From all the host venues, to the drivers with the most wins and the team with the most podiums, we have all the statistics from Formula 1’s season-opening Grands Prix!
In 2020, Austria will become the eleventh country to have hosted a season-opening Formula 1 Grand Prix. The Red Bull Ring will be the fourteenth different circuit to have hosted the first race of the year. Brazil, South Africa and the United States have each had two different circuits which have hosted the season-opening race. Australia is the country which has hosted the curtain raiser on the most occasions, with Albert Park playing host to the Australian Grand Prix at the start of the year 22 times. Albert Park and the Autódromo Juan y Oscar Gálvez are the only circuit which have hosted more than ten season-opening races.
* 2020 season-opening venue
SEASON-OPENING RACE WINNERS
In total, 36 different drivers have won an opening race of a Formula 1 season. That list includes Luigi Musso, who shared a drive with Juan Manuel Fangio at the 1956 Argentine Grand Prix.
Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher share the record for having taken the most first wins of a Formula 1 season. They each did so six times during their careers. Ferrari hold the record as the constructor to have won the most season-opening races, with fifteen victories. Nineteen different teams have won the first race of a season.
Seven drivers have won season-opening races in consecutive seasons. Juan Manuel Fangio holds the record for most consecutive season-opening wins. He won the first race of every season between 1954 and 1957 – and impressively did so with three different teams. Fangio is the only driver to have won the first race of the season in consecutive years with different constructors.
While Fangio won the season-opening race in four consecutive years, Graham Hill (1962-64) and Michael Schumacher (2000-02) are the only other drivers to have taken more than two consecutive season-opening race wins. Alan Jones, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Sebastian Vettel are the other drivers who have taken consecutive wins at the first race of a season.
Prost and Schumacher are the only drivers to have multiple consecutive streaks as season-opening race winners.
Mika Hakkinen and Jenson Button are the only drivers to have won the season-opening race by less than a second. Hakkinen holds the record for the smallest win margin at the first race of a season. He won by finishing 0.702 seconds ahead of McLaren team-mate David Coulthard in a pre-arranged victory. On that day, every other driver finished a lap behind the McLaren pair. The other season-opening race to be won by less than a second was the 2009 Australian Grand Prix, which ended under Safety Car conditions.
Alberto Ascari, Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher are the only drivers to have won the first race of a season by over a lap. They did so at the 1953 Argentine Grand Prix, 1964 Monaco Grand Prix and 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix respectively.
SEASON OPENING RACE WINNING DRIVERS
SEASON-OPENING RACE WINNING TEAMS
35 different drivers and 19 different teams have started the first race of a Formula 1 season from pole position. Lewis Hamilton has started the first race of the year on pole position on more occasions than anyone else, having done so eight times in total – including in all of the last six years. Ferrari and McLaren are tied as the constructors to have had the most pole positions at season-opening events.
Hamilton’s current streak of six is the record for most consecutive pole positions at the season-opening race. He is one of eleven drivers to have taken pole at the first race of the year in consecutive seasons. The other drivers to do so are Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, Ayrton Senna, Jacques Villeneuve, Mika Hakkinen, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
Pole position at the season-opening race has been decided by less than a tenth of a second on fourteen occasions. The last time it happened was at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix. The closest season-opening qualifying session came at the 1970 South African Grand Prix, when Jackie Stewart and Chris Amon set identical fastest lap times.
Pole has been decided by over a second at ten season-opening Grands Prix. The largest pole margin at the first race of the season is 2.969 seconds, which is the margin by which Giancarlo Fisichella secured pole at the 2005 Australian Grand Prix. However, at that event the grid was decided by aggregate qualifying, where two single lap times were combined. The biggest pole margin at a season-opening event where only one lap time counted is 2.6 seconds, which is the margin by which Giuseppe Farina took pole for Ferrari at the 1952 Swiss Grand Prix.
Despite winning the season-opening Grand Prix six times, Alain Prost has started from the front of the grid at the first race of the season only once.
SEASON-OPENING POLESITTING TEAMS
SEASON-OPENING PODIUM FINISHERS
From Formula 1’s 70 season-opening Grands Prix, 87 different drivers and 28 teams have finished on the podium.
Lewis Hamilton holds the record for having finished in the top three in a Formula 1 season-opener on the most occasions. He has finished on the podium at the first race of the season ten times. In terms of teams, Ferrari lead the way for most podium finishes. They have had 53 podium finishes at season-opening Grands Prix.
SEASON-OPENING PODIUM FINISHERS
SEASON-OPENING TEAM PODIUMS
SEASON-OPENING GRID SLOT STATS
21 season-opening Grands Prix have been won from pole position, and a further seventeen have been won from the front row of the grid. The furthest back win at a curtain raising Grand Prix was at the 1960 Argentine Grand Prix, when Bruce McLaren won from thirteenth on the grid. The 1977 Argentine Grand Prix and 2003 Australian Grand Prix are the only other season openers which have been won from further back on the grid than tenth.
The driver starting second on the grid has scored more podium finishes at season-opening Grands Prix than drivers starting anywhere else. The furthest back podium finish at the first race of a season has come from the pit-lane, with Jarno Trulli finishing third at the 2009 Australian Grand Prix after starting from the pits. In terms of actual grid slots, the furthest back from which a podium finish has come at a season-opening event is 22nd, achieved by Kimi Raikkonen at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix.
While the polesitter has won the season-opening race on 21 occasions, they have finished on the podium on 37 occasions. The polesitter has finished the first race of the season in a non points-paying position on eight occasions, and has failed to be classified 22 times. Of those 22 times, nineteen have been retirements. The polesitter has been disqualified twice (Keke Rosberg at the 1983 Brazilian Grand Prix and Ayrton Senna at the 1988 Brazilian Grand Prix), and Jean-Pierre Jarrier failed to make the start of the 1975 Argentine Grand Prix.
SEASON-OPENING SUNDAY STATS
Three season-opening Grands Prix have been red-flagged. The 1979 Argentine Grand Prix was red-flagged due to a crash involving multiple drivers on the opening lap, the 1996 Australian Grand Prix was halted on the first lap due to a crash at Turn 3 for Martin Brundle, and the 2016 Australian Grand Prix was red-flagged due to a crash in the same place for Fernando Alonso.
There have been eight season-opening races which did not reach their scheduled distance: the 1988 and 1995 Brazilian Grands Prix, the 1990 and 1991 United States Grands Prix and the 2005, 2014, 2016 and 2017 Australian Grands Prix.
Only three season-opening races have been held in wet conditions. The 1951 Swiss and 1954 Argentine Grands Prix were held in wet conditions, while the 2003 Australian Grand Prix began in damp conditions before drying out.
506 days is the longest gap between two season-opening races. The 1965 South African Grand Prix took place on New Year’s Day in 1965, while the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix took place on 22nd May 1966. Meanwhile, the 1951 Swiss Grand Prix drew a close to the longest off-season in Formula 1 history. It lasted 266 days. Read more: Formula 1’s Longest Off-Seasons.
There have been eleven occasions where a driver has led every lap of a Formula 1 season-opener. Most recently, Nico Rosberg did so at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. The 2013 Australian Grand Prix is the season-opening race which had the highest number of lap leaders. Seven different drivers led a lap on that afternoon.
In total, 1,604 car have been entered into season-opening Formula 1 Grands Prix. Of those, 1,507 have qualified for the season opening events. 821 have been classified in the final result of those races, while 773 cars have been running on track at the chequered flag.
Jean-Pierre Jarier, Johnny Herbert, Christijan Albers and Pastor Maldonado share the record for having the most retirements from the first race of a season. Each were the first retirement of the year on three occasions. Read more: The First Retirement of Every F1 Season.
The polesitter at the first race of the season has gone on to win that year’s title on 32 occasions, including in all of the last three years.
The winner of the first race of the season has gone on to win that year’s title on 34 occasions – but it has happened only twice in the last eight years.
In 2019, Valtteri Bottas set a new record for the largest points lead after the first race of a season. Having won and set the fastest lap, Bottas led the title hunt by eight points after the Australian Grand Prix.
1956 is the only season that the winner of the first race of the year didn’t lead the Drivers’ Championship after the race. Luigi Musso and Juan Manuel Fangio shared the race win at the Argentine Grand Prix that year and their points were shared between them as a result. Jean Behra, who finished second, therefore earned more points from the race. Behra also holds the record for the smallest points lead in the Drivers’ Championship after the first race of the year. He led by a single point after the first race of 1956.
Since the Constructors’ Championship was introduced in 1958, the team leading after the first race of the year has gone on to win that year’s title on 34 occasions. The Constructors’ Championship has been tied after the first race of the year twice – in 1985 and 2006.
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. Now in its sixth season, the blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics. Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and GPDestinations. In 2017 and 2018, he wrote for Badger GP. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast.