F1 proved that it could adapt to the most challenging circumstances last season, delivering a 17-race calendar despite the upheaval caused by COVID-19. Plans for 2021 are even more ambitious, and could lead to several F1 records being broken throughout the year.
Many of these records are within touching distance of Lewis Hamilton, who surpassed Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 grand prix wins in 2020 en route to equalling the German driver’s tally of seven world championships.
Now that Hamilton lays claim to various records outright, he’ll have the chance to push these benchmarks out even further every time he takes to the track this year.
But it isn’t just Hamilton and Mercedes that have records in their sights: an influx of new drivers both young and old could secure their own F1 records in 2021, some of which are desirable accolades and others that aren’t.
Most world championships: Michael Schumacher & Lewis Hamilton – 7
Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton are statistically the most successful F1 drivers of all time, having racked up seven world drivers’ titles apiece. Both have won their championships with two constructors: Schumacher with Benetton (1994, 1995) and Ferrari (2000-2004), and Hamilton with McLaren (2008) and Mercedes (2014, 2015, 2017-2020).
Having signed a one-year contract with Mercedes for 2021, Hamilton has the chance to win a record eighth drivers’ championship this season. Having prevailed in six of the last seven seasons and in the last four in a row, the British driver is the odds-on favourite once more, especially if Mercedes produce the fastest car again.
Most constructors’ titles in a row: Mercedes – 7
Ferrari won six consecutive constructors’ titles between 1999 and 2004, building on the previous best of four in a row by McLaren between 1988 and 1991. Statistically, Ferrari is comfortably the most successful F1 team ever, although Mercedes surpassed its record for consecutive titles in 2020. It also scooped the drivers’ title in all seven of those years; the first time the double has been done so many times on the spin.
Mercedes has won every world title since the beginning of the V6 turbo-hybrid era in 2014, and given that the regulations are broadly similar to those of last season, it looks likely that an eighth constructors’ crown will follow in 2021. Red Bull will likely pose the strongest threat, having won the final grand prix of 2020 in dominant fashion.
Most grands prix wins: Lewis Hamilton – 95
Lewis Hamilton equalled and then surpassed Michael Schumacher’s record for the most F1 wins in 2020, finishing the season on 95 victories. His 165 podium finishes to date is also a record in the sport.
Having taken the chequered flag 11 times in each of the last three seasons, it seems unlikely in the extreme that Hamilton won’t win more races in 2021. The milestone of 100 grands prix victories is also on the horizon.
Most pole positions: Lewis Hamilton – 98
Lewis Hamilton set the record for the most pole positions at the Italian Grand Prix in 2017, edging past Michael Schumacher’s previous best of 68 poles. He’s been extending his lead in this category ever since, having been fastest in qualifying on 98 separate occasions to date: that equates to being on pole at 9.47% of all the F1 championship races ever held.
He could land his 100th pole position as early as the second race of 2021, currently due to take place at Imola.
Most wins without world title: Stirling Moss – 16 wins
For a little while Nico Rosberg had won the most races without having won the world title, but his success in 2016 – which was followed by his shock retirement from F1 – handed that record back to Stirling Moss. The British driver – who passed away at the age of 90 last year – is widely regarded as the best driver not to have been crowned world champion. Moss won 16 races between 1955 and 1961, but never finished higher than second in the drivers’ standings, doing so on four occasions.
Two current drivers could realistically take this record from Moss in 2021: Max Verstappen has 10 wins to his name but no world title, while Valtteri Bottas has won nine grands prix. Verstappen has never won more than three races in a season and Bottas never more than four, so only a major step up in form will put them on course for Moss’s infamous crown.
Most races in a season: 21 (2016, 2018 & 2019)
F1 revealed a 23-race calendar for 2021 late last year, although the season-opener in Australia has already been postponed and the Chinese Grand Prix doesn’t feature at all. However, F1 president Stefano Domenicali believes the sport’s “flexible approach” will allow it to fulfil all 23 races despite the ongoing global pandemic.
Delivering a record-breaking calendar in the current circumstances will be quite some achievement given that F1’s busiest seasons in normal times (2016, 2018 and 2019) saw a total of 21 races. The sport’s bosses may be outwardly confident, but cancellations remain a very real possibility as travel restrictions evolve from country to country.
Most laps led: Michael Schumacher – 5,111
Hamilton may have won more grands prix than Michael Schumacher, but the German driver has still led more laps than Hamilton in his career. Schumacher led for a grand total of 5,111 laps over 306 race starts, while Hamilton has led 5,099 laps having started 266 races.
As he’s only 12 laps behind, it’s extremely likely that Hamilton will usurp Schumacher here in 2021.
Most wins at one grand prix: Michael Schumacher & Lewis Hamilton – 8
Michael Schumacher was a force to be reckoned with at the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, winning there a total of eight times between 1994 and 2006. This included victory in 2004, in which Ferrari employed an unusual four-stop strategy to overhaul polesitter Fernando Alonso.
Lewis Hamilton has shown similar strength at the Hungaroring, winning on eight occasions between 2007 and 2020. The Hungarian Grand Prix is scheduled to take place on 1 August: victory then would be Hamilton’s ninth success in 15 races in Hungary.
Most pole positions at one grand prix: Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher & Lewis Hamilton – 8
Ayrton Senna was the first driver to take pole at the same grand prix eight times, finishing fastest in qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix all but twice between 1985 and 1994. The last of these came the day before he lost his life on the notoriously dangerous Imola circuit.
Michael Schumacher went on to match Senna’s qualifying feat at the Japanese Grand Prix, grabbing pole eight times between 1994 and 2004 at Suzuka.
Lewis Hamilton equalled the record with his eighth pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in 2019, although he was denied the chance to go for his ninth pole in 2020 after the race was cancelled at the eleventh hour due to public health concerns. He might well get a shot at pole number nine in 2021, but only if the race takes place on its rescheduled date of 21 November.
Most podiums without a world title: Rubens Barrichello – 68
Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello was a podium finisher 68 times in his eighteen-year F1 career, making the top three for Jordan, Stewart, Ferrari, Honda and Brawn in that time. He also won 11 races, twice finishing second to teammate Michael Schumacher in the drivers’ championship. Despite all that success, Barrichello holds the record for the most podium appearances without having been crowned world champion.
That record could pass to Valtteri Bottas in 2021: the Finn has stood on the podium 56 times to date, finishing runner-up in the drivers’ standings in each of the last two seasons. The Finn was on the podium in 11 of last season’s 17 races in 2020, so he could well accrue the 14 podiums required to pass Barrichello.
Best debut result for a Schumacher: Michael & Ralf – DNF
The Schumacher name is revered in F1, and while it was Michael who saw almost all of the success his brother Ralf won six grands prix of his own and finished on the podium 27 times.
However, neither Michael nor Ralf finished their first races: the former qualified seventh on his debut at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1991 but didn’t complete a single lap of the race, while the latter qualified in 12th at the Australian Grand Prix in 1997 before retiring less than two laps in.
So if Mick Schumacher completes just two laps on his F1 debut for Haas at the Bahrain Grand Prix in March, he will have outperformed both his father and his uncle. As F1 cars are so reliable these days, the rookie has a very low bar to clear here.
Longest time between race wins: Riccardo Patrese – 2,402 days
Italian driver Riccardo Patrese holds the record for the longest amount of time between successive race wins in F1, having won the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami in 1983 and then the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in 1990 a mere 2,402 days later.
Only one driver could threaten this in 2021: Fernando Alonso. The two-time champion’s last F1 victory came at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2013, and 2,877 days will have elapsed when the 2021 season gets underway in Bahrain on 28 March. Unless we see another freak result akin to Pierre Gasly’s win at the Italian Grand Prix or Sergio Perez’s victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020, Alonso is unlikely to take this record driving for a Renault team that finished fifth in the constructors’ standings last season.
Longest time between first and last wins: Kimi Raikkonen – 5,691 days
5,691 days separate Kimi Raikkonen’s first F1 victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2003 and his most recent win at the US Grand Prix in 2018. The Finn has also seen the most races go by between wins, with 114 grands prix separating his win at the Australian Grand Prix in 2013 and that victory at the Circuit of the Americas.
Raikkonen could extend the first of those records in 2021, although Fernando Alonso could surpass him by winning the Bahrain Grand Prix on 28 March. Victory there would mark 6,462 days since Alonso’s maiden win at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2003. Given the form of Alfa Romeo and Renault respectively, neither situation is likely.
Youngest pole, win, fastest lap and led every lap: Sebastian Vettel – 24 years, 119 days
Sebastian Vettel was 24 years and 119 days old when he won the Indian Grand Prix in 2011, becoming the youngest driver ever to secure pole position, set the fastest lap of the race and lead every lap en route to the chequered flag. Vettel was also the youngest to grab pole and a race win (2008 Italian Grand Prix) and also pole, victory and the fastest lap of a race (2009 British Grand Prix).
Now 23 years of age, Max Verstappen cannot beat the earliest of those records but still has a shot at the latest. He has won 10 grands prix to date but has only sat on pole position three times, going on to win on the two most recent occasions; the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2019 and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year.
Lando Norris, George Russell, Lance Stroll, Charles Leclerc, Yuki Tsunoda, Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher are all young enough to challenge for this record in 2021, but none of them are likely to do so based on their teams’ form from last season.
Most race wins in a season: Michael Schumacher & Sebastian Vettel – 13
Michael Schumacher won 13 of the 18 races in 2004 in his record-breaking season with Ferrari, and nine years later Sebastian Vettel matched the record by taking the chequered 13 times, including nine victories in a row after the summer break.
Technically anyone could win 14 races this season, although only Hamilton looks likely to do so given Mercedes’ dominance in recent years and Hamilton’s record over teammate Bottas. The seven-time champion has previously won 11 races in a season on four separate occasions.
Most podiums in a season: Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel & Lewis Hamilton – 17
Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have all finished on the podium 17 times in a single season; Schumacher in 2002, Vettel in 2011 and Hamilton in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.
For anyone to go one better this season, they’ll need a front-running car with bulletproof reliability, as well as for all 23 races on the calendar to survive the threat posed by COVID-19.
Fastest qualifying lap: Lewis Hamilton – 164.267mph
In qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix last season, Lewis Hamilton set the highest average speed ever recorded over a single lap in F1, clocking 164.267mph on his way to pole position. The accolade very nearly went to Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas however, with the Finn less than a tenth of a second behind in Q3 at Monza.
Although major rule changes designed to make closer racing easier have been delayed until 2022, less significant regulation updates are likely to make cars slower in 2021 than they were last season. Cuts in the amount of floor area teams can exploit to generate downforce will reduce cornering speeds, and more robust Pirelli tyre compounds are also likely to have a negative effect on lap times.
All things considered, don’t expect any lap records to fall in 2021.
Most races as teammates: Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello – 102 (Ferrari, 2000-2005)
Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello raced together for six consecutive seasons for Ferrari between 2000 and 2005, appearing in 102 grands prix together as teammates in that time (not including the two times Barrichello failed to make the race start).
No pairing will surpass that mark in 2021, although Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas could get very close if the 23-race season is fulfilled: they’ve started 78 grands prix together since 2017, with Hamilton missing just the one race (the Sakhir Grand Prix last year) after the Briton caught COVID-19. 23 races in 2021 would bring them up to 101 races as teammates, although neither yet has a contract to drive for Mercedes in 2022.