While entering the history of Formula 1 as one of the most unworthy spectacles ever seen in over seventy years of racing, the Belgian Grand Prix 2021 he however crowned as the winner of the “race” Max Verstappen, with the latter having achieved the pole position obtained the previous day in qualifying in the best possible way.
Even though the Dutchman of Red Bull himself was not satisfied with getting on the top step of the podium in this way, the first place of Spa-Francorchamps has a particular historical value for his career and for the history of this sport: Mad Max in fact, he took his 16th success in Formula 1, engaging a driver of the caliber of Stirling Moss.
Jos’s son and the Englishman now share not only 17th place in the all-time roll of honor (four points behind Mika Hakkinen), but also and above all a particular record: they are the two drivers who boast the greater number of GPs won without enjoying a world title. Verstappen will try to break the spell already during this World Cup, avoiding playing the role of “eternal second” that fell to the British instead.
Born in London in 1929, Moss made his Formula 1 debut at the HWM wheel in 1951, one season after the creation of the category. In 66 GPs held in ten championships, the Englishman proved to have excellent driving skills, distinguishing himself in particular with the Mercedes in 1955. It was with the German manufacturer that he obtained not only the first podiums in his career, but also and above all the first victory, in addition in the home race at Aintree. In that year, the world championship fight between him and his Argentine teammate Juan Manuel Fangio was resolved with the affirmation of the latter.
Determined to get his revenge back, Moss switched to Maserati for the championship 1956, however, losing again the duel with Fangio, in the meantime passed to Lancia. The nightmare of the South American pilot finally materialized in 1957: moving to Vanwall for that season, the Englishman once again lost the confrontation with Fangio, becoming vice-world champion for the third consecutive year. Among other things, the Argentine won the laurel wreath in Maserati, the car that had hosted Moss up until the previous year.
Thanks to the improvements made to the car, the Briton seemed to be able to finally establish himself as the new world champion 1958: however, the one who instead managed to take the stage was the compatriot Mike Hawthorn, a driver famous for his elegance who finished at the top of the world championship standings at the wheel of his Ferrari. For the fourth and final time, Moss had to settle for second place. However, his four claims contributed to Vanwall’s success in World constructors, established for the first time starting from that season.
Before retiring from F1 at the end of 1961 (and before finally hanging up his helmet in 1962 following a bad accident at Goodwood), Moss tried unsuccessfully to realize that dream he had pursued since his debut, never going beyond the third place in the world championship standings. The Englishman will then die on 12 April 2020 in his London, bequeathing one of the most famous aphorisms related to the world of racing: “Straights are those boring sections that join two curves”.
The story – still to be written – of Max Verstappen, however, is different up to now. The Dutchman in fact reached his 16th success after a journey that began in 2015, the year in which he made his debut in the top flight at the wheel of the Toro Rosso. Past in Red Bull per season in progress in 2016, the Hasselt pilot impressed everyone by winning the Spanish GP on the day of his debut with his new team, establishing the new youngest driver record to win a GP at the age of 18.
Since then, Verstappen has always remained at the wheel of the Austrian house, with the aim of subverting the dominance of the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas: until the “war” currently underway between him and the seven-time British world champion, Mad Max had obtained two third places in the overall standings in 2019 and 2020. The current World Cup, however, could write a different chapter.