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After his victory in Bahrain, Nico Rosberg joined an illustrious list of seven other drivers who have won five or more consecutive Grands Prix. Some of the all-time greats didn’t manage to achieve this.
This bodes well for the resurgent German’s title hopes in 2016, as each of the previous nine to have five or more consecutive wins has won the World Championship in the season where the streak ended.
Here are those drivers, in order of wins…
Sebastian Vettel – 2013
Vettel wrapped up his fourth consecutive title with Red Bull in style in 2013. But early season controversy took the shine off his success: team orders in Malaysia should have seen him follow home team-mate Mark Webber in the infamous ‘Multi-21’ incident.
Sebastian apologised in the aftermath, but by the time the circus arrived in China he’d changed his tune, saying: “The bottom line is I was racing, I was faster, I passed him, I won.”
Booed on the podium at several races afterwards, he entered the summer break with four victories in the first nine races.
After the break? No one else had a chance. Vettel and Red Bull dominated proceedings winning each of the final nine events. Even wrapping up the title in India with three races to spare didn’t slow his progress as he cemented his place in the history books.
Alberto Ascari – 1952/53
Seven or nine? Technicalities determine how you view Ascari’s success in the early 1950s.
Piero Taruffi took the opening win in ‘52, a race skipped by Alberto as he was qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. Upon his return to Europe Ascari dominated an almost perfect season, securing pole in all but the British GP, setting fastest laps in every event and winning all remaining races. Officially he won the title by 12 points over Guiseppe Farina, on a best scores basis, but his actual tally was a huge 26.5 better than his closest challenger.
Ascari’s dominance continued in ‘53. He won the season-opening Argentine GP as well as races at Zandvoort and Spa in June.
The Indy 500 was a part of the World Championship at this time, despite generally being ignored by racers from Europe. Whether you tally Ascari’s streak at seven or nine depends on whether you include the stateside event.
Either way the run definitively ended at the exhilarating French GP at Reims in July. As a young Mike Hawthorn took victory for Ferrari.
The Italian won all seven races he entered in ’52 and five in ’53, taking victory in every single World Championship Grand Prix in the 12 months from June ’52-53.
That is why he is considered one of the best of all-time, Juan-Manuel Fangio said: “Alberto was fast – terribly fast. He was a driver of supreme skill.”
And Luigi Villoresi: “He had the clarity and presence of mind of Varzi, together with the fighting spirit of Nuvolari. There was no one better…”
Michael Schumacher – 2004
The Schumacher/Ferrari juggernaut showed no signs of slowing in 2004 as the German secured his fifth consecutive title and seventh overall.
The reigning champion dominated the season winning 13 of the 18 races in the newly expanded calendar. He took seven victories from the Nürburgring in May to Hungary in August and wrapped up the championship with four races to spare in Belgium: “I would have preferred to take the title with a win but it was not possible,” he says in Christopher Hilton’s Michael Schumacher. Team-mate Rubens Barrichello took two wins at Shanghai and Monza (where Michael spun, rejoined in 15th but hauled himself up to second) before Schumacher was back on the top step in Japan. The season consisted of 1,122 laps with Michael leading 683 – 60.8% of the total.
Michael Schumacher – 2000/01
The dominance of Michael at Ferrari was only just beginning in 2000. Pushed hard by double world champion Mika Häkkinen, it took a late-season surge to secure Ferrari’s first title since 1979. The run started at Monza, an emotional weekend where Schumacher equalled Ayrton Senna’s 41 Grand Prix victories. At the post-race press conference Schumacher broke into tears. He later said, “I was thinking of Ayrton, a driver I really admired, and I had those memories of Imola in 1994 and it was all too much for me.”
At Suzuka his victory over Häkkinen secured the title and he finished with a win at Sepang.
The momentum continued into 2001, with a comfortable victory in Melbourne and again at Sepang, now an early season event.
He had the ’01 title wrapped up with four races left to run, broke the records for points scored during a career and in an individual season, surpassed Alain Prost’s 51 career wins and was the first back-to-back Ferrari champion since Ascari. The incredible run had begun.
Jack Brabham – 1960
Brabham and Cooper clinched the 1959 title at the final race at Sebring, with Jack famously pushing his car over the line to finish fourth and secure the championship.
In 1960 Cooper won with Bruce McLaren first time out, before the Australian took five straight from the Dutch to the Portuguese Grands Prix, securing back-to-back titles in that race.
One of the five was the tragic Belgian GP, back at Spa after a year’s absence. Brabham laid an early marker down on Friday, lapping at an average of 137 m.p.h., seven seconds faster than 1958. Things took a turn for the worse on Saturday, as Moss and Michael Taylor escaped serious crashes with injuries, but Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey were both killed after being thrown out of their cars in separate incidents during the race. Jack later recalled in The Jack Brabham Story: “that Belgian GP weekend was best forgotten.”
Brabham might have won more, but the British teams boycotted the next round at Monza as organisers announced the combined road and banking circuit would be used.
Jim Clark – 1965
The man to beat in the 1.5-litre era, 1965 was Clark’s greatest year. His level of domination exceeded Formula 1, with the Scot winning the Indy 500 in May, the Tasman Cup, the French and British Formula 2 championships, two non-championship Grands Prix, two British Saloon Car Championship class wins, and of course the F1 World Championship.
In fact he took six of the first seven races, Graham Hill winning at Monte Carlo, which Clark had missed to compete at Indy.
The Lotus 38 was the first rear-engined winner at Indy and Clark the first non-American winner in 49 years. AJ Foyt started on pole but Clark led the first lap, and quickly pulled away, leading 190 of the race’s 200 laps. He is the only driver to date to win the Indy 500 and the F1 World Championship in the same year, a feat unlikely to be repeated.
Sadly Clark’s incredible season would see him win his second and final title in Formula 1. An underpowered Lotus in ’66 and reliability problems in ’67 led to success for Brabham, and that awful day at Hockenheim in ’68 robbed the world of one of its greatest talents.
Nigel Mansell – 1992
McLaren had ruled the roost, with four straight titles leading up to ‘92, but with a reliable FW14B Williams were unstoppable.
Mansell won the season’s first five races and eight of the first ten. Victory in his home British Grand Prix caused a track invasion, with DSJ writing: “Mansell had driven a searing race, stamping his real authority on his number one position at Williams-Renault,” as he became the most successful British driver in F1.
The title was wrapped up with five races left to run, giving Britain its first world champion since James Hunt and ‘Our Nige’ redemption for that tyre failure in Adelaide ‘86.
It should have been a golden time for Williams and Mansell, but Prost, sitting out 1992 after being sacked by Ferrari and paid not to drive, quickly signed with the team for 1993. His contract blocked Senna who had offered to drive for free; such was his determination to get into the best car, a knock-on of which meant a retraction of the substantial offer made to Mansell. The new World Champion raced in CART in 1993, and became the only driver to hold both Formula 1 and CART titles at the same time, as the F1 championship had not yet been decided when he lifted the latter crown.
Michael Schumacher – 2004
The same year that Michael won seven races, and his record seventh title, the German also won five straight to open the season.
The only blip in what could have been 13 consecutive victories was Jarno Trulli’s only win in F1 at Monte Carlo. Schumacher was leading, albeit as he hadn’t yet made a pit stop, when a safety car came out. Behind this there was a bizarre incident between Schumacher and the lap-down Juan-Pablo Montoya. In the tunnel Michael braked heavily, Montoya failed to notice and ran into the leader, turning him into the barriers and causing his retirement.
Lewis Hamilton – 2014
Mercedes was simply the team to beat as F1 entered the new V6 turbocharged hybrid engine period.
Without team orders to hold them back Hamilton had five wins and Rosberg four in the season’s first 11 races. Rosberg led the championship heading into the summer break, but an increasingly fractious relationship between he and Hamilton broke down spectacularly at Spa where a ‘clear-the-air’ meeting failed to unite the drivers.
As Nico tried to pass around the outside of Les Combes, he made contact with Hamilton. Post-race Mercedes rallied around Lewis, who informed the press that Rosberg had admitted he chose not to avoid contact to prove a point. Mark Hughes wrote: “From a racing perspective there isn’t a good guy or bad guy here; it’s just racing. From the team’s perspective there definitely is – and the bad guy isn’t Hamilton.”
Lewis went on to win five in a row and six of the last seven to wrap up his second world championship.
Nico Rosberg – 2015/16
After Hamilton secured the 2015 title in Austin the momentum swung Nico’s way. He won the final three races while Hamilton grew frustrated with the team – at Mexico he questioned an order to pit: “I think that’s the wrong call, but I am coming in.”
Publicly Lewis smiled and reminded everyone he was a three-time world champion, but Rosberg had found his groove.
New clutch regulations have tripped up Hamilton in both races in 2016 with poor starts causing him him to fall into the sort of positions where he can’t control his own destiny. Rosberg gleefully romped to victory in Australia and Bahrain and is brimming with confidence, while his team-mate is left trying to figure out where it all went wrong.
History shows that this sort of run should see Nico Rosberg march on to his first world championship, but he is up against one of the all-time greats in Lewis Hamilton.
The question simply is: Will Lewis find his groove and roll on to another title, or is 2016 an off year in which Nico has the chance to claim the title he feels he deserves?
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