In his ninth season in Formula One, Lewis Hamilton has achieved a landmark 40th race victory at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix. This puts him just one behind his current rival Sebastian Vettel, and his great idol Ayrton Senna. With a third World Championship almost becoming a case of ‘when’ as opposed to ‘if’ with his somewhat worrying (from a competitive perspective) current run of form and arguably the greatest Formula One car in existence – the Mercedes W06 Hybrid at his disposal, the records are beginning to tumble – some would argue that this is overdue given the immediate impact he had on the sport in 2007, and even from his time in the junior categories.
Although many of his race victories in the Mercedes era have been a case of dominating from the front, a lot of his race victories earlier in his career showed us why he has become the great and successful driver that he is today. It was tough, but his 40 race victories have been cut down into a top ten in no particular order. At 30 years old, and the rate of domination that he and Mercedes seem to be imposing on the world of Formula One at the moment, who knows how many he might end up with at the end of his career. Whilst Michael Schumacher’s incredible 91 race victories seems impossible for anybody to beat, he almost certainly has a realistic shot at being more successful than Senna and Alain Prost. Regardless of what people think of his life off the track and of some of the things he says and does on social media, his status as one of the greatest racing drivers in the history of Formula One is now undisputed.
Lewis Hamilton’s Greatest Wins in Formula One
2007 Canadian Grand Prix
One of Hamilton’s greatest wins was his very first race win. Starting from his very first pole position, he led team mate Fernando Alonso into the first corner, but Alonso ran wide, letting Nick Heidfeld through into second. Whilst Hamilton controlled the race in a very mature fashion at the front, which saw him have to deal with four separate deployments of the safety car, Alonso struggled, especially at the first corner, where he ran off no less than three times, eventually famously being overtaken by the vastly inferior Super Aguri driven by Takuma Sato. It was the first of what turned out to be many race wins for Hamilton – it was no fluke, and the very next race showed just that.
2007 United States Grand Prix
Having being beaten at Canada, Alonso needed a result to assert his number one status within the team. He was beaten once again by Hamilton and in a race which saw a wheel-to-wheel duel between the two, Hamilton was able to resist pressure from his two-time Champion team mate and secure his second victory from pole on the bounce. The race also put Hamilton an entire race victory ahead of Alonso in the four-way championship battle, which well and truly went down to the wire.
2008 Monaco Grand Prix
Monaco is dangerous enough as it is. Add some rain and you usually get complete chaos. That is what happened in 2008 where showers, ranging from light to heavy hit the track throughout the Sunday of the Grand Prix weekend. Ferrari had a strong car for Monaco, locking out the front row with Felipe Massa on pole, and McLaren locked out the second row with Hamilton heading new team mate Heikki Kovalainen, who stalled on the dummy grid. Hamilton made his way past Kimi Räikkönen at the first corner and took second place. However on lap six he brushed the wall at Tabac corner, puncturing his tyre instantly. He pitted for a full tank of fuel and carried on in the middle of the pack. Hamilton was able to take the lead when those in front made their first stops, and by the time Hamilton came in to make his second stop, the track was drying up. Hamilton had gained the lead after the stops and despite a late safety car and a slow puncture, held on to take his first (and to date only) win at the principality.
2008 British Grand Prix
I was there. It was my first Grand Prix experience and I got absolutely soaked whilst stood on the inside of Copse corner. Hamilton lined up only fourth as he was beaten by team mate Kovalainen in qualifying, the Finn celebrating his first (and only) pole position in Formula One. The morning was typically British – wet, grey and dreary. Kovalainen led from the start, but Hamilton had made his way past Räikkönen and Mark Webber into second place. He hounded his team mate for a number of laps before making a move into Stowe. From this point Hamilton had a near-flawless performance, running off the track momentarily at Abbey (which used to be a tricky left-right chicane) being his only excursion off the circuit, whilst almost all of his rivals tripped up, with Massa spinning five times. Despite not being on the optimum strategy (switching to the extreme wet tyre as Nick Heidfeld and Rubens Barrichello, who rounded of the podium did turned out to be the best strategy), he won by over a minute. He was ahead of Kimi Räikkönen in fourth place by over a lap.
2008 German Grand Prix
Leading the race from pole position, it was all looking good for Hamilton at Hockenheim until Timo Glock suffered a spectacular suspension failure, bringing out the safety car. Hamilton’s GP2 championship rival back in 2006 Nelson Piquet Jr., had conveniently just made his one and only stop of the afternoon which bumped him up the order. Out of the front runners, everybody except for Hamilton took the opportunity to make a free pit stop due to the safety car. Hamilton had to make a large gap to Piquet who had inherited second place but it was simply too much to ask and he came out in fifth after his second stop. Despite this error by McLaren, Hamilton was able to scythe his way from fifth place to take the lead, having overtaken Kovalainen, Massa and Piquet and inheriting a place after Heidfeld made his final stop. Hamilton won the race – his first win on German soil.
2011 Chinese Grand Prix
After it became clear that Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull were simply too good to beat on pace alone, Hamilton and McLaren had to take a different approach to beat the German-Austrian combination. In the now Pirelli-shod era, Hamilton and McLaren decided to only do a single run in qualifying to conserve a fresh set of softer tyres for the race, and it duly paid off. Starting behind Vettel and new team mate Jenson Button after turning up to the grid at the last second due to a problem pre-race, both McLarens headed the pack into the first corner, beating Vettel, with Button leading Hamilton. Utilising his different strategy, Hamilton made a very aggressive three-stop strategy work compared to his rivals’ two-stop. He was able to pull off brilliant moves on his team mate in the middle of the race, and later on Vettel, who had been unbeaten at that point in the season, to become the first repeat winner of the Chinese Grand Prix.
2011 German Grand Prix
Whilst 2011 was arguably Hamilton’s worst season to date with multiple crashes, usually with Massa’s Ferrari, Hamilton delivered three very good wins. The second of these came at the Nurburgring. Hamilton was edged out by Webber in qualifying, but nonetheless took a strong second on the grid. Hamilton took the lead at the start, but Webber and Alonso’s Ferrari were very much in the mix. With cold temperatures helping, Hamilton was able to make the opposite to the so-called ‘undercut’ work and hold off Webber in the final pit stops, despite being hounded by the Australian, and then stunned Alonso with a pass on the outside after the Spaniard’s stop. From then on, Hamilton kept them both behind to take his second of three wins that season.
2012 Canadian Grand Prix
Five years after his first Grand Prix victory, Hamilton took another brilliant victory at Canada. Starting in second place behind Vettel, the order stayed that way for the opening laps. As the option tyres wore down, Alonso joined the mix to make it an epic three-way fight for the lead. The order would be reversed after the first round of stops, although Hamilton would make his way past Alonso due to DRS. Hamilton was able to open up a gap to the cars behind momentarily before making his second stop, coming out in clean air. However this is where the strategies differed as both Alonso and Vettel tried to win the race on one stop. Hamilton lapped at well over a second quicker than his rivals straight away, and at one point was three seconds a lap quicker as their tyres dropped off completely. Hamilton made mincemeat of both Alonso and Vettel, and became the seventh different winner in seven races that year.
2013 Hungarian Grand Prix
In a season which was pretty much dominated by Vettel and Red Bull, Hamilton – now with Mercedes, had major troubles looking after their tyres in race conditions. Despite the Red Bull looking much quicker in practice, Hamilton managed to secure pole position by a fraction of a second. Hamilton led from the start and made his first stop pretty early on. He would come out behind former team-mate Button on the road, but was able to make his way past pretty swiftly. Vettel, who had kept up with Hamilton pitted a few laps later, but had major troubles getting past the slow McLaren. Vettel even managed to break part of his wing whilst struggling to get by on the tight and twisty circuit. This gave Hamilton his first Mercedes race victory on a weekend where Vettel and Red Bull were beaten despite arguably having the quicker car.
2014 Bahrain Grand Prix
The first twilight race at Bahrain and the 900th Formula One World Championship Grand Prix will forever go down in Formula One folklore. Although the stunning battle between Red Bull, Williams and Force India over third place alone would be enough to warrant being dubbed a classic, it was the incredible battle between team mates which made this race so famous. Hamilton started behind team mate Nico Rosberg as was the case more often than not in 2014, but he led into the first corner. Rosberg was down but not out however, as he fought hard to make his way past his team mate. The German dropped back a bit to conserve his tyres and fuel before attacking again before the first stops, going wheel-to-wheel on a number of occasions. The two Mercs split strategy at the first stop – Hamilton taking the option tyre whilst Rosberg went for primes, and predictably Hamilton opened up a gap. The two switched compounds when they made their second stops, but Hamilton only had a ten second lead and he was on the harder tyre. Then things got worse for Hamilton as Pastor Maldonado flipped Esteban Gutierrez over, causing a safety car to come out. Rosberg was now just behind Hamilton and on the right tyre. Despite this, Hamilton was able to brilliantly defend his position from his team mate for a number of laps and eventually Rosberg’s tyres were no longer so fresh. Hamilton had taken victory in one of the greatest Grand Prix in the 65-year history of the sport.