Hamilton’s 10 other near-misses keeping him from 100 wins – so far

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It’s surely now a matter of when, not if, Lewis Hamilton equals Michael Schumacher’s record for most Formula 1 race victories.

Had it not been for a costly error at Monza two weeks ago, Hamilton would already have drawn level with Schumacher’s 91 wins. He and his team failed to spot the pit lane entrance was closed when he came in during a Safety Car period, earning him a penalty, which cost him what looked like being a straightforward win.

Instead he has his first chance to equal that tally this weekend. But in a career which already spans 259 grands prix and 90 wins, Monza wasn’t the first time Hamilton narrowly missed out on a win. Here are 10 other occasions when victory slipped from his grasp, for various unusual reasons.

2007 Chinese Grand Prix

Hamilton pressed on despite destroyed tyres

Hamilton’s hopes of clinching the world championship in his first season – potentially an extraordinary achievement – were halted by a pitifully small gravel trap at the pit lane entrance at Shanghai. Having led the race commandingly from pole position on a damp track, Hamilton had been poised to clinch the title by winning the penultimate round of the season.

But as the track dried, both driver and team left the switch to dry-weather rubber unfathomably late. By the time he entered the pits on lap 31 his rear tyres were falling apart, the canvas beneath the tread visible. When Hamilton tried to swing left into the pits, the McLaren wouldn’t make the turn, and bogged down in the gravel, his race over.

It was a massive blow to Hamilton’s title hopes. Two weeks later in Brazil a gearbox problem ensured the trophy went to Kimi Raikkonen.

2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

A brake problem cost Hamilton victory in the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

At the end of his unsuccessful first title defence, Hamilton took pole position for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina. He did so by an emphatic margin of six-tenths of a second, aided by a slightly lower fuel load, in the last race of the refuelling era.

But soon after the start his right-rear brake began grabbing, and having led all the way he was forced to retire after his first pit stop.

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2012 Singapore Grand Prix

Singapore disappointment prompted Hamilton to sign for Mercedes

This was a pivotal moment in Hamilton’s career. He was already getting restless at McLaren, straightjacketed by the corporate environment and, more frustratingly, their inability to consistently compete for another title.

Victory in the Italian Grand Prix left him 27 points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso, whose Ferrari looked beatable. Hamilton led away from pole at the next round in Singapore, but a gearbox problem forced him out after his second pit stop.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis later insisted the retirement was triggered by a failure of a Mercedes part. Whatever the cause, the ultimate effect was Hamilton signed for the Silver Arrows soon afterwards.

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Another chance to win at Yas Marina passed him by in 2012

Hamilton’s title hopes were as good as over by the time the championship arrived at Yas Marina for the 18th race of 20. As had been the case three years earlier, he stuck his McLaren on pole position and led until it broke down.

2012 Brazilian Grand Prix

Hulkenberg’s rash move denied Hamilton a winning farewell to McLaren

Hamilton’s hopes of leaving the team which brought him into F1 on a high were ended not by another technical failure, but a rival. Nico Hulkenberg led the race convincingly for Force India earlier on, but Hamilton took over the lead on lap 48 and appeared to have the race under control until Hulkenberg took him out.

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2014 Australian Grand Prix

The V6 hybrid turbo era has been good to Hamilton – though not from the start

Many people doubted Hamilton’s decision to move to Mercedes. From early in 2014 it became clear they would have to eat their words, as the team produced a phenomenal machine for the new V6 hybrid turbo era.

They were not immune from first-race glitches, however. Hamilton’s car faltered early on, handing the first victory of the new era to team mate Nico Rosberg.

2015 Monaco Grand Prix

Hamilton felt the pain of a major strategic error in Monaco

Mercedes had to cajole Hamilton to take his third place on the Monaco Grand Prix podium in 2015 after a catastrophic strategy blunder handed victory to Rosberg. He’d held a comfortable lead until a Safety Car period, when Mercedes brought him into the pits, assuming he’d retain his advantage and get the benefit of fresh tyres. Instead he emerged behind Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel.

“I’ve lost this race, haven’t I?” asked Hamilton, and the team had to admit he was right. On the victory lap he pulled to a stop at Portier, where race engineer Peter Bonnington urged him to join the post-race festivities, admitting: “I know you don’t want to.”

Hamilton did as he was told, and knocked over the ‘number three’ board as he parked up. At least unlike Nikita Mazepin at Spa earlier this month he avoided a reprimand for doing so.

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

An rare and untimely power unit failure his Hamilton’s 2016 title hopes hard

Rosberg’s fortuitous Monaco win didn’t stop Hamilton taking a third world championship in 2015. But in the latter stages of 2016 a retirement from the lead in Malaysia proved a fatal blow to Hamilton’s title hopes.

After Vettel turfed Rosberg off early in the race, Hamilton was on course to overturn his team mate’s eight-point championship lead. Then a big-end bearing failed in his power unit, forcing him to a smoky stop at the roadside.

“I just can’t believe that there’s eight Mercedes [powered] cars and only my engines have been going this year,” bemoaned Hamilton after Rosberg pulled 23 points clear in the title fight. “Something just doesn’t feel right.”

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2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Hamilton had Vettel handled in Baku but a faulty headrest proved his undoing

Surely the most bizarre lost victory of Hamilton’s career. He’d already survived contact with Vettel, who swiped his Ferrari into the side of the Mercedes during a Safety Car period, when he was forced to pit because his headrest had worked loose. That delay cost him more time than Vettel’s 10-second stop-go penalty. As in Malaysia the previous season, Daniel Ricciardo took advantage to claimed victory.

2019 German Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Hockenheimring, 2019
An uncharacteristic mistake in a wet race cost Hamilton in Germany last year

Many of Hamilton’s finest performances have come in wet races. But when the rain fell at the Hockenheimring last year he slipped up, spinning away the lead and limping into the pits with a damaged car. That led to a penalty and, later in the race, another spin. He finished a lowly 11th on the road, but was promoted to ninth place and two points when the Alfa Romeo drivers were penalised.

This was the first race Mercedes had permitted Netflix’s Drive to Survive documentary makers to follow them at close quarters, and they captured the whole debacle, including a contrite Hamilton apologising repeatedly for his race-losing mistake. The team’s rivals will be hoping their second appearance in the series, being filmed at Sochi this weekend, produces more of the same.

To 91 – and beyond?

Had Hamilton converted all 10 of these opportunities to win, he could have already become the first driver to 100 wins. Or more still if we add Monza this year, or other potential wins that could have been at Spa in 2008 or Silverstone in 2013.

However the same can surely also be said of Schumacher, who ended his career nine wins shy of a milestone century. Once Hamilton surpasses his tally, as now seems inevitable, how much further will he raise it?

Video: The history of F1’s ‘most wins’ record

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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74 comments on “Hamilton’s 10 other near-misses keeping him from 100 wins – so far”

  1. Among all the races in the list, Baku 2017 has to be the weirdest and the most unfortunate.
    I had never seen someone lose victory because of a loose headrest.
    But that race had too many talking points and a fantastic finish.
    The loose headrest was like adding more spice for the race to taste better rather than adding salt to Hamilton’s championship hopes that season.

    1. @webtel It is indeed rare. However, it has happened once before. Giancarlo Fisichella lost the Nurburgring 1999 race because his headrest fell off. In his case, the headrest’s sudden fall led to his head going backwards and crashing the car before he could get it back under control. Lewis’ ability to remain in the race was impressive, even if the race result doesn’t look much better than a DNF would.

      1. @alianora-la-canta Never knew that fact about Fisichella. Thanks.

  2. 2 of these races also cost him championships. Funny to think of two races had gone another way, he’d be a 8 times world champion already with a 9th pretty much tied down.

    1. True to some extent, but of course he might not have left McLaren when he did had that been the case. The mystery of life!

    2. While true, you can play the same game with other drivers too. If Alonso had scored 8 more points at the right time, he could’ve been a 5 time champion by now. I’m sure you could pick out missed opportunities from those seasons to accumulate at least those few points needed. It’s the fine margins at the top level of professional sports.

      1. Same could be said about Schumacher, he could be 10 times world champion.

  3. I loved how dramatic most of these were. Can’t fault Hamilton on the entertainment he provides for F1, maybe not so much now while he’s dominating, but since his debut its been a rollercoaster ride! Could of had 2 more championships!

    1. Agreed, but also easily 4 less had his car not been so dominant. Not taking away anything of his talent or skills, he has been very fortunate as well

      1. You think Mercedes would’ve been as dominant without Lewis?! Wow

  4. One thing that’s striking here is how few were lost thanks to mistakes by Hamilton, the majority being either technical failure, strategic misjudgements or errors by other people (Germany 2019 being the big exception)

    I’m sure we’ll see Hamilton reach 100 and fair play to him, he’s made the right calls when it comes to team choice and when he’s had the machinery to win he’s generally been clinical.

    1. Yep, he is an incredibly consistent driver and makes few mistakes. Usually the hallmark of a world champion but it’s not often you see it over so many years!

  5. Assuming he had converted all of these and all other drivers remained in the same positions (which probably wouldn’t have happened due to the effects on the race of Hamilton’s retirements, but for ease of calculation we’ll go with it) then Lewis would already be an 8-time World Champion going for his 9th (and his 7th consecutive) – adding the 2007 and 2016 titles to his list.

    In 2012 he would’ve finished 3rd in the championship. Vettel and Alonso would actually have both finished tied on 269 points but Vettel would still have taken the title on countback (4 wins to Alonso’s 3 wins). Lewis would have finished 4 points behind on 265, despite having 7 wins.

    Of course, there were other races that year which could’ve made the difference such as Valencia where Maldonado removed him from a certain podium on the last lap, and Spa where he was caught up in the Grosjean melee along with Alonso. But if we went down this route we would also have to do a similar thing for Vettel and Alonso and restore their “lost results” too, such as Vettel’s retirement from the lead in Valencia. I suspect we would have had an epic 3-way title fight that season between the 3 best drivers of their generation in 3 different cars.

    1. Actually my maths is wrong for 2012 as we’d have to also restore Hulkenberg to the podium. That would leave:

      1. Vettel on 267 points (4 wins)
      2. Alonso on 266 points (3 wins)
      3. Hamilton on 265 points (7 wins)

      1. That would have been so cool

      2. You guys are missing Martin Whitmarsh and his teams brain fart level of pit stops
        Bahrain (two stops which was almost a minute)
        Spain (short fuelled him during qualifying)

  6. When I saw the title I immediately thought of Spa 2008 – surely that was a slam dunk win that never was?

    1. @frood19 True. Weird this wasn’t included, even though he lost that win in an unfair and questionable manner.

    2. Yeah, that was one of the ones that stood out for me too as being missing.

      1. Agreed. The reality is that is probably the only one that is a lost win. The others are team errors, his errors or the car not being reliable which frankly is just racing

    3. Yeh for sure. I was there and only found out back at the campsite late evening when some Germans were laughing at us. To be fair they fed and watered us all evening in sympathy. Great days.

  7. you could also make a list of lucky wins because of other people’s mifortune

    that’s what happens in sport

    1. @anunaki, good idea. It would be a good counter-post to this one.

      1. I’m sure Racefans will be doing that when the next driver is just about to take over Hamilton’s win record.

        1. When will that be exactly Ian?

          1. Presumably about 14 years from now! I can’t say I thought anyone would get close to Schumacher for quite some time but I suppose the increased number of races and the incredible reliability these days changes the goal posts somewhat. It certainly helps when a single team manages to master regulation changes and continue to dominate (ie Mercedes 2017 to present)…

  8. I suppose these things balance out. There’s at least a couple of wins he had which he probably shouldn’t have (Turkey 2010 and Monaco 2016 come to mind).

    1. @tommy-c Indeed. Not only has there been lost wins, but also more than a handful of wins, he wouldn’t have achieved had it not been for something happening in his favor. 2010 Turkish and 2016 Monaco GPs aren’t the only examples, but also Bahrain, Canada, and Russia last season where he lucked into a position to win, as well as, of course, the 2018 Russian GP through team orders, and the German GP of the same season from P14 on the grid.

      1. @tommy-c I forgot to add the 2017 Singapore and 2018 Azerbaijan GPs.

    2. @tommy-c Monaco 2008 stands out; he was only on the right strategy because he crashed and was forced onto it…

    3. Most sporting careers will see a balance of good and bad luck. But the old adage springs to mind – the more I practice, the luckier I get.

  9. There are of course also races where Lewis got to win where that did not seem likely at all.
    The 2017 Singapore GP for instance. Both Ferrari and Red Bull were faster, but the Ferrari’s sandwiched Verstappen at the start and Lewis escaped from the carnage in the lead to retain it to the finish.
    Baku 2018, where Bottas held a comfortable lead until his tire exploded 3 laps before the finish. And so on.

    You gain some, you lose some. If you compensate for the technical mishaps of all drivers then Lewis would still have won about 90 races by now.

    1. I think the same can be said for the championships. the way I see it the 2007 & 2008 championships balance each other out – it was insane that he lost the 2007 championship but at least he won 2008. not saying he got lucky in 2008, but he really deserved to win 2007 too

      1. @nickthegreek Indeed. Had it not been for that costly error on the way to the pits in China caused by extremely worn tyres, he would already be at seven, and therefore, set to win the WDC for the eight time this season rather than seven, although MSC would’ve ended up at eight had it not been for the problems in Japan and Brazil at the tail-end of 2006, so these things work many ways. The history of F1 is full of what-ifs and maybes.

        1. If he stayed at the same team as a result of winning the wdc with them he would never had that many titels.
          His team changes are instrumental in his achievements.

        2. Or, even more unthinkable: If he hadn’t won in 2008 be that tiniest of margins and stayed at McLaren which would have been a reasonable move at that time, he could be at 0 zero championships. One of the best driver of all times. But they tend to make their own luck.

  10. Had it not been for a costly error at Monza *three weeks ago,

  11. McLaren screwed Lewis over so many times while he was there. It felt like I was watching Kimi’s McLaren stint on repeat, especially in 2012.

    1. Also, gotta say that it’s quite embarrassing that his 2007 car looks like a proper F1 car, then you have the 2009-2016 cars which all look like something that came out of GP2. I hated those 2009 regs.

      1. I was thinking that. The 2007 car looks awesome now. I remember thinking it was totally ruined by all the flicks and boards and chimneys etc but it looks clean AND small, unlike todays land barges and of course 2009s narrow cars were an aesthetic disaster. But does time play tricks on us? Always seems a generation has to pass before the current cars start looking, as Nico would say in American ‘awesome’

        1. Currunt cars are great IMHO, a bit too long, but otherwise great

  12. For comparison, here are some of Schumacher’s lost wins (criteria being mainly the same as with this article, i.e. should be leading the race and something happened):
    – 1993 Monaco. Retired from the lead with hydraulic issues on lap 32. As overtaking was quite hard at Monaco, it is hard to see how he could’ve lost the race.
    – 1994 Belgium. DSQ due to the excessive plank wear.
    – 1995 Great Britain & Italy. Taken out by Hill while leading the race.
    – 1998 Belgium. Rammed into DC.
    – 1999 Canada. Hit the wall of champions. One of the few proper driving mistakes; and since he crashed on lap 13, the race could have turned out very differently.
    – 1999 Malaysia. Gave the win to Irvine.
    – 2002 United States. Failed to stage the dead heat finish, losing to Rubens.
    – 2006 Japan. Engine failure.

    So, with even more “luck” during his career, Schumacher could have hit the 100 as well. Then again, if you count the times he was “lucky” either by having his main competitors retire or by his teammate giving him the win, his tally could be 80 or less as well.

    1. @kaiie – Monaco 2011 as well. That penalty was a bummer.

      1. Yes it was really sad not to see him starting from pole for a last time.

    2. And if the tendency will not turn, so if we will have ultra reliable cars, managing everything, more or less dedicated 1st and 2nd driver roles, many semi-independent teams, and a very rarely changing formula (due to the whole sport’s expensiveness) then we will have some 3-4 or more times world champions who are far from being comparable to the likes of Prost, Senna or Lauda. Those from the old times won their titles in a duration of a career at a very hectic context, amongst frequent changes in the teams’ “power rankings”. While at today’s context it’s more likely to win titles in a row. So these stats are quite relative. I think development and test methodologies are so evolved today, that most of the teams could come up with quite reliable cars even if there would be big changes in the set of technical rules every season. Would not it be a real engineering challenge to have a fast car and less DNF’s than the others, at a low price? I think it would be more fair, and qould require more skills of adaptation from the drivers. But there are many leaders who wants steadiness instead of amazing things.
      On the other hand I like Lewis, on and off track too, and I think if someone deserved great succes after the Schumacher era, then that person was Lewis. I not used to talk of him, because the race happens behind him most of the time :)

    3. From the top of my head as well:
      1995 Spain gearbox stuck in 5th, still 2nd in the end including a stop.
      1995 Canada steering wheel swap. Alesi’s only win in the end.
      2004 Monaco mixup behind the SC with Montoya who was unlapping himself.

      From the list from Lewis, I don’t count Germany 2019 as a lost win. It was far from certain he would win it, his mistake came quite early in the race and later he spun again, only just avoiding the barrier.

    4. Jose Lopes da Silva
      24th September 2020, 13:46

      1994 Spain, wasn’t for the stuck gearbox.

  13. Spa 2008 is the one I’ll never forget, brilliant drive by Lewis, then they gave a ridiculous penalty and retrospectively changed the rules.

    1. Imagine that now with BLM. Guessing it would not happen due to the PR fall out.

  14. Spa 2008 and Monza 2009 also come to mind…

  15. MP4-22 was a magnificent car, great to look at and quick too. Shame what happened that year.

  16. I don’t see the point of it without accounting his lucky gifted wins too. They pretty much cover up all those losses:

    Russia 2019
    Canada 2019
    Brazil 2018
    Russia 2018
    Germany 2018
    Azerbaijan 2018
    Singapore 2017
    Monaco 2016
    British 2014
    Turkey 2010

    I also think if we are to take seriously races like Abu Dhabi/09 and Brazil/12, then Abu Dhabi/11 and Russia/15 comes into play as well (and I suspect there are more), giving him profit over his losses.
    _ _ _
    As for the list, Azerbaijan/2017 was surreal. But the ones that stuck with me were Singapore & Abu-Dhabi/2012 as I was rooting for him to make it a three-way fight. Particularly, the saddest was seeing him pull over at Marina Bay. Funnily enough, I actually count Brazil/2012 as a near-miss from Hulkenberg, lamenting over it since then 😜. Though, ultimately, that’s how it is within the sport whether we like it or not.

    1. Bahrain last year too. Swings and roundabouts for every driver in F1. Could grasp at straws and say Austria 2016 where Rosberg’s brake by wire issue allowed him to close up, and USA 2012 where Karthikeyan severely held Vettel up to allow Hamilton DRS.

    2. Schummy’s victories from 1997 should have been taken away from him since he was thrown out of the championship

    3. I still cry for Brazil 2012, Hulkenberg deserved that win. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that PIERRE GASLY of all people is a F1 race winner while the 2015 Le Mans winner has not a single F1 podium.

  17. I thought Spa 2008 and Britain 2013 should have made this list.

    2012 was the most unfortunate of seasons. Hamilton should have won all of those races easily. But I feel the character building of that season has made the difference between Hamilton and Vettel in 2017-19 season.

    He truly is one of the best out there. Don’t understand why his contract is taking so long though. I don’t remember correctly but there was never such speculation during Michael’s hey-days, was there?

    1. I guess Hamilton wants more money? just a guess!

      1. Why is he worth 45 mil a year when anyone could win in that Mercedes? It would be cheaper to buy Leclerc or Verstappen out of their contract and sign them for a year than extend Lewis’ contract for a year.

  18. I still remember seeing Hamilton slide around the track in 2007 with the visible bald patch on the rear tyre and thinking there must be something more going on here. McLaren left him out for 3 or 4 laps like that with Kimi catching him like a train. 2007 was so dodgy in many ways!

    1. I mean, it’s already the best rookie season in the history of the sport imo, but can you imagine if he did get the WDC that year, too??

      1. Almost makes it better. Just an astonishing debut. Like Leicester winning the league I guess we’ll have to wait a while longer before people truly understand how good that rookie season was

    2. As much as I liked Kimi back then, I would have preferred Hamilton winning the 2007 season and Massa the 2008 season.

  19. Nice List, thanks for history excursion. Loving those.
    One could add Silverstone 2013 as well although the tyre failure happened relatively early in the race. But so did his spin in Germany 2019.
    I’d definitely add Spa 2008. Although the penalty under the given circumstances and with the precedent set by Alonso in 2005 was correct he could have definitely won the race if he had waited a few corners more.
    I would not have picked China 2007 though. Before he retired he was well and truly past by Raikonnen who had better pace in the dry anyway and even Alonso.

    I knew he had bad luck in 2012 but I didn’t remember just how awful it was. No wonder he went to Mercedes
    His other Season were pretty good though although 2016 was badly timed.
    On the other hand he was gifted a lot of wins from 2017-2019 so everything evens out.
    If I had to guess I’d say Raikonnen and Vettel lost out to a similar amount of victorys and Michael Schumacher (also due to worse reliability and unforgiving tracks at that time) definitely lost more.

  20. Hopefully the new regulations suit Mercedes just as well and Hamilton can add another 7 titles and 100 more wins to his career.
    It would be great advertisement for F1 to have a black driver as the most successful ever.

  21. 2012 Singapore Grand Prix

    You could say this wasn’t a near-miss in the sense that without that retirement, he’d not have reached 90 wins at all…

  22. Even years later I still can’t get my head around what Mclaren were thinking in leaving him out in China 2007. I was shouting at the TV for at least 2 laps, everyone could see he had to pit.

    Not a race win but Brazil 2007 never sat quite right. Has anything like that ever happened since? I don’t want to sound conspiratorial but the end of that season had some weird goings on.

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      24th September 2020, 13:48

      FIA sabotaged the McLarens?
      Alonso bought someone inside the team to sabotage Hamiton?
      FIA pressured McLaren to loose the championship, or else?

      1. Nope

      2. No idea really, it was just very very strange to see the championship fall away like that.
        Mistakes are always going to be made but anyone could see Mclaren should have boxed him several laps earlier in China.
        The gearbox issue that didn’t happen to anyone before and hasnt happened since. Then also pulling him in for a third pitstop. All very strange. I think the 3rd scenario is probably the most likely.

  23. My only comment is the cars were so cool looking in 2007. More like a an article of clothing the drivers wore on race day.

  24. GOAT

  25. 2013 british gp?

  26. Imagine that 2007 car on Pirelli’s? The tyre would have exploded a long time ago and catapulted him into a barrier. At least the Bridgestones gave him have a chance.

  27. So Schumacher never ‘lost a win’ like these ten?
    Or it it too difficult to make a fair comparison between 2 champion’s careers?

    Like, for example Schumacher had 307 starts and only <250 to reach 91 wins.

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