Autosport first picked out Lewis Hamilton’s 10 greatest Formula 1 victories after his 50th success at the 2016 United States Grand Prix.
Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins last weekend in the Eifel Grand Prix, and it seemed right to revisit the list again to celebrate the occasion.
For this list, we looked at Hamilton’s experience at the time, the machinery at his disposal, the challenges he faced on any given weekend, and the nature of his success. Great overtaking and virtuoso displays in tricky conditions were also taken into account, as were Hamilton’s own views.
10. 2018 German GP, Hockenheim
Hamilton race: 219
Hamilton win: 66
Car: Mercedes W09
Most of the greats have at least one blast through the pack to victory on their CV and this race at Hockenheim is Hamilton’s only win from outside the top 10 on the grid. Hydraulics issues in qualifying meant Hamilton had to start 14th, while championship leader Sebastian Vettel lined up on pole.
Vettel’s Ferrari duly led as Hamilton started a charge that got him through the midfield runners and – thanks to Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull starting even further back – into fifth on lap 14 of 67. As those ahead pitted Hamilton rose to third, while Kimi Raikkonen’s early stop allowed him to jump team-mate Vettel into the lead. The status quo was eventually restored with some team orders so, after Hamilton’s stop, the order was Vettel-Raikkonen-Valtteri Bottas-Hamilton. Then conditions changed.
“I knew there was the possibility to win when it started to rain,” said Hamilton.
Although Hamilton now became the fastest man on the circuit by some margin, Vettel continued to build his lead as Raikkonen struggled – Bottas closed in and grabbed second in traffic.
The moment of high drama came on lap 52. Vettel was nine seconds ahead of Bottas when he locked up into the Sachskurve and slid at slow speed into the gravel. It was a small error with major consequences: it meant no points for the Ferrari driver and another spot for Hamilton.
The safety car was called. Bottas came in, but confusion over the radio meant Hamilton aborted his entry to the pits, driving across the grass to continue. When Raikkonen pitted on the next lap, Hamilton took over at the front, with team-mate Bottas second.
The job wasn’t done yet, because Bottas now had fresh ultrasofts and attacked at the restart, Hamilton forced to go defensive. Mercedes then instructed the Finn to stay put. Hamilton had needed some luck, but had played his part to take one of his most remarkable wins.
“I didn’t make any mistakes at all, so I was really proud of today,” said Hamilton, who also moved into a points lead he was not to lose.
9. 2013 Hungarian GP, Hungaroring
Hamilton start: 120
Hamilton win: 22
Car: Mercedes F1 W04
Hamilton’s move to Mercedes, following frustrations at McLaren as Vettel racked up win after win, seemed bold. It now looks like a masterstroke, but during the combination’s first season there were plenty of dramas, such as the tyre failure in the 2013 British GP.
Somewhat surprisingly, Hamilton’s first win came at a baking hot Hungaroring, when his F1 W04 did not eat its rear rubber as anticipated.
Even the British driver had seemed underwhelmed after taking pole: “If we win tomorrow it will be a miracle,” he said, expecting a tough race.
Crucial to his success, other than the tyres lasting, was a no-nonsense pass on Jenson Button’s McLaren immediately after Hamilton had pitted from the lead.
Main rivals Vettel and Romain Grosjean (Lotus) found Button a harder nut to crack. By the time the McLaren pitted, 13 laps after Hamilton had gone by, Vettel – who had been within 1.7s of Hamilton – was 13.4s behind.
Hamilton was similarly firm in passing Mark Webber after the Mercedes’ second pit visit. Raikkonen’s Lotus won a multi-layered and exciting battle for second, but Hamilton finished 11s clear as he scored his first Mercedes success.
After an awful first lap, team-mate Nico Rosberg was battling for ninth when his engine let go. His best lap was almost half a second slower than Hamilton’s.
Autosport gave Hamilton 10/10 and said: “This was a weekend in which he was consistently fast, error-free and executed the race perfectly.”
8. 2012 United States GP, Austin
Hamilton start: 109
Hamilton win: 21
Car: McLaren MP4-27
By the time F1 headed to Austin for the first time, Hamilton was already out of the 2012 title fight and Vettel was well on his way to his third consecutive crown.
But Hamilton is often one of the first drivers to get on top of a new circuit and he duly qualified on the front row, alongside Vettel’s Red Bull.
Webber (Red Bull) initially relegated Hamilton to third, but after one failed attempt the McLaren moved back into second on lap four of 56 and pulled away.
After both Vettel and Hamilton made their single stops, the McLaren was only two seconds behind, but with Raikkonen’s yet-to-stop Lotus splitting them.
Hamilton used DRS to make his way past on lap 24, just before Raikkonen came in, by which time Vettel’s lead was 2.4s. The British driver closed Vettel down, but the Red Bull was quick enough in the crucial places to keep it just out of overtaking range.
That was until lap 42, when Vettel caught the slow HRT of Narain Karthikeyan in the snaking and narrow section from Turns 3 to 7. Now Hamilton was in range and, as they headed down the back straight, he simply blew by on the outside with the help of DRS.
“I knew I had to grab my chance, so I turned the engine up to maximum revs and pushed like crazy,” said Hamilton, who was rewarded for his dogged and relentless pursuit.
“He had one chance to pass, and he took it,” agreed Vettel, who was unable to respond even though he finished just 0.7s behind.
7. 2011 German GP, Nurburgring
Hamilton race: 81
Hamilton win: 16
Car: McLaren MP4-26
Another swashbuckling racer’s performance helped Hamilton beat Webber and Fernando Alonso at the Nurburgring in 2011.
A stunning qualifying effort – 1.2s faster than team-mate Button – secured Hamilton a surprise front row start, after he’d switched from Carbone Industrie brakes to Brembos. Hamilton then grabbed the lead from Webber at the start, while Alonso’s Ferrari soon got the better of Vettel, setting up a three-way battle for victory.
The McLaren driver held off Webber until a small mistake into the chicane on lap 12 of 60 allowed the Red Bull to pass into the final corner. But Hamilton ensured he got a good run onto the start/finish straight and retook the lead on the blast down to Turn 1.
Webber’s earlier stop then allowed him to jump Hamilton, but the Red Bull couldn’t shake off his pursuer. At the second stops, Webber came in first and was hung out to dry when he tried to pass Hamilton as the McLaren emerged from its tyre change.
Hamilton then showed how it could be done by passing Alonso, who emerged just ahead after his own stop. The leaders had to change onto the unfavoured medium tyre for the final stint, but Hamilton was able to open up a small gap over Alonso before the crucial stops.
He was immediately able to lap faster than Alonso’s Ferrari after the McLaren’s final pit visit and came home 4s clear. “Vintage Hamilton, 10/10,” said Autosport’s driver ratings.
6. 2008 German GP, Hockenheim
Hamilton start: 27
Hamilton win: 8
Car: McLaren MP4-23
The revised MP4-23 and Hamilton was the quickest combination around Hockenheim in 2008 – as proved by a comfortable pole position – but McLaren’s strategy forced him to pull out a great drive.
Things started well. Hamilton led from the off and was 11.8s clear of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari after 35 of the 67 laps. But then Timo Glock’s Toyota suffered a suspension failure and crashed, bringing out the safety car.
Strangely, McLaren decided not to bring Hamilton in, even after the rest of the field peeled off as the team thought the safety car period would be short and that Hamilton would have enough time to rebuild a gap before pitting.
Wrong. Hamilton had just nine laps between the race recommencing and having to make his second stop. He thus emerged fifth with 17 laps to go, despite having charged off into the distance at the restart.
Team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, who had struggled for pace all weekend, didn’t pose too much of a problem. Nor did Nick Heidfeld, who was trying a similar strategy in his BMW and soon pitted.
But ahead lay Nelson Piquet Jr, in front by virtue of a perfectly-timed stop and leading a GP for the first time, and championship contender Massa.
Massa was struggling with his brakes and Hamilton dived by into second on lap 57. He was now 2.1s behind the leading Renault.
Hamilton was on Piquet’s gearbox within two tours and, on lap 60, returned to his rightful place at the front after going down the inside of the Renault at the Spitzkehre hairpin.
“That dazzling pace had regained him the victory the tactical call had almost lost him,” said our report.
5. 2019 Monaco GP, Monte Carlo
Hamilton race: 235
Hamilton win: 77
Car: Mercedes W10
In the wake of the death of Niki Lauda, who had been so instrumental in persuading Hamilton to join the Silver Arrows, emotions were high at Monaco. And this time it was a strategic error from Mercedes that made life tougher for Hamilton.
He had led from the start after taking a fine pole and all looked normal until a safety car period brought the leaders in on lap 11 of 78. Mercedes opted to put medium Pirellis on Hamilton’s car, while Red Bull and Ferrari went for hards for Max Verstappen and Vettel respectively.
Racing went green again on lap 15, giving Hamilton the task of conducting a mammoth 64-lap stint on the softer compound. Hamilton expressed his frustration over the radio, but that didn’t prevent him putting in a well-judged drive, looking after the rubber and not making mistakes while keeping arguably the most aggressive driver on the grid – Verstappen – behind him. Verstappen had extra motivation to pass Hamilton, if he needed any, thanks to a 5s penalty for a clash with Bottas during the pitstops.
His big attack finally came on lap 76. Verstappen was close enough to the struggling Mercedes to try an ambitious move down the inside into the chicane. Hamilton demonstrated his sixth sense-like racecraft by straightening up as the Red Bull arrived, taking the sting out of the inevitable contact and allowing the Mercedes to come out still ahead.
It was easy to imagine a more destructive clash had any other driver in the field been in the lead car.
“I think it was one of the hardest races I’ve had,” said Hamilton. “It was one of the most strategic drives that I think I have ever had to do in terms of finding that balance around the track to try and keep the gap. “I definitely touched the barrier a lot of times.”
4. 2011 Chinese GP, Shanghai
Hamilton start: 74
Hamilton win: 15
Car: McLaren MP4-26
Hamilton only just made it out in time to line up third in China after his McLaren initially failed to fire.
That didn’t stop both McLarens jumping poleman Vettel’s Red Bull, Hamilton following team-mate Button as the top three broke clear.
But McLaren lost out during the first round of pitstops, Hamilton falling to fifth.
With the frontrunners employing a range of two- and three-stop strategies thanks to the fragile Pirellis, things didn’t unwind until the closing stages. And Hamilton had a lot of work to do on-track.
Hamilton dived down the inside of Button at the first corner before his third and final stop. Once everyone had pitted, Hamilton thus found himself fourth.
He caught and passed Rosberg’s Mercedes and then overcame the Ferrari of Massa with 12 laps to go. At that point he was still 4.6s behind leader Vettel.
It took just six laps for the McLaren to catch the Red Bull. Vettel defended hard, but Hamilton took the lead on lap 52 of 56 with a bold move into the high-speed Turn 7.
“It was another beautiful – and highly unconventional – move that took Seb completely by surprise,” said our report.
Hamilton took the flag more than five seconds clear, and reckoned it one of his best: “This race is in my top three of race wins, up there with Silverstone and Monaco in 2008.”
3. 2014 Bahrain GP, Bahrain
Hamilton start: 132
Hamilton win: 24
Car: Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid
The third round of the 2014 season is high on the list because it demonstrates that Hamilton can win even when he isn’t the fastest. He outraced team-mate Rosberg in a way that helped set the tone for their subsequent battles.
Rosberg arrived leading the championship, qualified on pole and set fastest lap, but came away second best.
“Rosberg had the strongest hand in a dramatic Bahrain Grand Prix, but didn’t play it right and lost out in a thrilling head-to-head,” said our report.
Things started going wrong for Rosberg, and right for Hamilton, when the #44 Mercedes was able to claim the lead on the inside on the run to the first corner.
Once well clear of the field, Rosberg launched an assault on Hamilton. On lap 19 he dived underneath Lewis into Turn 1, but couldn’t get it stopped and Hamilton repassed on the exit before pitting.
Rosberg took the slower medium tyre for the second stint, but underlined his pace by only losing minimal time to his soft-shod team-mate. That meant he would come back at Hamilton when they pitted for the final time and effectively swapped compounds.
Rosberg was even helped by a safety car period around the time of the second stops. Instead of having to use some of his tyre advantage to eat into Hamilton’s lead, which had risen to nearly 10s, he had 11 laps to find a way by.
There was also energy deployment from the hybrid systems to utilise and several times Rosberg attacked, only to be rebuffed.
His big effort came with six laps to go, diving up the inside into Turn 1 and duelling all the way to Turn 4. He tried again on the next tour, but each time Hamilton was able to position his car in the right place to emerge ahead, albeit narrowly.
“It felt like one of the best-calculated races I’ve ever had – how I was using my power and how I was positioning my car,” said Hamilton.
“He’d catch me down the back straight, still be with me at the last corner and have DRS. So I had to accept he was going to come past.
“I couldn’t come to the inside and then block, I had to get him back. I don’t know how I did it all the time.”
Rosberg wasn’t entirely happy with some of Hamilton’s driving, contributing to tension that would lead to a clash at Spa and, arguably, his ongoing issues when trying to battle his team-mate wheel-to-wheel.
2. 2018 Italian GP, Monza
Hamilton race: 222
Hamilton win: 68
Car: Mercedes W09
Despite having the fastest car, at least in qualifying, all was not well at Ferrari on home ground. First of all, it was the ‘wrong’ driver on pole position – Raikkonen instead of title contender Vettel – and the team also chose to tell the Finn that his services would not be required for 2019 prior to the race.
It was perhaps not a surprise when Raikkonen decided not to make life easy for Vettel at the start to hold the lead. Apparently perturbed, Vettel was still focusing on his team-mate into the second chicane on the inside line. With typical opportunism, Hamilton moved to the outside entering the left part of the chicane and went the long way around the Ferrari. Vettel then understeered into the Mercedes, the slight contact being enough to spin him around.
Hamilton then breezed into the lead following a safety car period, but Raikkonen was in one of his more combative moods. He picked up the tow and went back into the lead around the outside approaching the second chicane.
Hamilton hounded Raikkonen for the rest of the stint and made his stop much later – lap 28 to Kimi’s lap 20. He rejoined 5.7s behind but with fresher rubber.
Mercedes left Bottas out and he now held Raikkonen back, helping Hamilton to close in. Perhaps even more importantly, the Ferrari also started suffering with a blister on the left-rear tyre. Hamilton had some front blistering, but it was less severe and he remained in Raikkonen’s wheeltracks even after Bottas finally made his stop.
At the end of lap 44 Hamilton got a run on the Ferrari down the start/finish straight. Raikkonen defended on the inside, but Hamilton braked later and completed the move around the outside into the first chicane. The Mercedes then raced clear to take the chequered flag 8.7s ahead of Raikkonen. Vettel took fourth and fell yet further behind in the championship fight.
“This was Hamilton’s victory, because he forced errors and made the vital passes when he had to,” said Autosport’s report. “Mercedes did an impeccable job at Monza, but the brilliance of Hamilton was the key ingredient that made all the difference.”
1. 2008 British GP, Silverstone
Hamilton race: 26
Hamilton win: 7
Car: McLaren MP4-23
“It’s performances of that calibre that make legends,” said Autosport after what remains Hamilton’s most dominant performance in Formula 1.
In appalling conditions at his home grand prix at Silverstone, Hamilton – in only his second F1 season – put on one of the virtuoso wet-weather drives. And one that, unlike his 2008 Monaco success, did not require a big dose of luck.
After a couple of poor races – including his infamous pitlane gaffe in Canada – Hamilton had slumped to fourth in the points and needed a good weekend.
From row two Hamilton made a fantastic start and nearly overtook team-mate and polesitter Kovalainen at Copse, the two McLarens briefly touching.
While experienced hands like Webber and Massa rotated on the first lap, Hamilton pressured his team-mate. Clearly quicker, Lewis made it by on lap five into Stowe when Kovalainen made things easy for him as he started to struggle with his tyres.
Hamilton, who was having trouble with a misting visor he kept having to clear, was faster and kinder to his tyres. He drew away, but faced a new challenge when Kovalainen spun and Raikkonen’s Ferrari moved into second and started closing the gap.
The top two came in together. Ferrari kept Raikkonen on the same set of inters, McLaren gave Hamilton a new set and gave him a bit more fuel but still got its man out ahead.
As they exited, the rain returned, playing in to Hamilton’s hands – new intermediates were better than old ones when water levels increased. Raikkonen was 22s behind just five laps after the stops.
And that was the last anyone saw of Hamilton, despite a brief off at Abbey when the rain intensified again.
At the second stops, McLaren fitted new intermediates at a time when the fastest on track were on extreme wet tyres. For a while, Hamilton was three seconds slower than the best on the extreme rubber but much faster than others on intermediates.
He didn’t have to stop again to change back to inters as the track dried, so his lead grew and grew. McLaren even asked him to slow down.
“If I go any slower I’ll lose concentration,” was Hamilton’s reply.
The result was that Hamilton lapped everyone up to and including Raikkonen in fourth, finishing 1m08.6s ahead of second-placed Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber.
“There’s every chance that his seventh GP win could stand as his best,” said Edd Straw in Autosport. Forty-three victories on our view hadn’t changed and with another thirty-four wins added to Hamilton’s tally that view remains the same.
The ones that got away
2008 Belgian GP, Spa
Hamilton race: 30
Car: McLaren MP4-23
A titanic struggle between two of the sport’s leading lights around one of its finest circuits was ruined by an overzealous penalty. Hamilton and Raikkonen were the star acts at Spa in 2008, but Massa emerged triumphant.
Raikkonen jumped from fourth to third at the start, then overtook Massa on the run to Les Combes, having edged his team-mate towards the grass. After poleman Hamilton had a quick spin at La Source on the second lap, Raikkonen went by on the run from Eau Rouge to Les Combes. The lead duo then pulled clear, showing an edge over the rest.
With just three laps to go, Raikkonen led by 2s, with Massa another six behind Hamilton. Then rain arrived. The Ferrari was gentle on its tyres and the rubber lost temperature quickly, while the McLaren remained rapid.
Hamilton pounced on the run to the final chicane, getting alongside the Ferrari. Raikkonen defended forcefully and Hamilton took to the runoff. The McLaren emerged ahead, but Hamilton – knowing he had gained an advantage - backed off to allow the Ferrari by. He then outfoxed Raikkonen by immediately diving down the inside into La Source.
Hamilton started to pull away, only to have to take avoiding action when Rosberg’s Williams rejoined the track after an off. Raikkonen shot by, then spun, handing the advantage back. Raikkonen crashed for good at Blanchimont, leaving Hamilton to take the flag 14s clear of a subdued Massa.
But then came news of the penalty: 25s was added to Hamilton’s race time for leaving the track while fighting Kimi. McLaren pointed out that, as a result of giving the place back, Hamilton had been 6km/h (3.7mph) slower over the start/finish line than Raikkonen. There was even the provision within the rules to hand out a grid penalty at the following race, but the time penalty stood. First became third.
“Hamilton did the right thing in letting Kimi by, and then passed him,” said three-time world champion Lauda. “It was an absolutely perfect drive from Hamilton.”
2012 Singapore GP, Marina Bay
Hamilton race: 104
Car: McLaren MP4-27
The 2012 season was a mixed one for Hamilton, with some stunning performances interspersed with failures and retirements. Singapore was perhaps the most disappointing. Hamilton was second in the title race heading into the weekend, and led eventual champion Vettel by two points.
He was on form on the streets of Singapore too, taking a dominant pole and leading from the off. Vettel chased, but his Red Bull’s tyres wilted before the McLaren’s in the first stint.
“Lewis was cruising, going only as fast as needed to maintain position,” said our report. “The Hamilton-McLaren combination was both faster and easier on the rubber.”
After 22 laps, Hamilton was only 1.5s ahead, but had everything under control. Apart from his gearbox. Problems had started to show up three laps before and then he lost all gears. Vettel swept by to win, while Hamilton dropped to fourth in the standings, 52 points behind leader Alonso.
“Vettel swipes Lewis’s victory,” cried Autosport magazine’s cover, while Hamilton said: “I have absolutely no doubt we would have won.”
That failure was ill-timed from McLaren’s point of view. That same weekend Hamilton met Mercedes boss Lauda, a key step in his eventual move to the Silver Arrows for the following season…
2015 Monaco GP, Monte Carlo
Hamilton race: 154
Car: Mercedes W06
But Mercedes isn’t perfect either. At Monaco in 2015 it wasn’t the car that let Hamilton down, but the squad’s strategy.
Hamilton’s advantage over Mercedes team-mate Rosberg was normally quite small, but at Monaco in 2015 the gap was obvious. Hamilton took pole by over a third of a second and pulled inexorably away in the race.
With just 15 laps to go he was an impressive 19.2s clear of Rosberg, who was more worried about Vettel’s chasing Ferrari. Then Verstappen vaulted over the back of Grosjean heading in to Sainte Devote, bringing out first the virtual safety car and then the real thing.
Mercedes was concerned Hamilton would be vulnerable if his soft Pirellis (the harder of the compounds that weekend) lost temperature and believed he had enough of a margin to get in and out of the pits without losing the lead. But its calculations were wrong and Hamilton, now armed with supersofts, returned to the track to find Rosberg and Vettel ahead of him.
“I’ve lost this race haven’t I?” asked Hamilton over the radio, and he had. He was unable to make any progress in the eight laps after the restart. Hamilton had played his part in the disastrous decision, airing concern over the radio that his rubber would lose temperature, under the assumption that those behind were pitting. But it was Mercedes’ call that meant he finished third rather than first.
2016 Malaysian GP, Sepang
Hamilton race: 183
Car: Mercedes W07
Hamilton should really have hit the 50 F1 wins mark – and moved back into the lead of the 2016 title race – with victory in the Malaysian GP. He comfortably qualified on pole (his 57th) at Sepang and was ahead when team-mate Rosberg and Vettel’s Ferrari clashed at the first corner. The Ferrari was out immediately, while Rosberg began a damage limitation exercise.
Despite a challenge from the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Verstappen – each running on a different strategy – Hamilton had just enough pace to control the race. With the Red Bulls battling each other, Hamilton had built up a 23s lead, enough for a second stop, after 40 of the 56 laps.
But then Mercedes suffered a rare sudden engine failure, Hamilton dramatically pulling off with flames and smoke licking around the rear of his W07. Ricciardo swept by to lead Verstappen in a Red Bull 1-2, while – more importantly – Rosberg inherited third and moved further ahead in the championship battle.
“We did everything we could this weekend,” said Hamilton after suffering another failure during his troubled 2016 campaign. “I did everything I could.”
Even Rosberg showed some sympathy: “I know it feels horrible. I’m sure he feels so gutted, especially when you deserve to win the race and the technology lets go.”