As the checkered flag waved at the Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday to greet home favorite Max Verstappen over the finish line, the Formula One driver took another step towards history.
The win in the Netherlands was Verstappen’s eleventh of the season and ninth in a row, drawing him level with Sebastian Vettel for the most consecutive victories in F1 history. The German, then driving for Red Bull, completed the same feat during his 2013 title win.
Home advantage is something that matters to Verstappen. He said that he already had “goosebumps” during the national anthem ahead of the race – not that the emotion affected his ruthless streak even as inclement weather threatened to upset his rhythm.
As rain fell early in the race, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez quickly switched to wet-weather tyres to steal an advantage and briefly surpass the reigning world champion, only for the 25-year-old Verstappen to make the change a lap later and rapidly exhibit his superiority over Perez and the rest of the field.
The Mexican’s afternoon was further spoiled later in the race as he made an error to allow Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly to surpass him and secure their spots on the podium.
Alonso had started the race in fifth but – Verstappen aside – put on the driving performance of the day. The 42-year-old secured the 105th podium of his remarkable career and pulled off one of the overtakes of the season to displace Lando Norris on just the second lap of the race, unconventionally sling-shotting his Aston Martin around the hairpin third turn.
The partisan crowd at Zandvoort was not bothered by the downpours, vociferously rooting for their man. That support did not go unnoticed by Verstappen, who described the atmosphere as being “incredible” throughout.
Verstappen also stated that he considered the win on Sunday as one of his more challenging victories.
“It was probably one of the more difficult races to win, but nine in a row is something I never even thought about,” said Verstappen.
“I’m very happy with that but I’m in general very happy to win here in front of my home crowd.”
Verstappen was asked after the race about being on the precipice of F1 history and the prospect of a 10th consecutive victory at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza next weekend, but he batted away the question instantly.
“I’ll think about it next week,” he said. “I’m just going to enjoy this weekend. It’s always tough, the pressure is on to perform, and I’m very happy of course to win here.”
Clearly, Verstappen thrives under that pressure. Since F1 returned to the Netherlands in 2021 following a 34-year hiatus, he has won all three editions of the Dutch Grand Prix.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner was less coy about the achievements of his star man and indeed the team as a whole.
“I think quietly he’s very proud of what he’s doing and achieving,” Horner told reporters.
“To win nine in a row is insane. And (for Red Bull) to have done it in the same team with another driver is something that I don’t think any of us could have ever envisaged.”
The Dutch star has now won 46 races in all, which puts him fifth on the all-time list. Alain Prost and Vettel, five and seven race wins ahead of Verstappen as things stands, could be overtaken before the 2023 season ends given that nine races remain. That would leave just Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher ahead of him at the end of the season.
Verstappen’s own record of 15 wins in a single season – set during last year’s triumphant campaign – is also under serious threat given his current state of apparent invincibility on the track.