Hooking up a great qualifying lap isn’t particularly easy, so setting a time worthy of the front row is quite an achievement in itself.
Whether it’s pole position or P2 on the grid, it’s the best place to start the race – with a clear view in front of you, and a chance to enter the first corner in the lead.
Here are the six drivers with the most front row starts in F1 (up to the Hungarian GP, 2017):
Of course, most of F1 legend and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher’s front row starts came from his long stint in the sport from 1991 to 2006. He didn’t have a particularly easy time during his comeback with Mercedes, but his record of front row starts still remains, with 116.
The fact Lewis Hamilton is so close to Schumacher’s front row start record is quite remarkable. He’s just four away, with 112 front row places, and doesn’t look set to leave F1 in the near future. So, he could well take the record. Of course, the three-time F1 champion had the advantage of coming straight into the sport with a top team, and the recent Mercedes domination has rapidly increased his tally.
What makes Ayrton Senna’s 87 front row starts that bit more impressive is the fact there were fewer F1 races per season during his time racing at the pinnacle of motorsport. Front row starts weren’t possible at Toleman, but he started to achieve more success at Lotus, before hitting the big time at McLaren.
There’s little between Senna and Alain Prost’s tally of front row starts. French driver and four-time champion Prost scored 86 front row places, one behind Senna. That’s despite having 33 pole positions, compared to Senna’s 65. It’s always interesting to see how these two compare, and each had different strengths.
At the start of his F1 career with Toro Rosso, Sebastian Vettel didn’t really have the opportunity to challenge for front row starts. But, his promotion to Red Bull in 2009 changed things – and the team soon dominated. His move to Ferrari hasn’t quite been so successful but his tally of 78 front row starts will surely grow as the 2017 F1 season progresses.
During his final season in F1, just before his surprise retirement, Rosberg moved into sixth place on the all-time front row start list. Mainly thanks to the incredible success of Mercedes since the start of the hybrid F1 era in 2014, Rosberg secured front row starts at almost every race and the figure stood at 60 by the time he exited the sport for a quieter life.