9th

There were 42 laps remaining of a 57-lap contest when Verstappen reached second place behind team-mate Sergio Perez, having started down in ninth. He was there thanks to Leclerc’s Q3 crash ensuring those drivers that had messed up their opening efforts in the final segment – such as Verstappen – couldn’t improve. As Perez led at that stage, he secured pole and it looked like his race to lose.

That was because five races into the 2023 season, it was clear just how much performance the RB19 had over its rivals. That explained why few opted to fight Verstappen hard as he sliced through the field on his rapid rise on this occasion – his double pass on Leclerc and Kevin Magnussen nevertheless a highlight.

Verstappen had bought into the idea of running a contra-one-stop strategy – starting on the hards and running deep, with Perez unable to do so from pole due to the risk of an early safety car ruining such an approach. That one didn’t appear boosted Verstappen, but really it was his brilliance and Perez’s comparative weakness that made the difference.

Perez was too conservative out front in the early laps and so only barely had a four-second lead by the time Verstappen arrived in second. Then when Perez was on the hards, Verstappen reversed the gains the Mexican had made into their 18s post-pitstop gap as he’d briefly worried about making his stop target lap and so backed off. Therefore, when Verstappen did finally come in on lap 45, his ensuing Turn 1 pass on Perez was a formality as there was just 1.6s between them when the world champion rejoined.

The reason for this win’s high ranking really comes down to the psychological boost it gave Verstappen’s season and hit to Perez. Next up in Monaco, Perez crashed in qualifying and then failed to reach Q3 in the five following non-sprint sessions against the clock. This defeat really did for Perez’s 2023 title hopes as much as it enhanced Verstappen’s.

5. 2021 United States GP

Verstappen proved he could cope with pressure in his drive to victory in America in 2021

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Verstappen proved he could cope with pressure in his drive to victory in America in 2021

Verstappen start: 136
Verstappen win: 18
Car: Red Bull RB16B
Started: 1st

Here we come to the pressure factor in many of Verstappen’s best F1 wins. He’d rocked up at Austin having not won in that 2021 campaign of campaigns since he’d delivered in the face of heavy pressure of a different kind, winning in front of his home crowd at the returning Zandvoort race. The Monza crash with Hamilton followed, then Russia and Turkey went to Mercedes.

In Turkey, Red Bull getting its set-up wrong for optimal tyre use had been a critical factor, but in Texas it aced its decisions, with Mercedes forced into running a higher than ideal ride height due to the track’s fearsome bumps. The hot conditions all weekend also boosted the RB16B, as the Mercedes W12 tended to struggle more on the Pirellis when the temperatures climbed.

In the race, Verstappen blew the start from pole as Hamilton got forcefully ahead at Turn 1 and was lucky it was Perez behind to avoid dropping to third at Turn 2. But then Red Bull made two aggressive pitstop calls – helped by Perez’s early presence meaning Hamilton couldn’t go really long in the first stint, before battling illness dropped the Mexican driver back – to undercut Verstappen back ahead and set-up a thrilling chase for the win as his rival recovered with a tyre life advantage.

And this is where the pressure factor really tells, as Verstappen learned from caning his stint two hards too early to being able to keep enough life in his stint three set that he held off Hamilton’s charge.

4. 2021 Austrian GP

Verstappen battered the field for back-to-back wins on Red Bull's home soil in Austria in 2021

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Verstappen battered the field for back-to-back wins on Red Bull's home soil in Austria in 2021

Verstappen start: 128
Verstappen win: 15
Car: Red Bull RB16B
Started: 1st

“Verstappen was so good and so far away from his opposition that he may as well have been in a different race”, is how we described the Red Bull driver trouncing the rest in the second 2021 race at his team’s home track.

A week earlier in the Styrian GP, Verstappen had blown away Hamilton through a combination of better one-lap speed and in-race tyre wear – Red Bull having finally solved what had been something of regular issue against Mercedes early in that season and before the Black Arrows squad could use car upgrades to get back on terms for pure pace.

The second time around, team and driver worked hard to fettle the RB16B into another fine set-up window with the tyre compounds a step softer compared to the previous week. Mercedes not doing this as well allowed Norris to qualify ahead and it was he who Verstappen initially romped clear of, after nailing the start and early safety car restart ahead of the slippery McLaren.

This was as assured as Verstappen looked across an entire weekend in all of 2021. That alone is worthy of the race earning this spot in our ranking. That Styrian race drive might’ve earned another, but we were determined to reward his differing victory styles across his career so far in our considerations.

3. 2022 Japanese GP

Verstappen won his second world title in 2022 with a wet masterclass in Japan

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen won his second world title in 2022 with a wet masterclass in Japan

Verstappen start: 159
Verstappen win: 32
Car: Red Bull RB18
Started: 1st

“How could Germany 2019 not make the cut”, we hear you cry? That event, after all, cemented Verstappen’s long-held status as an F1 wet weather great.

Well, it also contained a shocking start, a clumsy spin and might’ve been won by Leclerc or Hamilton had they not crashed. No such incidents were contained in Verstappen’s rain master drive at Suzuka in 2022, which sealed his second crown (after various post-race rules sagas for Leclerc and the FIA).

Here Verstappen was again in a class of his own. Taking the first start on the intermediates in second gear left him prey to the faster-starting Leclerc from alongside on the front row, but Verstappen simply monstered his rival at Turn 2 to maintain his lead. It was brilliant, feisty, typical Verstappen stuff.

Much more of that followed as he pulled out a near-30s winning margin, but that was only after a 135-minute delay to proceedings following a series of first lap crashes in the treacherous conditions. When the shortened race did get going, Verstappen – aided by clear visibility it must be said – immediately dropped Leclerc, then pulled away by over a second a lap at times once they’d shed the full wets mandated for the safety car restart.

Confusion over the awarding of full points for a shortened affair and Leclerc losing second to a post-race penalty in his late battle with Perez engulfed Verstappen’s second crowning. But the far more enjoyable memory was his brilliant run to a magic wet weather win on a track that so tests driver skill.

2. 2022 Belgian GP

Verstappen brushed aside a grid penalty that left him 14th to win in Belgium in 2022

Photo by: Erik Junius

Verstappen brushed aside a grid penalty that left him 14th to win in Belgium in 2022

Verstappen start: 155
Verstappen win: 29
Car: Red Bull RB18
Started: 14th

There’d have to be a clear reason for keeping what is rightly considered one of the greatest drives of the modern era off the top of this list – Verstappen’s win at Spa that he picked as his best in his brilliant march to the 2022 crown, as the combined challenge of Ferrari and Leclerc imploded.

For the race itself, Verstappen started 13th (technically, after Pierre Gasly’s issue ahead) thanks to his grid penalty for changing gearbox, energy store, control electronics and internal combustion engine – among a host of drivers to do this, including Leclerc.

Verstappen got stuck in immediately to gain three spots at the first corner then lost his move on Alex Albon at Les Combes as he wisely backed away from Lance Stroll rejoining. Once the race restarted from an early safety car, he just tore up the rest of the midfield to reach the podium by lap eight of 44.

Here he couldn’t get by Perez so rapidly, but did eventually with a lap 12 slipstream pass. What was actually quite incredible about this sequence was that Verstappen, even with all his overtakes (boosted it must be said by Red Bull’s straightline prowess and being able to traverse Eau Rouge’s fearsome compression with a lower ride height than the rest), made his soft starting tyres last longer than Perez’s mediums.

Post-pitstop he caught and passed early leader Carlos Sainz, then Verstappen headed off to claim his stunning 29th F1 victory untroubled thereafter.

That he had no real opposition on the day – Leclerc’s own grid penalty recovery was stymied by a visor tear that may or may not have come from Verstappen ahead on lap one (we think it did) – factors into why this race takes second spot.

1. 2021 Mexican GP

Verstappen's double pass on the Mercedes pair at the Mexican GP in 2021 contributed to his finest win, in our opinion

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Verstappen's double pass on the Mercedes pair at the Mexican GP in 2021 contributed to his finest win, in our opinion

Verstappen start: 137
Verstappen win: 19
Car: Red Bull RB16B
Started: 3rd

“Some motorsport moments are just magic. Bits of driving that are just spinetinglingly good, showcasing supreme skill, flair and sheer bloody-mindedness”. That’s how this writer called Verstappen’s Turn 1 double pass on Hamilton and Bottas at the start of the 2021 Mexican GP in our report of that event, just five races out from 2021’s thrilling climax.

The brilliance of the moment combined with the pressure building on Verstappen’s first real attempt to win a title (of any kind in car racing given his rapid rise through the junior ranks). And that pressure – with just 12 points separating him and Hamilton at this stage – had only gone up still when AlphaTauri and Red Bull messing up tow tactics on the final Q3 runs in Mexico City spoiled things for all their drivers bar Gasly.

Bottas started on pole, but Hamilton getting a better launch wrecked Mercedes plans for them to work together as it meant the Briton could not get a tow to Turn 1.

Instead, this went to the grateful Verstappen, who then pulled off arguably the best pass of his F1 career after starting third. Armed with Red Bull’s bigger maximum downforce rear wing – needed in the thin Mexico City air – he nevertheless bravely chose to brake later than the Mercedes pair and steamed around the outside of both to claim the lead.

How on the edge this pass was, was encapsulated by Verstappen’s efforts to just stay within track limits on the corner’s exit.

Ricciardo then tapped Bottas out of contention which led to crashes in the pack and an early safety car, after which Verstappen nailed the restart then just roared clear. Even while managing this track’s engine and brake temperature requirements through plenty of lift-and-coast, he was still able to lap regularly 0.3s clear of Hamilton. That turned Mercedes’ attention to rebuffing Perez and Verstappen even had spare capacity to initially thwart Bottas’s efforts to take the fastest lap from well down the order and lapped late in the race.

It might only have contained one moment of action compared to some other races on this list, but Verstappen’s Mexico double pass was just sublime enough to earn the top spot. He could’ve easily messed it up and retired, handing Hamilton a 25-point swing and shock 2021 standings lead.

But he didn’t. He was finally approaching peak Verstappen – calmer, slightly more mature, supremely confident. All attributes that have led to his current dominant status, a real shot at making it another 50 F1 wins and, just maybe, toppling Hamilton’s current 103 victory record total…

Verstappen's brave pass could have ended terribly, but it showed the true skill of the now triple world champion

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Verstappen's brave pass could have ended terribly, but it showed the true skill of the now triple world champion

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