F1 drivers with the most grand prix starts before victory

Lando Norris finally became an F1 race winner after taking a long-awaited victory at the 2024 Miami Grand Prix. 

The win came during Norris’ sixth year in the series after being one of F1’s highest-rated drivers for several seasons and coming close to victory numerous times. 

So when Norris finally made that trip to the top step of the podium, it meant he entered the top 10 for the most grand prix starts before a driver’s maiden victory in F1. 

Where does Norris rank as a result and who else is on that list? 

Sergio Perez, Racing Point, 1st position, on the podium with a Mexican flag

Sergio Perez, Racing Point, 1st position, on the podium with a Mexican flag

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

  • Grand prix starts before first win: 190 

  • First win: 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix 

  • Years in F1: 2011 — present  

  • Career wins: 6 

  • Career starts: 263 

  • Championships: 0 

Sergio Perez claimed a shock victory at the 2020 Sakhir GP for his maiden win. That was despite the then-Racing Point driver running last on lap one after being hit by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari at Turn 4 while battling for third.  
Perez was back inside the points on lap 20 before a very brief lap 55 virtual safety car left him fighting for a podium, as he didn’t pit whereas others did. He then claimed the lead on lap 64 after a botched double pitstop by Mercedes, who illegally fitted George Russell’s car with Valtteri Bottas’ front-tyres forcing the Briton to pit again, while his team-mate had a 27.4 seconds stop as the team struggled to fit his front-left compound.   

It meant Perez finally won a grand prix at his 190th attempt, which set a record for the longest wait as his whole career up to then had been spent in midfield machinery. Since, however, the floodgates have pretty much opened as Perez moved to Red Bull in 2021 where he has won five grands prix. 

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 1st position

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 1st position

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

  • Grand prix starts before first win: 150 

  • First win: 2022 British Grand Prix 

  • Years in F1: 2015 — present 

  • Career wins: 3 

  • Career starts: 188 

  • Championships: 0 

Just like Perez, Sainz spent many seasons in the midfield before driving at the front as it took five years for his first podium at the 2019 Brazilian GP for McLaren. Sainz then had a golden opportunity to win the 2020 Italian GP when he staged a late charge on Pierre Gasly, but ultimately finished half a second behind the Frenchman.  
His move to Ferrari in 2021 brought more near-misses until he won from pole at the 2022 British GP. But it was quite the rollercoaster, as Sainz lost his lead to Max Verstappen on lap 10 before regaining it two tours later after the Red Bull driver ran over debris which caused significant floor damage.  

Ferrari then told him to let a quicker Leclerc overtake on lap 31, but Sainz was faster on the lap 43 restart where he regained the lead down Wellington Straight for his maiden victory after 150 grand prix starts.   

Podium: Race winner Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing second place Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, third place Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Podium: Race winner Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing second place Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, third place Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

Mark Webber started his F1 career with backmarkers Minardi in 2002 before several years in the midfield for Jaguar and Williams. Everything changed in 2007 when Webber moved to Red Bull, who was a championship-contending outfit come 2009.  
It was during that year that Webber set the record at the time for the most grand prix starts (130) before victory, as he won the 2009 German GP on the weekend he also achieved his first pole. It did not come smoothly though, as Webber lost first at the start despite his aggressive defence where bumping into Rubens Barrichello and clipping Lewis Hamilton’s rear-right tyre gave him a drive-through penalty.  

But Webber was significantly faster than anybody that day, as an impressive recovery drive saw him retake the lead during the second pitstop window before winning in a Red Bull 1-2 by nine seconds.  

4. Rubens Barrichello  

Podium: Race winner Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari F1 2000, second place Mika Hakkinen, Mclaren  MP4-15, third place David Coulthard, Mclaren MP4-15

Podium: Race winner Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari F1 2000, second place Mika Hakkinen, Mclaren MP4-15, third place David Coulthard, Mclaren MP4-15

Photo by: Sutton Images

Barrichello spent seven years in the midfield until an impressive 1999, where he scored three podiums for Stewart, caught the eye of Ferrari boss Jean Todt who signed him for 2000. 

He proved worthy of being Michael Schumacher’s number two by claiming six podiums in his opening 10 grands prix. But that first victory eluded Barrichello until the 2000 German GP, where he miraculously won from 18th on the grid. 
Barrichello first benefitted from a great start as he gained eight positions on lap one, while Schumacher retired after colliding with Giancarlo Fisichella. He then gradually progressed up the order before taking the lead on lap 34, when other drivers pitted for wet tyres but Ferrari kept him out because the track was only damp in parts. Barrichello was then quick enough on slick tyres to keep his lead and end seven years in F1 without a victory. 
Race winner Jarno Trulli, Renault F1 Team

Race winner Jarno Trulli, Renault F1 Team

Photo by: Sutton Images

Jarno Trulli spent the entirety of his 14-year F1 career racing in the midfield, which makes it no surprise that he only won one grand prix. That came for Renault at the 2004 Monaco GP, where Trulli never lost position to win from pole on his 117th race start. 

It had been a long wait for his win because Trulli spent the previous seven seasons racing for Minardi, Prost, Jordan and Renault so two podiums during that spell was the best he could hope for.   

But Renault took a big step forward in 2004 as it finished third in the championship before winning the 2005 and 2006 titles with Fernando Alonso. Yet Trulli never drove for Renault during its championship-winning seasons because he was dropped towards the end of 2004 after his relationship with team boss Flavio Briatore had deteriorated. 
Jenson Button

Jenson Button

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

  • Grand prix starts before first win: 113 

  • First win: 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix 

  • Years in F1: 2000-17 

  • Career wins: 15 

  • Career starts: 306 

  • Championships: 1 (2009) 

Jenson Button had a rocky start to his F1 career by driving for three teams in his opening four seasons. It all finally clicked for him in 2004 when Button scored the first 10 podiums of his career and finished third in the standings, although victory still eluded him. 

He was forced to wait even longer when his British American Racing team regressed in 2005 due to the regulation changes. But things gradually improved when BAR partnered with Honda for 2006, leading to Button’s maiden victory at that season’s 13th round. 

Although he had qualified in fourth, an engine penalty dropped him to 14th. But it was wet and Button shone in those conditions as he stayed on-track while others spun out. Not pitting during the lap 25 safety car then promoted Button to second, before claiming the lead on lap 51 when Alonso spun off due to a driveshaft failure. Button’s lead was left unchallenged as he finally won after 113 grand prix starts — although he waited another two-and-a-half years for his next victory.  

Race winner Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W03 celebrates in parc ferme

Race winner Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W03 celebrates in parc ferme

Photo by: Sutton Images

  • Grand prix starts before first win: 111 

  • First win: 2012 Chinese Grand Prix 

  • Years in F1: 2006-16 

  • Career wins: 23 

  • Career starts: 206 

  • Championships: 1 (2016) 

Nico Rosberg’s maiden victory came during his seventh year in F1, but he was always highly-rated. He spent his first four years at Williams, where he beat his team-mates — Alexander Wurz and then Kazuki Nakajima — in the final three of those seasons while scoring two podiums in midfield machinery.  

It led to his Mercedes move in 2010 where he beat team-mate Schumacher in the 2010 and 2011 standings, but only scored three podiums as the Silver Arrows was not yet the force it later became. 

Mercedes’ pace remained pretty much the same for 2012, but a lap of the gods gave Rosberg his first pole by half-a-second at that season’s Chinese GP. Rosberg carried that pace into Sunday, where he controlled the race throughout to give Mercedes its first win since 1955 and his first after 111 grand prix starts. 

=8. Lando Norris 

Lando Norris, McLaren

Lando Norris, McLaren

Photo by: Erik Junius

  • Grand prix starts before first win: 110 

  • First win: 2024 Miami Grand Prix 

  • Years in F1: 2019 — present 

  • Career wins: 1 

  • Career starts: 110 

  • Championships: 0 

Norris’ victory followed several missed opportunities, seeing him also obtain F1’s record for the most podiums (15) without a victory. He made his McLaren and F1 debut in 2019, but it wasn’t until 2021 that Norris was in a position to win races. 

His first opportunity was the 2021 Italian GP when Norris finished behind Daniel Ricciardo in a McLaren 1-2, despite consistently beating the Australian that year. Norris claimed his maiden pole two weeks later in Russia before leading much of the race, until he aquaplaned off with two laps left after failing to change his slick tyres when rain started to fall.  

Red Bull’s dominance over the next two years limited opportunities, but Norris’ day finally arrived at the 2024 Miami GP when he won from fifth. It came after running a long first stint, which ended when he pitted under a safety car causing Norris to lead the lap 33 restart. But it was not all luck, as Norris gained 7.6 seconds on Verstappen in the final 25 laps for his first F1 win. 

=8. Giancarlo Fisichella 

Podium: Giancarlo Fisichella, Jordan celebrates

Podium: Giancarlo Fisichella, Jordan celebrates

Photo by: Sutton Images

Fisichella had a great chance to win the 1997 German GP in his first full season of F1, when he was closely battling Gerhard Berger for the lead until a puncture on his Jordan’s rear-right tyre ruined his chances.  
Another opportunity presented itself at the 1998 Austrian GP when Fisichella, now driving for Benetton, started from pole but retired on lap 21 after a collision with Jean Alesi. Fisichella also spun out of the lead at the 1999 European GP, so his early F1 years were full of missed opportunities as the Italian seemed destined to never win.  

But Fisichella’s chance finally came at the 2003 Brazilian GP when he, now back at Jordan, won from eighth on the grid. The key to that victory was a lap seven pitstop where Fisichella took on enough fuel to last until the end of a very wet race, which had half of the grid retire.  

Mika Hakkinen, Mclaren

Mika Hakkinen, Mclaren

Photo by: Motorsport Images

  • Grand prix starts before first win: 96 

  • First win: 1997 European Grand Prix 

  • Years in F1: 1991-01 

  • Career wins: 20 

  • Career starts: 161 

  • Championships: 2 (1998-99) 

It took seven seasons for Mika Hakkinen to drive a car that could fight for wins throughout a campaign, as Lotus and then McLaren both went through a difficult period. 

But David Coulthard ended McLaren’s three-year winless run by winning the 1997 season-opener, ahead of a campaign in which he had the upper hand on Hakkinen who finished nine points below in the standings. 
Hakkinen still had chances to win though, as his engine blew while leading the British GP with seven laps left. But Hakkinen finally became a grand prix winner after 96 race starts at the season-finale in Jerez. He did require some luck though, as Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve’s lap 48 collision handed Hakkinen the lead before winning in a McLaren 1-2. 

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