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Will Max Verstappen be a Curse Breaker?

Written by Emily Allen, Edited by Sean McKean

Image Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images

Max Verstappen has had a few nicknames in his time - including Mad Max, Super Max and the Flying Dutchman - and it appears the Dutch driver is on track to add another to the list: The Curse Breaker.


All sports have their respective traditions, superstitions and rituals, in which fans, teams and athletes participate. It may be a lucky piece of clothing like Charles Leclerc and his red pants, lucky charms tucked away in shoelaces like Sebastian Vettel, or even getting out of the car on the same side every time, a common superstition in motorsport.


But sports also seem to have curses and jinxes, and Formula 1 is no exception. A big but recent one is the “Bahrain Curse.” The “Bahrain Curse” is a superstitious jinx that has held strong in F1 since 2017. The superstition refers to the “ill-fated” top podium step in the opening Grand Prix where, for the past 6 years, the winner of said Grand Prix has jinxed themselves and, therefore, is ‘destined’ for second place in the World Driver’s Championship (WDC).


This pattern was noticed by fans and pegged as the “Bahrain Curse,” however, this “curse” isn’t exclusive to the Bahrain circuit. Still, it was named after Bahrain as this circuit headlined all the seasons since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, due to the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, which saddened many Aussie fans.


The belief in this superstition holds so much weight that some fans joke but secretly do hope their favourite drivers don't win the season opener. Below is a table, showcasing six years' worth of drivers who were “jinxed” by the ‘curse,’ whose names are all too familiar. This shows that no one is safe, but is Mad Max up to the task of fighting both the competition AND the curse to claim a third world title?


YearSeason Opener Race WinnerFinal World Championship StandingWorld Driver Champion2017Sebastian VettelSecond Lewis Hamilton 2018Sebastian VettelSecondLewis Hamilton 2019Valtteri BottasSecondLewis Hamilton 2020Valtteri BottasSecondLewis Hamilton 2021Lewis HamiltonSecondMax Verstappen2022Charles LeclercSecondMax Verstappen


Verstappen is very much on track to break it, so it seems this curse may be short-lived. With only 11 completed races thus far in a 23-race season, Verstappen already has a healthy double-digit lead in the WDC standings. Leading the championship with a comfortable 255 points, it seems the Flying Dutchman already has a hand on the WDC trophy and title. Verstappen’s skills and Red Bull’s slick car design have been the magic formula for an anticipated season of dominance.


In recent news, the 2024 season schedule has been released, and funnily enough, the Bahrain circuit is set to open the season, staying true to the namesake of the curse. Will Max Verstappen give this curse a one-year hiatus, as anticipated? Or will Verstappen be crowned ‘The Curse Breaker’ and continue to break the curse until it becomes obsolete?


Nonetheless, Formula 1 is a brutal sport where anything is possible, and Verstappen isn't a stranger to mechanical failures and misfortune. Thus posing a very serious and important question, did the reigning champion knock on wood before the Bahrain Grand Prix?


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