Vettel makes best start to a season for a Ferrari driver since 2004

2017 Bahrain Grand Prix stats and facts

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With two wins and a second place from the first three races of the 2017 F1 season, Sebastian Vettel has made the best start to a championship for a Ferrari driver in 13 years.

Not since Michael Schumacher swept to victory in the first three races of 2004 has Ferrari been in with this good a chance of one of its drivers taking the title after three races. Schumacher’s third win came in the first ever Bahrain Grand Prix and he went on to win the next two races as well.

Vettel notched up the 44th victory of his career and his third in Bahrain. He is now tied with Fernando Alonso as the most successful driver in this race. They have both contributed to Ferrari’s five wins at this track which is the most of any team, two more than Mercedes. This was their first since Alonso’s in 2010.

Meanwhile the driver of car 44 took the 33rd fastest lap of his career. But he was beaten to pole position by his team mate in number 77.

Bottas has never been out-qualified in Bahrain
Valtteri Bottas became the 98th different driver to qualify on pole position. This is a slightly rarer achievement than winning a race, which 106 different drivers have done. He joins Nico Hulkenberg as the only other driver in F1 today to have started a race from pole but never won one.

The last Finnish driver to start a race from pole position was Heikki Kovalainen in the 2008 British Grand Prix. A Finn also started the previous race from pole: the 2008 French Grand Prix was Raikkonen’s last start from the sharp end.

That was Raikkonen’s 128th grand prix start. Last weekend was his 254th, so if he doesn’t take pole at Sochi or the Circuit de Catalunya he will have gone without a pole for the last half of his career.

Bottas continued his 100% record of out-qualifying his team mate in Bahrain and ended Hamilton’s run of six consecutive pole positions, which he began last year. The all-time record remains Ayrton Senna’s eight poles in a row, but Hamilton came close to beating it. Had Nico Rosberg not out-qualified him by 0.013 seconds at Suzuka last year, and Bottas by 0.023 seconds on Saturday, this would have been Hamilton’s record-breaking ninth pole in a row.

Mercedes continued their run of consecutive pole positions, reaching 18 in a row. That leaves them five short of their previous best and six behind the all-time record, set by Williams from 1992 to 1993. It was also the 30th consecutive race featuring at least one Mercedes on the front row.

For the third race running, drivers from five different teams were eliminated in Q1. None of them drove for Renault, who got both their cars into Q3 for the first time as a team since Belgium 2015 (as Lotus). The last time two Renaults appeared in Q3 was the 2011 Korean Grand Prix, when Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov were the team’s drivers.

Renault’s Jolyon Palmer made it into Q3 for the first time in his F1 career. However he remains one of four drivers who entered every race who haven’t out-qualified their team mate yet. The others are Raikkonen, Stoffel Vandoorne and Lance Stroll.

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Stroll’s difficult debut season went on
It’s been a tough but brief first three races for the Williams driver. Stroll has done fewer racing laps in three grands prix than Pascal Wehrlein has in one. The highest position he’s occupied in a race is 13th, but team mate Felipe Massa has run higher than that in 145 of his 169 racing laps so far.

Stroll is yet to see the chequered flag as well. The same goes for Fernando Alonso, though he was at least classified when he retired his car on Sunday. Whether his MCL32 was healthy enough to complete the final laps is another matter.

Alonso made headlines ahead of the race by announcing his plans to compete in the Indianapolis 500. He hasn’t managed 500 racing miles at the wheel of his McLaren yet: he totalled 737.551 kilometres (458.268 miles) over the first three races of the season.

Both Force Indias did reach the finish and did so in the points. Sergio Perez took his 13th points finish in a row, giving him one of the longest streaks of any driver whose never won the championship. Daniel Riccairdo’s 17 in a row ended when his car broke down in Australia. Perhaps more impressively, Carlos Reutemann managed 15 in a row back when points were only awarded down to sixth place.

Esteban Ocon took his third points finish in a row, all of which have come from tenth place. That is at least preferable to the record of another Esteban, Gutierrez, who ended last year point-less having finished eleventh five times.

Eleventh place was taken by Pascal Wehrlein yesterday as he made a successful return from injury which included out-qualifying his new Sauber team mate Marcus Ericsson by more than half a second. His race pace was not as quick as he was the only driver to run a one-stop strategy. However he demonstrated consistency by setting the same quickest time on two different laps.

Vettel, obviously
Finally, Vettel obviously feels he spends most of his press conferences stating the obvious, as he used the word “obviously” no fewer than 14 times in Sunday’s official media briefing. This seemed worth pointing out. Obviously.

Review the year so far in statistics here:

Have you spotted any other interesting stats and facts from the Bahrain Grand Prix? Share them in the comments.

2017 Bahrain Grand Prix

Browse all 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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64 comments on “Vettel makes best start to a season for a Ferrari driver since 2004”

  1. considering how close it was to the end of the race, i really doubt fernando deliberately stopped

    1. In the Notebook, Ted said someone in the Spanish press told him that Alonso would push 100%, but if he wasn’t in the points at the end he would retire on the last lap. However, it’s pretty unclear whether this is just stirring or not. It would be strange if McLaren-Honda couldn’t find any faults, though.

  2. Alternative Headline: Mercedes make worst strategy calls to start of a season since 1955


  3. He doesn’t help his own case by whining on the radio constantly, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, he’s no quitter.

    1. @george

      Well, in my view, what Alonso does now on the radio and interviews after the races is well calculated. He is in his last year with Honda/McLaren and now he maximizes the pressure on them while at the same time showing other teams that he still has it. He really really pushes I am sure of that. And either Honda gets their act together in a spectacular way until summer or he will be gone. He won’t take any chances with Honda next year anymore, at least if he has a better option. Like Mercedes, or Ferrari or I don’t know maybe even RB. Though I think the last one is almost impossible, and Ferrari seems to be not really very likely either.. So maybe this is the last year we see Fernando in F1.

      So letting loose his passionate spanish nature especially on the radio is just what he thinks to be the right thing to do now. That is no accident.

      1. I would not say it is impossible for Alonso to go Red Bull.

        Ferrari and Merc are less likely due to possible conflict within the team if they took on Alonso. I have seen a couple of articles suggesting he has some preliminary talks with Reanult (no idea how legitimate the sources are though). I think if Alonso is going to leave Mclaren it will be for either Red Bull or Renault. The latter is more obvious to see as Renault would happily replace Palmer with Alonso (I assume, no disrespect to Palmer but Alonso is one of the greats). Now in the case of Red Bull I think Ricciardo is less motivated this season (in my opinion) since Red Bull have not started a season, that they tipped to be very competitive in, very well. Furthermore, Verstappen may become slightly favoured at Red Bull the way Vettel was in 2010-13. Therefore, I believe Ricciardo could jump ship, possibly to Ferrari to partner Vettel (Vettel has said he wouldn’t mind, and it seems more and more that Raikonnen will retire this year). This creates the opening for Alonso.

        I do think that Red Bull would take Alonso over their junior/torro rosso drivers. It would be a shame for Sainz as I think he has real potential but he has time on his side.

        1. @khanistanf1

          Yes you are right it is not impossible. But I think they would rather take Sainz. Also yes Renault would be good for him but they also need to step up their game considerably until summer I guess for him to be a real option. It is sure going to be super interesting where Fernando will end up next year. My current prediction, well unfortuntely, is that he will retire because:

          Merc: Toto wants to keep Bot, and I really doubt Ham wants him in his Team
          Fer: I don’t know if Vettel and/or Ferrari want/accept him there, I think they do not..
          RB: As I said, I think Sainz would be chosen over Fernando even if Ric goes to Ferrari
          McLaren: Honda will not get their act together until summer
          Renault: Probably won’t make enough progress until summer, though maybe he trusts them to do good job over the next years. So if he doesn’t retire I think he will be at Renault.

          But that is just my guess…

  4. Finally, Vettel obviously feels he spends most of his press conferences stating the obvious, as he used the word “obviously” no fewer than 14 times in Sunday’s official media briefing. This seemed worth pointing out. Obviously.

    Honestly! What are we doing here?

    1. Michael Brown (@)
      17th April 2017, 13:54

      For sure.

      1. Bwoah.. I mean…

        1. mark jackson
          18th April 2017, 2:56

          …looking forward to just focusing in this race.

    2. Sainz was playing some good ping pong with Stroll.

    3. Obviously Keith felt it was worth pointing out. Which should have been obvious since you quoted his article.

      Unless you are oblivious, which is a similar word with an opposite meaning.

    4. @dan_the_mclaren_fan Really funny, I don’t mean to pick on multi lingual speakers but there are a few drivers out there that sound soulless and a bit like broken records.
      @mbr-9 are you quoting Massa, you must be quoting Massa, he’s another one.

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        18th April 2017, 4:29

        @peartree Well, I mean, obviously.

    5. Bwoah, obviously we are here for ping pong.

  5. For the third race running, drivers from five different teams were eliminated in Q1

    When people complain about the field being strung out too much and the gaps between teams being too large, they aren’t looking at the back half of the grid. Can anyone remember a season where 3 races in we weren’t sure who was the worst driver or which was the worst car?

    1. Stroll is the worst driver, Sauber is the worst car.

      1. Pretty much sums it up.

      2. @rethla

        Stroll was taken out innocently from the last two races and hadn’t got much chance to show improvements from Australia on, which, given the early stage of his career, are to be expected. He certainly is a candidate, but so are Ericsson and Palmer.
        And in Bahrain, the Sauber looked considerably stronger than the McLaren, especially when considering who is driving the respective cars. Now on other tracks (that need more downforce and are less power-dependent) it is probably the McLaren that is faster, but that only matters when it makes it to the finish-line. So right now Sauber and McLaren are battling.

        1. @crammond
          I wouldnt call it “Stroll was taken innocently out” when he has failed to notice and given room for a car two races in a row. Mr. tunnelvision cant continue to blame others when it always happens to him. Sure i will give him the benefit of doubt since its “only” 3 races in but he havnt proven anything beyond being the worst driver on the grid so thats his current ranking no matter how you look at it. The main difference to Palmer, Magnussen, Wherlein, Ericsson, Vandoorne etc. is that Stroll is driving a car that even Massa can get results from.

          1. @rethla


            absolutely – being “innocent” doesn’t mean much when he’s out of the race. At another point, Alonso went wide in T1 when Palmer and Kvyat were fighting it out into the same corner. Good drivers allow for the stupidity of others.

            I would say though that Stroll’s mom and sister are pretty hot ;), so it’s cool he’s on the grid lol.

          2. having said that, I’m not sure if he’s the worse, but the one I personally like least – Palmer.

          3. @rethla Why would Stroll leave room for a driver coming from out of nowhere? Why wouldn’t he take a normal racing line and maximize the corner that was his with which to do so? Yesterday Sainz was the worst driver on the track having suffered brain fade.

          4. Because DNF @robbie.

          5. @robbie
            Yeh why would Stroll leave room and avoid a DNF…

            This aint about leaving room or not though, Stroll doesnt even see the other cars on track with him so he cant take the descision to leave room or not.

      3. Palmer is definately way worse than Stroll, the worst driver since Yuji Ide I’d say

    2. Can anyone remember a season where 3 races in we weren’t sure who was the worst driver or which was the worst car?

      I don’t care what anyone says – Max Chilton is still the worst driver! HAHA

  6. Seb has made the equal best start to his season as well. Two wins and a second place, as in 2011.

    Hopefully a good portent!

  7. That was Raikkonen’s 128th grand prix start. Last weekend was his 254th, so if he doesn’t take pole at Sochi or the Circuit de Catalunya he will have gone without a pole for the last half of his career.

    I don’t understand this stat… Raikkonen has participated in 254 race weekends but has only raced in 182 of them?

    1. Fukobayashi (@)
      17th April 2017, 17:43

      The last time Raikonnen was in pole position was on his 128th start. In two races time that will be the precise mid point of his career.

      1. So yesterday was his 254th start, and the 180th since last taking pole? Thanks!

        1. 126th since last taking the pole!

    2. Last race was his 254th. He last got pole in his 128th race. If he does not get pole in his next race he will have to wait until his 256th race to get pole. 256 -128 = 128. No pole next weekend means he has gone half his career to date without a pole position. OBVIOUSLY.

    3. No idea where you got 180 or 182 from, as that number isn’t even mentioned anywhere.

  8. 9 out of 12 times (75%) the winner of the Bahrain GP has gone to win that years championship. Out of the remaining three, two went to the season finale with a shot at the title (Massa 2008, Alonso 2010).

    1. Awesome stat, kinda like last year when Nico made awesome early season stats… We all shruged. But there we are WDC.

    2. Both drove for Ferrari

    3. Interesting stat. I just noticed that the 3 drivers who won the Bahrain GP but did not win the title that year all drove for Ferrari (Massa in 2007, 2008 and Alonso in 2010). Only Michael Schumacher in 2004 is the example of a Ferrari driver winning Bahrain GP as well as the championship.

  9. @Just curious

    fake retirement – just listen to his radio message and watch his post race interview :)

  10. I hope that this season will be a constant fight between Vettel and Hamilton, it would be fantastic. By the way, what a beautiful car was that F2004.

    1. I think it looks pretty special as well. I don’t think it’s a million miles from the way this year’s cars look though. With the exception of the width and tyres of course.

    2. If they made cars shorter removed Twings and shark fins…. We would be looking at 2004 cars. And boy were they pretty.

      1. I hope that this season is a constant fight between Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Verstappen!

  11. Love that last caption @keithcollantine!

  12. Vettel won the race after failing to start last year’s race (at the same circuit). Excluding new and returning circuits, the last time this happened seems to have been Hungary 2007 (won by Hamilton who was not in F1 in 2006). I believe the last time a race was won by a driver who entered the previous year’s race but failed to start it was France 1997. On that occasion, the driver in question was a German driver driving for Ferrari whose DNS in 1996 was due to his engine failing on the formation lap, and who in 1997 was involved in a season-long championship battle with the driver who had finished runner-up to his own team-mate the previous year.

    1. Freaky.
      If Michael was around, I wonder if they’d talk about this kind of stuff…

  13. Michael Brown (@)
    17th April 2017, 23:45

    Something that was mentioned in the Sky broadcast: In every season that Vettel has led the championship, he won it in that season.

    1. This stat is a bit disingenuous – at no stage did he lead the 2010 championship until he won the last race of the season. If we are going to assume that he is deemed to have led the championship after the last race – then the same could be said of every single driver who ever won the championship.

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        18th April 2017, 4:28

        Taking the lead of the championship at the last round still counts. The stat means to say that Vettel never lost the championship in any season he led it.

        1. @nick101 Which would still be as opposed to say Alonso (2010) or Button (2010) or IIRC Pironi (1982)

      2. Nothing disingenuous about it. It says he won all championships he led. It doesn’t say he has to lead a championship to win.

  14. “Perhaps more impressively, Carlos Reutemann managed 15 in a row back when points were only awarded down to sixth place.”

    Not as impressive as Schumacher’s 24 consecutive points finishes from 2001 to 2003 – keeping in mind that points were only awarded up to 6th place during 2001 and 2002. Even though this changed to top 8 in 2003, the 2 points finishes ending the streak at the beginning of 2003 were both still in the top 6.

    Also more notable is that in that was a streak of 19 consecutive podiums.

    1. Obviously Schumacher has a better record, obviously.
      But honestly if you would read the article, you would have noticed the whole point of this statement…

      giving him one of the longest streaks of any driver whose never won the championship.

      Obviously Schumacher did win a championship or two.

  15. I seem to remember Schumacher saying “honestly” and “obviously” all the time too. I wonder if he’s trying to emulate more than his hero’s driving.

  16. Looking at that picture made me realise how Marlboro-esque the current triangle is on the livery.

    1. And they’ve got a guy from Marlboro as the team principal!

  17. EsTENban 10CON

    I remember how he kept finishing races 2nd last year, I think? lol
    He’s pretty consistent and solid already. He seems a very good addition to the grid. Got a lot of potential there.

  18. How many times have the german and italian anthems been played at the podium? It reminds me of the Schumacher times. Schumi won 69 times with Ferrari. Vettel has won 5 times right?

    1. And once with Toro Rosso. Total of 75 now.
      But I am not sure if there are any instances of Italian drivers winning for German teams.

      1. Thanks to Wikipedia [I’m not that old!] it appears that before the current world championship format came into being, Tazio Nuvolari won three ‘Grand Prix’ in an Auto Union.

        I think the stat is biased because, curiously, there have been few post WW2 German teams, whereas Ferrari have been ever-present.

  19. Some more from

    Vettel has given Ferrari 2 wins in the last 3 races. The last time Ferrari scored 2 wins in 3 races was in 2013, when Vettel scored the in-between win.

    Only the 4th time Vettel has won a race without starting on the front row (after Malaysia 2010, Singapore 2012, and Hungary 2015).

    Bottas came 1 lap away from tripling the number of laps he had led in his career (he had led 7 prior to this race and led 13 laps in this race).

    In all 4 hybrid-era Bahrain GPs, Mercedes have got both cars on the podium.

    Sainz’s Bahrain record – 3 races, 3 DNFs.

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