Lewis Hamilton's Worst Races
After 83 races, Lewis Hamilton has racked up one World Championship and 16 Grand Prix wins. It’s an impressive record for a 26-year-old, but one that he is clearly not satisfied with. Hamilton is forever pushing to win more races and more championships, which is exactly what any racing driver should be doing.
But in the process of doing this he is occasionally making mistakes. Are these mistakes becoming more frequent? As the pressure of satisfying his thirst for success envelopes him, he is struggling to make the most of his opportunities on the track.
The following slide-show looks at ten races where Lewis has made mistakes and has compromised his ability to score valuable championship points. We all make mistakes under pressure, but which of Lewis’ have been the most costly?
With two races to go in 2007, Lewis was leading the driver’s championship by 12 points. But in China he got it all wrong. Relying on his team to dictate strategy, he stayed out on track with a set of tyres that was literally falling apart.
As he finally entered the pit lane on lap 30, he found he had no grip and slid wide into the gravel. It was a ridiculous and very slow accident, but it left Lewis out of the race and allowed Raikkonen to close to within seven points of him.
Lewis was relying on his team to bring him in and this is understandable, as it was his first season in the sport and here he was fighting for the World Championship. But as a driver, Lewis should have insisted on pitting. If he had, he would have won his first championship there and then.
Going into the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, Lewis had finished on the podium for nine consecutive races—which were also his first nine races in Formula 1! It was an astonishing run and it was going to end somewhere. A wheel rim failure in qualifying left him heavily in the tyre wall and down in 10th on the grid.
The race started dry, but it immediately started to rain. After spinning off in the deluge, Lewis was clever enough to sit in his car with his engine running while a crane lifted him back onto the circuit. He was able to continue in the race, but after that Lewis made the decision to pit for dry tyres. This was far too early and he slid off the track again, losing a huge amount of time in the process. It’s tempting to suggest he was inexperienced and so this was excusable, but the reality is that any Formula 1 driver should know that standing water on the track means it’s too early for dry tyres.
What-if’s don’t work in sport, but this was one more occasion where Lewis lost silly points in a season where he lost the championship by just one point.
Lewis was fighting Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso for the 2010 World Championship. With such a competitive field it was essential to at least finish every race and to get a strong haul of points. But in Italy 2010 Hamilton committed himself to a gap that wasn’t there and removed himself from the race on lap one. It was a rookie error.
The damage to his championship charge wasn’t as significant as it might have been, but with Alonso winning the race and Webber taking the championship lead it was a race where merely finishing would have helped Lewis enormously when the final points were tallied up.
In Italy Lewis went for a gap that didn’t exist, but in Singapore he was slightly more unlucky. Minor contact with Mark Webber ended his race and meant he scored zero points for the second race in succession. Alonso won again, meaning Lewis had given away 50 points to his rival in two races. With Vettel and Webber closing out the podium, Lewis’s error in attempting to pass Webber had resulted in the worst possible outcome.
The lesson from Italy and Singapore 2010 is simple: it’s vital to finish the race and not risk it all by throwing your car up the inside.
The golden rule in motorsports is to never crash into your team mate. In Canada earlier this year that’s exactly what Lewis did. Again, he failed to judge the situation he was in, was too eager to progress up the order and he paid a big price. In a wet race of huge attrition, there’s no need to take big risks. These are the races where you sit back and let the result come to you.
If crashing into your team mate is bad, watching him go on to take the win is painful. Coming just a fortnight after his Monaco weekend, this was a very low point in Lewis’ career and has left a legacy whereby Jenson is perhaps, in the eyes of some, now the lead driver at McLaren, the one they rely on to get the results.
At the Monaco Grand Prix in May, Lewis became hugely frustrated in the cockpit and his driving suffered. In qualifying, he was demoted two places on the grid for cutting a chicane. He was also given a drive-through penalty for making contact with Massa at the hairpin and had twenty seconds added to his race for colliding with Pastor Maldonado at Ste Devote after the restart.
He let his feelings be known in a BBC interview immediately after the race, but it was clear that apologising wasn’t the end of the matter—Lewis needed to calm down and think dispassionately about his driving and how he went about his motor racing. Having a hot head on the track is often a recipe for disaster and when at the top of any sport, or indeed any profession, mind management is of great importance.
Lewis was fighting hard for the World Championship when he began this race from pole position. On the run to the first corner, however, he got it all wrong and out-braked himself. This resulted in various other drivers running wide and off the circuit.
From his pole position, Lewis should have been able to take the lead from the start of the race, but his mistake left him with an unfair drive through penalty and a 12th place finish.
Scoring no points, he was fortunate that Felipe Massa, his championship rival, scored just two. The lesson here is that after working so hard on Saturday to get pole position, Lewis should have maximised his chance to take the lead into turn one. Instead he made a costly error, ruining his race.
This race was an example of Hamilton simply failing in his attempt to overtake another car, much like Italy and Singapore 2010. The difference is that this time he wasn’t fighting for the championship and so to some extent it doesn’t matter, but what if he was in the midst of a championship battle?
While every overtaking move is unique, it’s important to learn from mistakes made in the past. Retiring from races due crashes is new to Hamilton. It didn’t happen at all in 2007 or 2008 and only once in 2009. It shouldn’t be something that occurs more frequently as a driver matures.
This race wasn’t a disaster for Hamilton, but it merits mention because Lewis should have got more out of it. He hasn’t learned as much as he might have from his team mate when it comes to mixed condition races and this has the potential to harm Lewis as he gears up, hopefully, for another world championship assault in 2012.
Perhaps he should have listened to his gut instinct a bit more when deciding which tyres to have on the car—Jenson ignored the team when they asked him to come in for dry tyres. Lewis suggested he didn’t see Di Resta when he spin-turned in front of him, in which case there’s no problem. But maybe he should have thought a little more before he carried out his manoeuvre. Again, this is about an intelligent and fast driver (Button) versus a driver who is only fast (Hamilton).
Lewis was pushing hard to catch Jenson Button, who was driving for Brawn at the time, but as he exited the second Lesmo he dropped a wheel off track and spun into the wall. The impact was hard and Lewis was out of the race. The safety car was required while the debris was cleared up.
Lewis wasn’t in the running for the world championship, so the mistake didn’t cost him too much. But throwing away a podium and possible second place is always unfortunate.
The race after China in 2007 was the final race of the year, in Brazil. Lewis was seven points clear of Raikkonen with ten points available for the win. All Lewis needed to do was finish in the top four to secure the World Championship.
He qualified second, ahead of his championship rivals. But a mistake in the opening lap jostling left him eighth. As I mentioned, we all make mistakes and they can be forgiven. This was Lewis’s first season in F1 and he was very young. Also, it’s important to remember that all was not lost and Lewis calmly set about progressing up the order.
However, an electronic glitch in his McLaren halted his progress and he dropped to 18th. The electric issue wasn’t Hamilton’s fault, but without his first lap error maybe he could have won the world championship.