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Formula 1

Every current driver's first F1 win ranked

by Edd Straw
8 min read

In the wake of Lando Norris becoming the 12th driver on the grid to claim a first Formula 1 victory, we’ve decided to rank those maiden wins based on the quality of each driver’s performance.

There’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ Formula 1 race win, so all 12 of these drivers obviously put in superb drives to close out their triumphs.

However, it is possible to choose between them based on their own execution of the race, the role of luck and also the complexity of the grand prix itself.

12 Pierre Gasly

2020 Italian Grand Prix

This was one of the most emotional and unexpected first victories of the 21st century. But while Gasly did a good job in to win for AlphaTauri, it was actually not his best weekend of a strong season performance-wise.

He left time on the table in qualifying thanks to failing to make the most of his one set of fresh softs in Q3, so started 10th. He had a huge slice of fortune when he pitted just before the safety car, which catapulted him up to third - where he took the standing restart after the red flag caused by Charles Leclerc’s crash.

He then dispatched Lance Stroll, who was better-placed to win than Gasly, at the restart then picked up the lead when Lewis Hamilton served a penalty. From there, he controlled the race outstandingly.

11 Esteban Ocon

2021 Hungarian Grand Prix

Ocon was lumbered with a very-midfield Alpine at the Hungaroring, but Valtteri Bottas’s infamous demolition of the front of the field at the start, combined with Hamilton not pitting at the end of the restart formation lap, handed him the initiative.

Ocon drove well to ensure he covered the chasing Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel, which included surviving an undercut attempt, but key to his win was team-mate Fernando Alonso’s brilliant defence against the recovering Hamilton. This paused the Mercedes driver’s chase of Ocon for 11 laps and ensured a victory for Alpine.

10 Carlos Sainz

2022 British Grand Prix

Sainz qualified on pole position, but despite driving a good race he required two slices of good fortune to win.

The first was unavoidable given the race-pace advantage of the Red Bull, as Max Verstappen breezed into the lead only to have to pit with damage sustained when he collected debris from Yuki Tsunoda’s clash with AlphaTauri team-mate Gasly.

The second was thanks to team-mate Leclerc being faster in race conditions. Sainz played the team game and let him past, but when Ferrari opted to leave Leclerc out under the safety car Sainz ended up behind but on a vastly quicker tyre.

Sainz then rightly rejected the instruction to hold position and act as a rear gunner, famously telling the team to “stop inventing” before passing Leclerc to win with Ferrari’s blessing.

9 Lando Norris

2024 Miami Grand Prix

While Norris drove superbly once he had the lead for the safety-car restart and pulled away to consolidate the lead, prior to that point he hadn’t made the most of the upgraded McLaren in Miami.

He underachieved in both qualifying sessions that weekend and prior to the mid-race safety car in the grand prix was battling hard to salvage a podium finish by running long in the first stint.

However, once given the break he showed his quality and took a much-deserved first victory.

8 Valtteri Bottas

2017 Russian Grand Prix

Bottas’s first Mercedes victory was notable for two reasons, despite being a relatively straightforward one.

Firstly, he did a better job than team-mate Hamilton when it came to making the most of the tyres that Mercedes struggled with that weekend. That allowed him to start ahead of Hamilton, albeit only third on the grid.

Secondly, he nailed the start - and that wasn’t an area of strength for Bottas early in his first season with Mercedes.

This allowed him to get ahead of Ferrari duo Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel and control the race from the front.

7 Charles Leclerc

2019 Belgian Grand Prix

This was a crushingly dominant performance in terms of peak pace, as Leclerc took pole position by a massive three quarters of a second over Vettel.

Things got a little more difficult in the race with Hamilton showing strong speed in the Mercedes, but Leclerc survived a brief off at Les Combes and resisted all pressure from behind.

It was an emotional win for Leclerc, who dedicated his victory to the memory of Anthoine Hubert, who lost his life in an F2 crash the previous day.

6 George Russell

2022 Brazilian Grand Prix

Russell actually won twice on the weekend of his first victory given it was a sprint event, taking the Saturday race from third on the grid then leading the grand prix effectively from start to finish from the resulting pole position.

He only lost the lead for five laps thanks to team-mate Hamilton running longer.

A Hamilton/Verstappen clash helped make his life easier, although a late safety car meant Russell had to drive precisely in the final blast to the chequered flag with his fellow Mercedes driver pressuring him.

5 Daniel Ricciardo

2014 Canadian Grand Prix

Both Mercedes drivers hit trouble in Montreal, which created the opportunity for someone to end its winning run at the start of the 1.6-litre turbo hybrid era.

With Hamilton out and Nico Rosberg hobbled by the loss of MGU-K power, it was Red Bull newcomer Ricciardo who came through to win.

However, it wasn’t simply a case of driving round behind the two Mercedes and picking up the pieces. Ricciardo ran sixth early on but problems for the two Williams cars and overcutting team-mate Vettel at the second stops thanks to a superb in-lap allowed him to make gains.

The key pass was on one-stopping Sergio Perez’s Force India late on, which gave him a clear run at passing the underpowered Rosberg.

4 Fernando Alonso

2003 Hungarian Grand Prix

Alonso made the most of the nimble Renault R23 to take his first victory with a dominant performance, breaking F1’s longstanding record for the youngest grand prix winner at just 22 years and 26 days - a record he has since lost.

Starting from pole position, he expected a tough race but as he explained in the post-race press conference, it proved a lot easier than he’d anticipated.

“The first two or three laps I had [Jaguar driver] Mark Webber in the mirror and on the eighth or ninth lap I asked the team where are the others,” said Alonso.

“And they told me 15 seconds away and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m very fast now’.

“The first stint was very important for the result of the race and I pushed quite a lot and had a big advantage and big gap and took the race more slowly after that.”

Despite being able to take it easy, he still lapped reigning world champion Michael Schumacher and team-mate Jarno Trulli on his way to victory - proving he and the Renault team he would win his two titles with were becoming a force to be reckoned with.

3 Lewis Hamilton

2007 Canadian Grand Prix

On only his sixth F1 start, Hamilton took his first win from pole position at a track he would become synonymous with, demonstrating just how good he was at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

While he led effectively from start to finish, only briefly losing first place when Ferrari driver Felipe Massa ran longer before his first pitstop, it wasn’t straightforward for Hamilton.

He had to see off McLaren team-mate Alonso at the first corner after a so-so start, with the Spaniard’s attempt to go around the outside leading to a brief excursion that dropped him behind Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber.

To add to the complication, he also had to hold the lead through no less than four safety-car restarts in a chaotic race, with Robert Kubica’s massive accident the most memorable incident.

2 Sergio Perez

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

Perez needed the Mercedes drivers, Bottas and stand-in Russell, to have trouble to win, but considering he was clobbered into a spin on the first lap by Leclerc it was a remarkable recovery.

A safety car meant he could make his stop at the end of the lap and embark on what was effectively a one-stopper from the back. To make that strategy work he needed to make progress in traffic. He did that well, with important passes to clear Alex Albon, Stroll and Ocon.

He ran third behind the two Mercedes when Williams stand-in Jack Aitken spun and wiped out his front wing. That led to the safety car being deployed and Perez took the lead while a Mercedes comedy of errors cost both Bottas and Russell.

Perez was running to the end on older rubber when Russell, who was on fresh tyres unlike Bottas, suffered a puncture while on a late charge that might, or might not, have allowed him to attack the Racing Point driver late on.

1 Max Verstappen

2016 Spanish Grand Prix

The cards had to fall in Verstappen’s favour to win, in the form of the collision between Mercedes duo Hamilton and Rosberg on the opening lap and running a two-stop strategy that allowed him to jump team-mate Ricciardo.

But the fact this was Verstappen’s first race for Red Bull after his sudden promotion from Toro Rosso, that he was only 18 years old, and his need to absorb pressure from veteran Ferrari driver Raikkonen to win makes this one of the most remarkable first wins in F1 history.

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