Sergio Perez claimed a popular breakthrough victory during his 190th Formula 1 start in the Sakhir Grand Prix, setting a new record for highest number of races started before claiming the top spot.
The win came in his 10th season in Formula 1 and his seventh with Racing Point, which he joined in its Force India guise in 2014, and breaks the previous record set by Mark Webber.
Had Perez raced on without claiming victory, he would have overhauled the record for most starts without ever winning a race. That was set by Andrea de Cesaris with 208, a mark that doesn’t seem likely to be threatened for some years yet.
For the purposes of this list, we are using starts as the measure. This means races where a driver participated in the race weekend but was listed as a ‘did not start’ are not counted.
In descending order, here are the longest waits for an F1 victory.
10 Jean Alesi
91st start – 1995 Canadian Grand Prix
Alesi’s famous race-leading performance for Tyrrell in the 1990 United States Grand Prix, where he battled with Ayrton Senna, indicated wins were just round the corner for the in-demand French-Sicilian. But fate had it in for him during his Ferrari years, during which he was frustrated either by inadequate machinery or mechanical maladies as he searched for that elusive first victory.
He was in his fifth season with Ferrari and had racked up a total of 15 podium finishes, as well as leading eight races, when he lined up in the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal. Fortune paid him back that day, with an electronics problem forcing leader Michael Schumacher into the pits and promoting Alesi to the lead.
He reeled off the laps, fighting back the tears, to take his first and only grand prix victory.
What came next: Alesi would stand on the podium just two more times in Ferrari colours before making way for Schumacher at the end of the season.
Two subsequent seasons as the German’s replacement at Benetton yielded a whole load of podiums and a pole, but no wins, before his career wound down with four years in middling-to-backmarking machinery.
9 Thierry Boutsen
95th start – 1989 Canadian Grand Prix
Boutsen was no stranger to the podium when he was signed by Williams to replace the Ferrari-bound Nigel Mansell in 1989, having racked up seven podiums with Benetton and Arrows.
He had a reputation for being a solid, rather than spectacular, performer and had made a patchy start to his Williams career, meaning nobody would have bet against him getting to a century of starts winless.
However, Boutsen was an excellent wet-weather driver, with two of his three F1 wins coming in rain-affected races – one coming later in 1989 at Adelaide.
While he did have to rely on the misfortune of others at Montreal, in particular long-time race leader Ayrton Senna, Boutsen drove a good race and passed team-mate Riccardo Patrese on his way to a famous win. He only led the final three laps of the race.
What came next: Unlike Alesi, Boutsen added two more wins after his maiden triumph, but this wasn’t enough to prevent Williams from dropping him at the end of 1990. From there on he would only visit the points once in his final three F1 campaigns, spent with Ligier and Jordan.
8 Mika Hakkinen
96th start – 1997 European Grand Prix
Hakkinen flirted with a breakthrough first F1 win regularly during the 1997 season, notably at Silverstone where his McLaren-Mercedes suffered an engine failure with six laps to go.
With 15 podium finishes to his name and having led nine grands prix, his breakthrough came in unsatisfactory circumstances in the 1997 season finale at Jerez. Thanks to a McLaren agreement with Williams to avoid getting in Jacques Villeneuve’s way as he battled for the title with Michael Schumacher, Hakkinen was gifted a win.
Having been waved past team-mate Coulthard, Hakkinen then passed the cruising Villeneuve on the final lap to take that long awaited triumph.
What came next: It wasn’t the best way to take a first victory, but the Finn more than made up for it over the following seasons with his stylish run of wins and two world championships.
But as the era of Schumacher and Ferrari dominance got into full swing, Hakkinen opted to take a sabbatical, which eventually transitioned into a full-on retirement from F1.
7 Giancarlo Fisichella
110th start – 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix
Fisichella’s breakthrough victory was one of the most unlikely in Formula 1 history. Although he qualified eighth for the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, the Jordan EJ13 was one of the weakest cars that season and needed a miracle to win.
That miracle came courtesy of The Race’s own Gary Anderson, who opted for an unusual fuel strategy with Fisichella.
Anderson realised that a red flag was very likely given the conditions and that a race would not be restarted and full points would be awarded had the race reached 75% when it did so. So by pitting Fisichella under the early-race safety car on lap seven, the car had enough fuel to get into that window.
Sure enough, Mark Webber crashed and Fernando Alonso collected a wheel shed by the Jaguar, leading to the race being stopped.
Fisichella had just taken the lead at this point and was ahead on lap 54, which proved to be crucial on countback. It’s just a shame it took the FIA several days to realise this, having initially awarded the win to Kimi Raikkonen.
What came next: Impressing at Sauber the following year, Fisichella secured a return to what was now the works Renault team, and won on his very first appearance.
But he’d only win once more as team-mate Fernando Alonso ran riot en route to two world titles, and though a subsequent tenure at Force India ended with the major highlight of a Spa pole and podium, it was followed by a disappointing stint as a Ferrari stand-in that drew a line under his F1 career.
6 Nico Rosberg
111th start – 2012 Chinese Grand Prix
Rosberg, in his seventh F1 season after spending his first four years with Williams, had five podium finishes to his name when he lined up on pole position for the first time at the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix. With team-mate Michael Schumacher alongside him, the stage was set for the first victory for the revived Mercedes team that would go on to dominate F1.
Rosberg claimed a comfortable victory, although Schumacher retired after a wheel blunder at his first pitstop.
What came next: Two more wins came the following year, before Rosberg – along with new team-mate Lewis Hamilton – reaped the rewards of Mercedes’ hybrid-era dominance, taking his total to 23 wins.
In the process, he lost the 2014 title to Hamilton in a final-race double points decider, but finally got his championship in a 2016 Yas Marina nail-biter, promptly announcing his retirement from F1 the following week.
5 Jenson Button
113th start – 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix
The question of when Jenson Button was finally going to win a grand prix had become a running joke in the UK and few expected him to break his duck when he started 14th at the Hungaroring in 2006. But he was only down there thanks to a 10-place grid penalty for an engine change.
In a rain-affected race. Button drove superbly and climbed to second by staying on track during a safety car period then having the pace to hold position despite a subsequent fuel stop.
Renault driver Fernando Alonso was on course for victory, but lost a right-rear wheel after he made a pitstop for dry rubber. This handed Button a famous victory.
What came next: Another 14 wins and a world title. But it certainly didn’t look like that as a pair of painful seasons with Honda followed his 2006 breakthrough.
However, the Brawn GP miracle of 2009 happened and Button proved the main beneficiary, while he then remained a reliable frontrunner after a switch to McLaren, at least until the team began a painful descent it is only now recovering from.
4 Jarno Trulli
119th start – 2004 Monaco Grand Prix
After making an explosive start with Minardi in 1997, Trulli toiled away with Prost for two-and-a-half seasons, then had two disappointing seasons with Jordan before landing his big break with Renault.
His day of days came at Monaco in 2004 with a stunning lap to take pole position, which was no surprise given how quick he was on the streets of Monaco.
He took pole by 0.360s ahead of Ralf Schumacher, producing stunning speed through the final sector of the lap in particular.
In a race famous for Michael Schumacher crashing in the tunnel under the safety car after stopping heavily to warm the brakes and clashing with Juan Pablo Montoya, Trulli led home Jenson Button for his first and only grand prix win.
What came next: Trulli didn’t even see out the season with Renault, instead signing with Toyota ahead of five full seasons with the manufacturer.
It wasn’t all bad but Toyota never delivered as expected in F1 and departed in 2009, leaving Trulli a one-hit wonder – something his final two years with Team Lotus (the future Caterham) were never going to change.
3 Rubens Barrichello
123rd start – 2000 German Grand Prix
Saturday could not have gone much worse for Rubens Barrichello at the 2000 German Grand Prix. In fact, he described it as the worst day of the year thanks to having to qualify in team-mate Michael Schumacher’s patched-up race car at Hockenheim. Schumacher was in the T-car, having crashed in practice earlier that day.
A combination of rain and traffic meant Barrichello could only qualify 18th. But he opted for an aggressive two-stop strategy on race day and charged up to third after 15 laps. His strategy meant he needed a bit of luck, which came when Robert Sehli, a former Mercedes-Benz employee, walked onto the track by way of protest. Barrichello was able to take his second pitstop and took the restart third, staying out on slicks while Jarno Trulli and Mika Hakkinen pitted for wets to take an emotional victory.
What came next: A number of poles and wins during his time as Schumacher’s rear gunner at Ferrari, but it was the Brawn GP year in 2009 – four years after his departure from Ferrari – that he seemed to get closest to a title. Two subsequent F1 seasons with Williams added no silverware.
2 Mark Webber
130th start – 2009 German Grand Prix
Mark Webber was justifiably regarded as one of the best in Formula 1 but had yet to have the machinery to win during stints with Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and, initially, Red Bull.
His half-a-dozen podium finishes proved he was a driver capable of pulling big results out of the bag. And when the Red Bull team hit its stride in 2009, with Sebastian Vettel taking its breakthrough win in China earlier in that season, Webber’s maiden win wasn’t far behind.
Webber started from pole position at the Nurburgring but a wheelbanging moment with Rubens Barrichello earned him a drive-through penalty and, surely, ensured he would not win the race. But Webber was equal to the challenge and eventually won by almost 10 seconds from Sebastian Vettel.
What came next: Webber was a genuine title contender in 2010 but was left watching team-mate Vettel come from behind to overhaul both him and Fernando Alonso.
And Vettel had him more or less covered from there on, before Webber retired from F1 at the end of 2013 – just as his Red Bull team was about to cease being dominant.
1 Sergio Perez
190th start – 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix
Despite his penchant for unexpected podium finishes, Perez didn’t have another opportunity to take the victory that he lost with a brief off while chasing down Fernando Alonso in Malaysia 2012 during his Sauber days for eight years.
The Sakhir Grand Prix didn’t seem likely to be the day to end his win drought given he ended up facing the wrong way after being hit by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari on the opening lap. But he pitted under the safety car and began his recovery.
He passed Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll on his way to the front of the midfield pack, so was in position to cash in when tyre chaos sent the Mercedes drivers tumbling down the order.
What comes next: Perez’s three-year Racing Point deal was supposed to take him into 2021 as the team became Aston Martin, but he is instead being dropped to make way for Sebastian Vettel.
His only chance – but what a chance it is – of staying on the grid in 2021 is with Red Bull, and the Sakhir GP win may well prove sufficient to overcome Red Bull’s affinity for incumbent driver Alexander Albon. Otherwise, it’s a sabbatical and an attempt to return in 2022, according to Perez.