Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2020

2020 F1 season driver rankings #1: Lewis Hamilton

2020 F1 season review

Posted on

| Written by

With Red Bull seldom in the picture and Ferrari no threat at all to Mercedes, the 2020 championship was always going to be all about Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. While the outcome long seemed a foregone conclusion, the title battle was finally settled at Istanbul, with three races still remaining.

On the face of it, this was very familiar: Hamilton clinched his two previous championships with three races to spare. But the crucial difference, which made his latest achievement more impressive, is that there were four fewer races in 2020. Hamilton pulled out the necessary lead over the competition more quickly than he had in previous years.

He had a little fortune on his side. Unlike Bottas in Germany, he didn’t suffer a race-ending technical failure. His absence from the Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for Covid-19 was the only reason he didn’t repeat his 2019 feat of scoring points in every weekend.

But the key to Hamilton’s success was his ability to relentlessly find his way to the front of the field. He usually got pole position and almost invariably converted that into victory.

Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Nurburgring, 2020
Hamilton reminded Bottas who’s boss at the Nurburgring
If he didn’t win, it was rarely because Bottas had put one over him on merit. Arguably the stewards caused him more trouble than his team mate, as Hamilton tripped over some of more obscure areas of the rules on more than one occasion.

There’s no doubt he transgressed by entering a closed pit lane at Monza, but it was a last-minute call involving a little-used rule. At Sochi he was dinged for performing his pre-race practice starts in the wrong place. As Charles Leclerc’s experienced at Spa showed, had the stewards been in a different mood Hamilton might have got away with it.

Both incidents cost him likely wins in a season where he nonetheless triumphed in 11 of the first 15 rounds before contracting the virus. This was his most crushing performance yet.

Lewis Hamilton

Beat team mate in qualifying 11/16
Beat team mate in race 11/15
Races finished 16/16
Laps spent ahead of team mate 613/907
Qualifying margin -0.12s
Points 347

Those who dismiss Hamilton’s achievements as being entirely down to his car overlook, among many other things, the details which go into achieving such relentless success. The shrewd call for medium compound rubber in Spain, the intelligent tyre management which secured pole position in Bahrain, the opportunistic pass on Bottas at the Nurburgring and his thumping margin of superiority in a wet qualifying session for the Styrian Grand Prix. Not to mention the scale of his wins at Spa, Algarve and Istanbul – the latter an irrefutably superior drive on a treacherous track.

It’s inarguably true Hamilton enjoyed a Mercedes which was restored to almost 2014-16 levels of dominance. But look how close Bottas was able to consistently run him over a single lap, and yet how large the points gap between them was at the end of the season.

That speaks to the quality of job Hamilton day on race day. Appropriately enough in a season when he scored his record-equalling seventh world championship, his performance was Schumacheresque.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Compete RaceFans 2020 F1 Driver Rankings

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

146 comments on “2020 F1 season driver rankings #1: Lewis Hamilton”

  1. Unsurprising.

    1. True, when theres been 19 drivers rated already and one of them isn’t Lewis…

      1. Comment of the day! Made me laugh that! :-D

      2. Still I was hoping it would be the Hulk

        1. Or better yet, that young driver who tested in Yas Marina and got his Renault ahead of the Mercs, Fred Halons was his name or something like that, seems like the starting shot of a promising career.

          1. Golden comment right there!

            I’m going to call him Fred Halons from now on…

    2. Unsurprisingly…however…?
      Lewis was driving a car 0.5-0.8 sec faster than the closest competition, checked by actually quali gaps, in race trim the Merc’s where still good for an advantage of around 0.4-0.6 sec.

      Austria actually started off quite poor for Lewis…. the dramatic ‘lie’ (?) no visible yellow flags he claimed..the FIA fell for it. However RBR protested and confronted the FIA with their own video footage… uite an impressive large flashin yellow sign… Lewis was penalized just before the start of the race. During the race he collided with Albon who did have a massive speed advantage thanks the a well planed pit stop… Lewis hit Albon in the rear..another penalty for Lewis.
      Silverstone 1 was a team gamble…Mercedes to fast and out of reach, Max did pit for the fastest lap… than Bottas and Lewis both blew their tyres… Thanks to Merc’s advantage Lewis could limp the car across the line in first….
      Silverstone 2… the pace was there, but the tyres just didn’t work….
      Monza… going into a closed pitlane, Lewis couldn’t believe it himself, went to the stewards during the red flag period… another penalty.
      Sochi… two false practice starts, Bottas was quite blunt about it… ‘the team did point us where to start’ no less than two penalties and another ‘sure’ win ruined.
      Lewis missed a race due to Covid when he was already the WDC…. and wasn’t at his best in Abu Dhabi, losing out to his team mate and Verstappen.

      5 races ruined, in all he could or even should have been the winner considering the car and his average team mate.
      Yet the faster car does save his reputation…. Max arguably ruined one race, worst finish 6th versus Lewis worst finish 7th. We don;t expect drivers to be flawless, not even the winners…but overall Lewis surely was not the best performer this season…he did have the best car which counts for a lot….. more even considering the ranking.

      Max was the absolute best performer of the 2020 season…. Lewis hardly made racing mistakes, apart from taking out Albon, however yellow flags, red lights, practice starts are part of the game.

      1. Salty Max fans…diddums!

      2. So Martin you know more than Keith, how unusual.

        1. I don’t pretend to know more, neither am I salty…
          The FIA gave him his penalties, not me, I just summed it up.
          Verstappens first few races in 2018 where rough, Lewis first half of 2020 was…. a spade is still a spade where I come from, regardless if it’s about Max, Lewis, Charles or any other driver.

          Facts are Lewis was far from flawless, didn’t maximize the car’s potential in at leas 5 races…. the car made up for it in the remaining 11…plus missing one. Just saying I am ‘salty’ of ‘know better’ are emotions, share with me where you think I am wrong by motivation….

          1. You stated your opinion was absolute, ergo you’re wrong. Any unbiased observer could at least see why either driver could be first or second. Hamilton broke so many records, won every race he was in a position to and also helped drive the anti racism campaign this year. If you want to say Max made a couple of less mistakes and delivered exactly what is car was capable is enough to rank him above then I say you’re just being absolutely salty.

          2. Lewis isn’t Flawless. Show me ANY driver in history that is/has been.
            Fastest car or not (F1 is NOT a spec series) Lewis Hamilton is one of, maybe THE, best F1 driver(s) ever seen. Forget about emotive judgements that will be long forgotten in 10 years or less, these numbers are all that matter:

            F1 Starts 266
            F1 Wins 95 (WR)
            F1 Podiums 165 (WR)
            F1 Pole Positions 98 (WR)
            F1 Fastest Laps 53
            F1 Win v Starts percentage 36% (2nd to Fangio only)
            F1 World Championships. 7

            However much you want to scream, shout and stamp your feet, this is what will be remembered in the annuls of time. Your warped, angry views however… not so much.

          3. No matter the stats everyone produces, they never mention the car’s potential.
            The gap between Mercedes any any other car has mostly been larger than the average gap between team mates, simply meaning Mercedes was out of reach.

            We can all pretend it was exciting….but when one car is between 0.4-0.8 sec faster than the next best car it really isn’t, than you simply have to look at the driver performance and the potential of the car he’s driving.

            Max delivered the maximum possible from the car in all, but one race he finished…mostly more… in fact Max beat a faster Mercedes more often than not. Lewis sure was impressive, however failed to maximize the car’s potential 5 times. 5 times under performing versus once is simple math.

          4. Tell me why all you can see and so many other with your mindset is he’s driving the fastest car?
            Every dominant world champion in their era also drove the fastest car.
            Whose fault is it that he’s in the faster car, when other teams with the same spending power and one in particular with the veto power in F1 failed to maximise their abilities to match Mercedes?
            Your ranting logic shows saltiness over Lewis’s dominance and you chose to pinpoint the races he didn’t win as an argument to say that max was better driver therefore should have been rank #1.
            Stop blaming Hamilton and Mercedes for putting him in their car, blame Ferrari and RBR for not seizing the same initiative and maximizing their own cars.

          5. I am not blaming Hamilton for being at Mercedes, nor do I blame Mercedes for anything. They actually did the best job devoloping the hybrid engine, while Lewis is indeed an outstanding driver.

            However this isn’t an all time ranking, this is about the best performing driver of the 2020 season, given all, that’s not Lewis with the amount of mistakes and penalty’s. In equal cars the outcome would have been quite different….however the winner takes it all.

            In 2016, Lewis was ranked ahead of Rosberg, I felt that was correct.

        2. Well, thats hardly an argument and yes, some of us do know a lot more than Keith believe me

  2. So I have recorded every driver ranking I have found from 2020 that had at least a top ten (including official sites, comments under sites, rankings on this thread, team principals’ top ten, drivers’ top ten etc.), and have counted up how many total points all the drivers had, using the 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scoring system for positions in the rankings. These are the results:

    1. Lewis Hamilton 457
    2. Max Verstappen 410
    3. Daniel Ricciardo 269
    4. Charles Leclerc 224
    5. Pierre Gasly 217
    6. Carlos Sainz 204
    7. Sergio Perez 199
    8. George Russell 113
    9. Lando Norris 93
    10. Valtteri Bottas 33
    11. Sebastian Vettel 6
    12. Kevin Magnussen 4
    13. Romain Grosjean 4
    14. Kimi Raikkonen 3
    15. Esteban Ocon 2
    16. Daniil Kvyat 1
    17. Lance Stroll 1
    18. Alex Albon 1
    19. Antonio Giovinazzi 0
    20. Nicholas Latifi 0

    The problem this year is that almost everyone had the same drivers in the top ten (in various orders), so drivers outside the top ten were too heavily influenced by one strange ranking (for example, Vettel was only in one top ten). However, I think it is interesting for the first ten drivers.

    Only one ranking was ignored in the count; one that had Raikkonen 1st, Bottas 2nd, Stroll 3rd and Latifi 4th. There is no such thing as a ‘correct’ ranking, but there definitely is such thing as an ‘incorrect’ ranking.

    1. Thanks @f1frog,
      IMO a much better (in line with my assessment) list than some positions on this site.

      As you mentioned it is tough to rank those below Bottas as they did not appear in a top-10 too often (and I would rank them differently or just award them 11+ position.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      5th February 2021, 13:31

      19 different rankings?

      1. I guess it must be at least 22 based on the total points, @freelittlebirds.
        So Lewis probably had some 10-13 first places, Verstappen 6-9, and the rest outliers for Perez, Leclerc, and Sainz.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          5th February 2021, 14:13

          @Verstappen 6-9 people out of 22 put Verstappen in #1? That would be quite something! I guess we should celebrate their humanity!

          1. Verstappen’s score should be 395, not 410 (not sure what went wrong there). Surprisingly only 2 people had Verstappen first, but almost everyone had him second. The total number of first places was:
            Hamilton 14
            Verstappen 2
            Sainz 2
            Ricciardo 1
            Perez 1
            Leclerc 1
            Gasly 1

          2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            5th February 2021, 14:36

            @f1frog Thanks for the breakdown and thanks for the alternative compilation of rankings!!! Very cool!

      2. It was 22 but there are a few errors in there:
        Hamilton should be on 463
        and I’m not sure what the other one is because all the other maths is correct but I might have written something down incorrectly

    3. @f1frog That’s pretty interesting to see actually, and the top 10 is almost exactly the same as mine (I have Perez and Sainz switched). That means either I’m an excellent judge of driver performance, or I conform too heavily to the accepted norms due to outside influence ;)

    4. @f1frog thanks, good piece of work… amazing what you have time to do in lockdown 😂

    5. @f1frog Would the website that ranked Raikkonen and Bottas as the top two be Finnish by any chance?

    6. This is amazing ranking. It instantly strikes me as resonable.

      Good job.

    7. Thanks for this @f1frog and for your assessments on these rankings. It’s been interesting reading your (fairly) objective input.

      Certainly beats the usual “wut?! (Driver X) above (Driver Y)?! Keith knows nothing about f1!”.

    8. Nice work @f1frog this is a really interesting ranking as it seems much more in tune with the consensus (well, it is the consensus I suppose), for the top 10 at least (as you mentioned, the bottom 10 can’t be trusted if the sources didn’t rank all 20 drivers). I don’t know where these all came from, which matters in some ways – if they are all subjective rankings or some sort of objective method (like f1metrics). If they are all subjective evaluations then you can interpret them more easily.

      For example, I think bottas would be ranked higher by some objective measures and gasly probably a bit lower, but the subjective rankings are likely to share the same observation biases and, crucially, they are at risk of being influenced by one another. Still, this cumulative top 10 certainly passes the sense check, which is often a big hurdle!

      1. @f1frog thanks for this. Much more reasonable than Keith’s rankings IMOH.

        Nice one.

    9. Better list indeed. Provides justice to the gap between nrs 1&2 and the rest of the field and is more consistent with Sainz and Perez. Only flaw imho is that Vettel is overrated

  3. Ranking aside, a thoughtful piece on Lewis. There are never binary answers to everything and arguing who is the best driver is as old as the motor car but generally with Lewis it seems to be his likeability that stops him being venerated. Thats their problem though. The rest of us know class when they see it.

    1. The rest of us know class when they see it.

      ‘Classy’ comment!
      Maybe it’s a lack of ‘likeability’ of some of his fans. :/

      1. You can say that again and you’re the biggest ‘fan’ by a long shot.

      2. @coldfly Fans have an impact on my feelings towards a driver, no doubt. For example, I have nothing against Raikkonen and was relatively happy when he won the 2007 title and when he came back to the sport, but his fans are some of the most stubborn and delusional I’ve come across. Not all of them, but a major section of them.

        1. Max fans are the most unlikeable imo–salty as hell

          1. They are realistic though….

          2. @ Matn. HAH!!! SERIOISLY?

      3. Well I put Lewis on nr 1 but seriously struggle liking him. But thats not what this list is about

  4. So many delays, so many other things announced before Mercedes announce it.

    1. I can only guess that Mercedes was waiting for the formal RaceFans.net ranking positio before contracting him for 2021.
      So we can now expect a formal announcement after the official cool down period (I believe 14 days for online rankings).

      1. Well, that’s gonna give hamilton some laverage back, after losing it due to russel!

        1. Ops, leverage.

  5. One curious thing I have noticed about Hamilton is his lack of one-lap superiority over his team-mates. He has never shown dominance the kind of which Alonso, Verstappen, Leclerc have shown. Even Jenson Button (an average qualifier at best) was beaten by less than three tenths in 2012. The gap to Bottas is just 0.12, 0.12, 0.17 in the last 3 years. He tends to beat his team-mates in approximately 60-80% of the races (except Rosberg in 2014).

    Either he is very precise in his tyre usage (he knows exactly how much his competitors / team-mate can do and hence keeps exactly that much more in hand come Q3) or he is not that much superior than other drivers when it comes to qualifying.

    Nothing to take away from #1 ranking. But just thought I will post a curious trend.

    1. Hes had stronger team mates, at least in qually. There fixed that for you

    2. I’m too lazy to look through all the data but my uninformed impression is that certainly from 2014-on, LH oftentimes seems to sacrifice maximum performance in quali for better race pace and tyre life. It’s happened more than a few times where he’s just been edged by his team-mate, watched them chew their tyres and then picked up the pieces. Conversely when he comes out ahead in quali he’ll maintain that pit-stop safety window of a few seconds back to his team-mate and then over the course of the race they’ll drop back as they can’t keep pace or just lose hope of challenging him for the lead. There’s probably a whole heap of confirmation bias in there but that’s just my general impression.

      1. I feel the same. I think in the Pirelli era, as the time has passed, he has learnt to be wiser when it concerns qualifying. His race performance has kept on getting stronger and stronger and he seems to be able to overtake his team-mates with ease.

        His tyre / pace management in qualifying is probably one of the key reasons he is so much dominant in races, one of his unsung attributes I feel.

        1. And still he complain about his tyres a lot!

      2. Hamilton has nothing left to prove when it comes to qualifying, so these days he plays the percentages. He saves his tires when he can, he saves his engines, he’ll also qualify second if he believes it means a better starting position into the first corner.

    3. Sumedh, with all due respect I’m not sure how valid a point you’re making? I think what matters is that HAM out qualifies his team mates, the gap is somewhat irrelevant.

      Example, I just checked the stats on HAM/BUTTON. Over their three seasons at Mclaren (discounting grid penalties), Hamilton ended qualifying with the better lap time on 44 occasions compared with Button’s 14.

      I’m sorry, but I’d call that dominance.

    4. So by far the leading qualifier in the history of the sport isn’t that good at qualifying? OK. I’d suggest it’s more the opposite, Hamilton is confident enough in being able to sacrifice some one lap setup to concentrate on race setup. That’s why we sometimes get Bottas nicking qualifying only to usually then be slower in the race and/or have more tyre issues. In other words, Hamilton, through experience over the years, has preferred to trade off some of his one lap advantage over his teammates to ensure better race performance. He’s said as much a few times in interviews, including last year.

      1. Yes, you and @tomd11 are bang on – Lewis is the best not just because he drives fast, but because he drives clever. His constant analysis of the situation, his experiments with the limits of the track/car/racing line combined with his speed are what makes him so devastating to the rest of the field.

        1. @geekzilla9000 I think that’s why the Algarve and Istanbul were such ‘connoisseur’ races, especially appreciated by the F1 insiders like Brawn. The ‘new’ conditions meant learning as the race unfolded and it’s where Hamilton was most able to maximize that combination of talent (feel for the car and control) and smartness (experimenting and using past experience). The result was him pulling out a larger lead as the races went on, keeping his tyres going better and going faster.

      2. @david-br
        So by far the leading qualifier in the history of the sport isn’t that good at qualifying?

        These kind of statistics are almost meaningless tbh.

        Vettel – 57
        Leclerc – 7
        Ricciardo – 3

        A vastly superior number of pole positions didn’t stop the first guy from getting whooped by the other two on qualifying speed in equal cars.

        I do think that both Max and Charles have more natural speed than Lewis

        1. @kingshark

          I do think that both Max and Charles have more natural speed than Lewis

          Even if you’re right (I don’t think you are, but not sure how either of us could find proof for their assertion), qualifying also requires the ability to put in that near perfect lap when it counts. And that’s something Hamilton has proven he’s capable of doing year after year.

          1. @david-br
            Verstappen has never had a car capable of any more than 1-2 pole positions per season.

            As for Leclerc, the one year where he had a car capable of taking pole regularly, he took more poles than Hamilton did.

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            7th February 2021, 15:02

            The point is that Verstappen has had the car to set 2 or more poles just about all seasons and he barely makes it to 1.

            All those Monaco and Mexico weekends he blundered the pole away. Or in 2020 when he messed up his Q3 attempts in Turkey and Sakhir.

            He should have at least 8 poles by now, but he’s still stuck on a measly 3

        2. Absolutely agree, kingshark, 2019 ferrari wasn’t great but was decent in qualifying, and both leclerc and verstappen would be serious competition for hamilton on the same car.

          The vettel-ricciardo-leclerc comparison show how meaningless absolute stats like those are, when there’s a huge car quality difference to achieve those.

          1. Didn’t Charles’s Ferrari have a gi-normous 68HP advantage in 2019? With that kind of advantage, kinda hard not to get a lot of poles.

    5. TBF, the only teammates Verstappen dominated were Gasly and Albon who are hardly the cream of the crop. Not hard to outqualify a guy deemed not upto F1 standards(Albon). Iirc, Max got outqualified by Sainz in 2015 and Ricciardo in 2016. Alonso got outqualified by Hamilton and Trulli. And, iirc, Alonso got outqualified by Jenson Button in 2015/or barely outqualified Jenson. Charles, iirc, Vettel near matched him in quali in 2019. I’m struggling to see the supposed total quali domination.

      1. Truth is he has learned to just take enough out of what he has to qualify on. Occasionally that has a hiccup and a 100th does it and he loses but he knows generally he can get it back in the race. Not all the time but most of the time. And that’s all it needs in a championship race. Look at 2014 that many criticise him for. Fact is he drove past NR in the race so many times it was embarrassing and I am sure that was the purpose.

        These days he does enough. What’s the point of an extra second when you have to use those tyres in the race?

        When it comes to qualifying where we do not do such and can use different tyres, we get Styria and and an absolute monster lap making the whole field look silly even the sister car, or Singapore 18 where no one thought it could be done.

        He does what he needs to as he knows he needs those tyres the next day and anyone who thinks he has lost time or cant be the fastest is deluded frankly. He has a broad enough canvas of work to show he is absolutely right out there as the fastest there is or has been.

        Then he has the records…

        You know, just to prove it….

    6. Sumedh – i get what you are saying, another trend that’s interesting is Hamilton’s wins AFTER he has won the WC. He does seem to take his foot off the gas (not a problem at all, if you’ve already won the title he doesn’t need to anything more), but given that he had access to longer seasons than other drivers (schumi and Vettel share 13wins in a season out of 17/18 races respectively) its still a record that eludes him. Again not a problem but interesting note.

      1. 2016 is calling as is each year after…

    7. @tomd11

      I think, as @tonymansell says, Hamilton has strong teammates.

      There are only about 20 seats in F1. We hope these are the most talented, best 20 racers in the world. Athletes at the level are separated by the tiniest of margins. Even Tiger Woods and Usain Bolt didn’t win all the time. If a driver destroys there teammate it mostly means there teammate is weak.

      I also suspect @tomd11 is right, and Hamilton is managing his qualy pace to compromise race pace as little as possible. Although Rosberg beat him often back when passing the other Merc was nearly impossible. Plus, I think Rosberg was a truely gifted qualifier.

    8. Only the greatest ever number of poles.

      All his Mercedes teammates are quite good qualifiers.

      I am sure nobody is much(0,5s+) faster in Quali than Bottas for example.

      Rosberg was also quite good, easilly outqualifying MSC.

      I would love to see him over a season against new era drivers, LeClerc, Verstappen, Russel. Atleast one of them should Ace him, but we will never know with incoming contract.

    9. F1oSaurus (@)
      7th February 2021, 14:55

      Hamilton tends to set up his car for the race. So yes he will lose some time on the Q3 lap, but in return he performs mush betterduring the race.

  6. Probably going to get moaned at but I don’t think he should be 1st here. Not saying he’s bad, or undeserving or any of that rubbish. I don’t think Bottas was allowed to challenge him as much as he’d should have and suffered the brunt of technical failure and misfortune, and Bottas’s Mercedes was the only car on track that could actually fight him. So while I honestly think he did excellently I also think he did exactly what was expected. Compared to most of the grid he had pretty good luck, pretty decent reliability and almost never had to ‘dig deep’ as he was never really under stress from a superior or equally formidable car. From the first race he had one hand on the trophy and by the fifth race I’d say it was his.

    It’s weird, as what he accomplished is undeniably fantastic, but at the same time I feel a little cold to it as there’s drivers out there that I think outperformed their machine or pulled out some godlike ‘zone’ moments but Hamilton never needed to do any of that. Him and that car worked so perfectly together it just wasn’t necessary. So strangely I find it both very impressive, but also really underwhelming at the same time? Personal opinion, obviously.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      5th February 2021, 13:47

      @rocketpanda I respectfully disagree. I Respect your opinion but to me Lewis was breathtaking. I don’t think he drives @100% but his percentages are out of this world. He’s human and there’s a minimum element of error that comes with that.

      I think he was so good that Red Bull have to build Max’s confidence cause these performances really affect you even if you’re not his teammate. It’s ok for Latifi who’s at the back of the grid but not ok for the others. The only saving grace for the. Is George Russell’s performance in the Merc but now he can’t join another team:( Drivers are all thinking, wait we have Lewis and George to worry about now?

      1. With all due respect, and also acknowledging the fact that Lewis is a really good driver, consistently fast, I tend to agree with Adam. Other drivers had showed more brilliance this year, as they had to cope with harder conditions than Lewis at Mercedes (not Lewis fault honestly). I believe that maybe the fact that we have more and more dominance period for the same teams with increased races per year can shift a bit the perception for some drivers. If we see the stats for Lewis until 2013, they show a great driver, but surely not a god like driver as the statistics show today, where all records are being smashed. It’s a bit like Vettel, during Red Bull era of dominance he was untouchable, but looking thru his career I rate him much lower as a driver than Alain Prost, even if both have 4 titles. Even Lewis admitted he won’t have this success or all these numbers if it weren’t for the Mercedes years, which is very humble by him and which made me admire more his work ethic as a driver. He deserves all the praise, but even him knows that this was possible only due to this unprecedented dominance for a same team for 6 years and counting.

    2. I do not understand this kind of thinking.

      “He cannot be number 1 because he is so good”

      How does that even work?

      At least his team mate was alongside him in the races you can hardly say that for the guy who was 2?

      Credit where it’s due, he was given the strongest car this year and vanished.

      17,18,19 you can argue he had to do something different. The car was not the strongest for much of the seasons in that he was behind at half way and getting demolished in qualy in 2019

      The fact that the opposition fell apart and let Merc be strongest at the end is not his fault.

      1. But it makes perfect sense to me. You don’t really have to shine when you are never challenged. Max needs to drive the wheels off his RBR to come close to the Mercs. Charles needs to drive the wheels of his Fezza to come close to the Racing Points. Hamilton can afford the luxury of “winning by driving as slow as possible” following Fangio’s motto, and of course he does, that’s the smart thing to do when having such a huge advantage. He always seems to have a couple more seconds in his sleeve. It all makes him look positively bland, just a safe pair of hands, winning everything by consistency alone. Only with a closer field (or a non-lackey teammate at least) would he need to show a little bit of racing spirit. Not his fault anyway.

        1. You don’t really have to shine when you are never challenged. Max needs to drive the wheels off his RBR to come close to the Mercs.

          i don’t agree.

          RB’s car is so far ahead of the pack behind, the 2nd fastest car by a wide margin, all Max has to do to get a podium is to not crash. All he had to do was cruise in P3 with no threat, and pick up the pieces if Merc messed up.

          1. Apples to oranges, maybe I wasn’t clear enough. I never said anything about coming 3rd. I said coming close to the Mercs, meaning trying to match their pace, and taking the fight to them, or at least to Bottas. And oftentimes winning the fight. He was quite a match to Bottas in a vastly inferior car and arguably lost to him only due to inferior mech reliability. This is as far as it gets from cruising behind the Mercs.

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            7th February 2021, 15:04

            Max needs to drive the wheels off his RBR to come close to the Mercs.

            But he doesn’t. He just cruises to P3

            He had to actually fight for twice. In Styria (where he destroyed his front wing and then tyres and then lost out to Bottas) and in Turkey (where he utterly failed).

    3. I get your point and agree to some degree, but I wouldn’t say he didn’t have his “godlike moments”!

      Just remember the gap he pulled on Checo at Istanbul Park. It was unreal!

  7. In terms of classifying drivers, I’m looking for a combination of outstanding moments and consistency (or a consistent high level) the rest of the time. Winning Silverstone on three wheels, the superb qualifying in the wet at the Styrian GP, Istanbul and Portugal were all brilliant, the rest (leaving aside the HAM v. race stewards bit) about as consistently good as it gets. Even his ‘off’ moments, losing places at the start, can be put down to due caution, avoiding contact and recuperating the position later (which he invariably did). My only question mark? It doesn’t remove Hamilton from no 1. But Russell’s performance in his Mercedes was a sign that a really good driver alongside him would be another championship entirely. And personally, much as I’ve enjoyed the Hamilton era and admire his achievements immensely, it’s starting to feel like time for him to challenge himself more again.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      5th February 2021, 13:39

      @david-br I think Russell was good over 1 race but it’s hard to gauge his performance over a season or 4-5 seasons. Losing can have a massive psychological effect. We saw a vibrant, energetic Russell. Now replace that with a Russell who doubts everything he does, is faced with defeat for the first time, and pretends to be happy but is sinking like the titanic inside. I don’t necessarily see things going his way.

      1. @freelittlebirds Definitely not. That even applies to Verstappen who hasn’t ever been in a serious title race (not his fault) so we can’t gauge or predict how he’d perform with that pressure over a season. (Personally, I think he’d do just fine, but it can’t just be assumed as given.) But we did see he could handle pressure at the front, was fast in the car from the start, despite ergonomic issues with the cockpit design, overtook both skilfully and calmly numerous times, including Bottas, and, for me at least, showed in one race he’s way ahead of the latter in terms of what he could achieve.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          5th February 2021, 13:49

          @rocketpanda Are you talking about Max or Russell?

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            5th February 2021, 13:50

            Sorry, I meant @david-br… sorry, using an iPad…

          2. Sorry, Russell, in that one race.

          3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            5th February 2021, 14:08

            @david-br yes, by all means a fantastic debut spells success for the future…. but…. how many times have we seen someone do well in their 1st race, match and then for it to be downhill after that? Their own performance creates unreasonable expectations. They begin to even doubt if they can match their own performance, let alone the teammate’s.

        2. I think Vandoorne Bahrain 2016 should warn of the dangers in placing too much emphasis on a single race.

          1. @amam True, but when you look at the stuff thrown at Russell in one race, it was impressive just how calmly he dealt with it all: starting well and taking the lead, keeping the lead while handling an engine setting issue with which he was completely unfamiliar, dealing with the SC restart, dealing with the tyre mess up, numerous overtakes involved both times, all done pretty much perfectly. That’s a lot to ask and, being completely frank, not what Bottas has shown in his time at Mercedes. Not to mention the lap times. Most of Bottas’s advantage was down to the first corner, which involved massive braking. Russell admitted he just hadn’t acquired the confidence in the car’s braking capacity to brake as late and as hard as Bottas. He mostly made up that time difference (in qualifying) by being faster in the rest of the lap. Which is why it seemed pretty ominous for Bottas.

      2. Good over one race?

        A novel with four corners where you jumped a completely shattered Bottas off the line and came 11th?

        Look he did well but if anything that race showed what was what.

        Yep he is good. Max level? Not yet.

        Regency bias is a real thing here.

        Think how many times when things were roughly equal LH has come from wherever to win against Max or say, SV?

        You would not bet on him whatever at this time.

        I honestly wonder at the upshining of drivers who have frankly been demolished by him. Another thread has 2012 button as somehow an equal? He spent half the year at the back of the grid yet the records suggest because his team mate was no it was somehow a fast car. It was a totally crap year by Macca and they paid the price for it. That does not make LH 2012 any less impressive because the results suggest it was beyond the famed Alonso year.

        1. Auto correct


          1. To add

            Funny year

            Loved the different circuits

            Hope we get a good run next year

            Stay safe all

  8. Well done Keith. This is the right number 1 choice. Handily beat a teammate ranked inside the top 10. Carried the title pressure well. Didn’t make too many mistakes

    1. That team mate was absolutely overrated if you check the general opinion about having bottas 8th.

      1. Overrated or not, he was still far better than Albon

      2. F1oSaurus (@)
        7th February 2021, 15:06

        @esploratore Bottas is insanely underrated. The fact is that it’s staggering that he manages to stay so close to Hamilton.

  9. Forgot to add, I don’t think 2020 was a vintage year for driver performance. None of the top current drivers (in most people’s reckoning) were challenged by their teammates and none had their most outstanding years, including Lewis and Max. But the races were generally good to excellent, and given the global situation, pretty amazing we got to see them. So no complaints.

  10. his ability to relentlessly find his way to the front of the field


    1. Yeah, I find this article to be rather absurd and biased. Like this:

      Arguably the stewards caused him more trouble than his team mate, as Hamilton tripped over some of more obscure areas of the rules on more than one occasion. There’s no doubt he transgressed by entering a closed pit lane at Monza, but it was a last-minute call involving a little-used rule.

      There is nothing obscure about the closed pit lane rule, nor is it something where it can be debated whether the driver made a mistake. And Lewis ignored two signs that told him the pit lane was closed. He simply wasn’t paying attention.

      It perfectly defensible to put Lewis in the nr 1 spot, but this is a really poor article that is a hagiography.

      1. I suggest you go back and look at your jacuzzi comment.

        Appreciate your not a fan but the penalties this year were none driving errors and a bit ridiculous.

        1. Ignoring yellows and a closed pit lane sign are both driving errors. He was instructed to drive a certain way and he didn’t.

          1. I know, you’re hurting. I feel for you but You’ve got toughen up old boy. If you are going to let Lewis live in your head then you have to be strong enough to accept the pain that’s obviously going to cause you. Just accept Lewis is an all time great (probably THE greatest),quit the belly aching…and yours is the earth,and everything in it. Good luck old boy 😘. Oh…and please give my best to my ol pal Balue! What a man.

          2. @DeanR

            Perhaps grow up a bit?

          3. @DeanR Thanks for talking like a religious fanatic and proving my point about Hamilton fans

  11. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    5th February 2021, 14:32

    I’m going to offer my spin here. Over the years, one thing that’s become apparent to me is that there are multiple battles a driver has to face. The on-track performance is important BUT I’m beginning to realize that it’s largely affected by the driver’s team performance and relationship and what I mean by that is the way the driver feels about the team and vice versa. Teammates come into play, of course, because you don’t want to be going against a very charismatic driver (e.g Button & Ricciardo) or a very talented my-way-or-the-highway driver (Verstappen & Alonso).

    Your performance as driver can be measured and those can be classified as hard skills. On the other hand, your ability to feel welcome and trust your team are soft skills and they are not easy to develop. It’s unusual to have a prodigy in a sport who also possesses excellent interpersonal and leadership skills and can manage to harmonize and galvanize a team.

    When that happens, the results are quite spectacular as we’ve seen with Schumacher, Vettel, and Hamilton.

    I think you can see how important that is in experienced drivers. Webber knew he wasn’t going to win a championship after 2010 and while performance was a factor, he may have been able to beat Vettel had the team supported him. We saw Vandoorne vs Alonso. We saw Perez vs Button. We saw Button vs Hamilton (the clearest example of a team disintegrating as they make the wrong choice). We saw Ricciardo vs Verstappen. We saw Ricciardo vs Hulkenberg. We saw LeClerc vs Vettel (you can argue that Vettel was ostracized from 2019, hence the abrupt arrivererci).

    A great driver needs to have the team behind him.

    Having said that, the rankings were unfair to Perez who didn’t have the team at all behind him and who managed to deliver his best performances under massive pressure and under circumstances that would have deflated any other driver. Perez impressed us for many reasons but his ability to transform himself into a likable driver to the point that Red Bull would bring him onboard as a teammate next to Max is simply something that cannot be overstated.

    It’s a bit ironic that I’m praising Perez and have been defending Vettel recently. I feel like McEnroe agreeing with the linesperson that the shot was out and praising his excellent calls :-) My hands are almost refusing to type….

    1. Yes, it’s almost unheard of that red bull picks a non-red bull driver, it’s impressive he managed to convince them.

  12. This may be an unpopular opinion but I think his drives from previous years are doing a lot of the heavy lifting here, based on his performances this year I actually had him around 7th. On ability he would still top the list, I think his drive in Turkey showed that, but it also showed how far from that level he spent most this year. The story for a lot of races were, he was leading after lap 1 then spent the race managing his car. That’s not a criticism of him, he did exactly what he needed to win and was duly awarded with a 7th title. I admit ranking him 7th is harsh but it seemed harsher ranking him ahead of other drivers who had to push themselves and the cars harder for the whole race and still deliver consistently.

    To put it in a non-Hamilton context, Mansell deserved a title in 92, but that year didn’t make him il leone

    1. 7th….?

      I mean it’s ok to be a none fan but really?

      1. 1.Verstappen

        And as I said I believe all of those above Hamilton delivered consistently in a tight midfield battle each with some stand out excellent moments. (Except for Leclerc, not really consistent as his lows were pretty low but his highs were very very high. And Max because he should not have been amongst the Mercedes but still came away with 6 seconds and 2 wins)

        1. @yossarian – you actually made a fair assessment, though I must concur I find 7th really harsh. But the thing is, it doesn’t matter what colleagues might say, a personal ranking is subjective, even volatile. You see, initially I was a little vexed by thinking of putting Hamilton at 3rd but, after your insight, I reconsidered and demoted him of 2nd: I can’t recall any truly remarkable drive by him this year. Turkey? A flimsy appearance by most of the race until everything panned out his car’s way. Clumsy penalties, persecutory delusions. It was the easiest WDC with the lowest effort he had of all. Not his fault whatsoever. He did what he had to do, props to him, as Norris rightfully said. But truth is his unspectacular consistency is what kept him high on my ranks, because by the hi-ups, Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Verstappen all shone brighter at my eyes.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      5th February 2021, 15:54

      @yossarian Did you pick #7 as a tribute to Cristiano? :-) It’s actually the only logical explanation.

    3. Steve, can I be charitable and suggest that your point is made somewhat tongue-in-cheek. However, in case I’ll simplify thingsd for you.

      There is a reason Mercedes have Hamilton in their car, and are prepared to fork out 50 odd million pa to keep him i.e. as oppossed to the six drivers you place above him.Have you considered that the very smart people at Mercedes might – in a data driven sport – have some idea of his ability?

      Let me help you further. He’s not in the car as a consequence of his amiable personality!

      1. Let’s add something to this then: I followed hamilton’s early career before he went to mercedes and even in the first new years he was not different to leclerc, verstappen, or maybe russel now, he wasn’t a god when he was given the mercedes car, he was just a fast driver who made a few mistakes here and there, nowadays the car is making the difference between those drivers.

  13. A single stat defining Lewis Hamilton as a driver in the recent years: consistency & precaution

    Since 2016 Japanese GP, Hamilton has finished all bar one of the 83 races that he has started in. The only exception in that period was 2018 Austrian GP, where Hamilton retired with technical problem. The race before the 2016 Japanese
    GP – the Malaysian GP – he also retired with engine failure, for a non-technical DNF one would have to go back to 2016 Spanish GP – some 90 races back from now.

    Unbelievable figure representing not only fantastic reliability on the side of Mercedes, but also superb space awareness
    & experience of Lewis Hamilton.

    1. Yes I read that non-technical DNF stat elsewhere-‘the last time he had a non tech DNF he was only a 3 x WDC’- but wasn’t sure it was true.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      5th February 2021, 15:49

      @kotrba Absolutely, on all counts! Hamilton’s spatial awareness is probably second to none – it’s very important in any sport but it is almost one of the #1 skills a driver needs to possess as it wrecks your race.

      I wouldn’t say precaution – I would term that as knowing the limits. Knowing the car’s limits, knowing your own limits, knowing the engine’s limits – it allows him to be able to evaluate every decision by the team and to coach them into making better decisions since they may not be able to understand the car or the conditions, the way Lewis can.

      Consistency coupled with excellence is of course the mark of any champion and the defining characteristic of all the legends. You cannot be a multi-champion if you’re not consistent.

    3. Yes, I guess this is the only thing that would probably make it a very even competition with leclerc and verstappen if they all had the same car, they’re younger and likely faster at this point but hamilton makes very few mistakes.

  14. Mercedes W11 2020: very little said about the car, but it is clearly the star of the show.

    All drivers listed in the first 12 would have breezed home to easy titles in that machine. At least half of them would have equalled Lewis’s tally of championships. One or two would have bagged an extra one at least.

    1. At least half of them would have equalled Lewis’s tally of championships.

      Nah. Hamilton already had a title before joining Merc and i cant see anyone, except maybe Alonso, beating an equal/arguably quicker Ferrari 2017 and 2018

      1. The Merc was much quicker in 2017 and 2018. Won twice as many races as Ferrari. The championships were only somewhat close in the first half of each season because of Mercedes bungles and Hamilton mistakes.

        Same way that Alonso never had the quickest car in 2012 but took the championship to the final race.

        1. The Merc was much quicker in 2017 and 2018. Won twice as many races as Ferrari.

          Vettel made a lot of mistakes, threw away too many wins

          IMO, Ferrari had the best car in 2018 and equalish to Merc in 2017. The cars were very close, a widely held view by many in F1 e.g.


        2. No it wasnt

      2. Absolutely disagree ferrari was arguably quicker in those years: I think it was an even car in 2018 but significantly slower and less reliable in 2017, in any case yes, alonso should’ve won 2018 in that ferrari and vettel was terrible.

        1. 2017, i think Will Buxton best sums it up

          while Mercedes had created a quick but awkward “diva,” Ferrari had at their disposal a car for all courses. No matter the track layout, the heat or the weather, it was the red cars that showed themselves to be the ones to beat. Red Bull were floundering. Mercedes were yo-yoing. And Mattia Binotto had created their superior. In almost every area

          W08 was quickest in qual, but the SF70H often had better race pace

  15. Respectfully I have to disagree.

    Russell showed how easy it is to win races in the Merc. He jumped into a car he could barely fit into, wasn’t set up for him, and was comfortably beating Bottas within 48 hours. Showed more racecraft in that Merc in one race than Bottas has in four seasons.

    People point to Hamilton’s consistency, but no driver has had such dominant cars in for so long in the history of the sport.

    When you have such a dominant car, you don’t have to take unnecessary risks, you don’t have to drive the car to its limits because you know you’ll eventually just blast past someone on the straight, or if you have track position just bring the car home.

    Whereas someone like Verstappen or Leclerc has to extract every bit of speed out of the car to get a semi-respectable result.

    Plus, Hamilton has been lucky. Two big mistakes Germany 2019 somehow not getting a DNF both times, look at last year very lucky in Silverstone that his tyre didn’t blow out in the wrong part of the track, was at fault hitting Albon Brazil 2019 and Austria 2020 somehow Albon came off second best both times.

    I think Verstappen, Leclerc, Ricciardo all easily beat Hamilton in equal equipment with Russell probably beating him too. I’m sure there’s more, but it’s hard to gauge. Just my opinion. I hope people don’t get upset with me.

    1. you sound upset

    2. People point to Hamilton’s consistency, but no driver has had such dominant cars in for so long in the history of the sport.

      When you have such a dominant car, you don’t have to take unnecessary risks, you don’t have to drive the car to its limits because you know you’ll eventually just blast past someone on the straight, or if you have track position just bring the car home.

      Whereas someone like Verstappen or Leclerc has to extract every bit of speed out of the car to get a semi-respectable result.

      Such an obvious point that those not making are doing it on purpose, and then it’s just fandom spin.

    3. If you don’t drive the best car to its limits, your teammate will and will likely beat you to the championship. There is nothing easy in what Lewis achieves. He’s just so good he makes it look easy, much like many of the world’s great professionals.

      1. your teammate will

        Not Bottas, though. Which is exactly why he’s there. What a waste of a seat.

    4. Upset with you?

      The great @deanf?

      Your comments are always the same. A sort of flame war enticing revisionist bait that when contested with the actual facts, you completely ignore and then start elsewhere.

      The bottom line is you are a revisionist with the sort of consistency that I am sure many race drivers and particularly your boy would dearly love.

      You may have noticed that few are playing your game here or elsewhere anymore so no your not upsetting anyone, your simply cluttering up the internet trying to rewrite history consistently…

      Einstein had something to say about that. You should look into it.

    5. The faster he goes the luckier he gets. The more he wins the luckier he gets. The more intelligently he races the luckier he gets. The more seasons he competes in the luckier he gets. This Hamilton fella is one LUCKY guy!!

      1. Nuff said…

        It’s all just luck.

    6. F1oSaurus (@)
      7th February 2021, 15:17

      Whereas someone like Verstappen or Leclerc has to extract every bit of speed out of the car to get a semi-respectable result.

      Verstappen just cruises to the finish too though. When did he ever battle for anything? Only in Styria and Turkey he did have some fight and in both cases damaged his car and lost out.

  16. Those who dismiss Hamilton’s achievements as being entirely down to his car overlook, among many other things, the details which go into achieving such relentless success.

    Does that mean we can’t question his achievements? I don’t dismiss them but even Lewis has said he would have won significantly less championships without the merc.

    Russel jumped in the car wearing a pair of old flip flops and was still quicker than Bottas. Lewis is a fantastic driver, possibly the best of his generation, but I would vociferously argue his relentless success is a balance of his talent and being in the best car of his generation.

    1. Russel jumped in the car wearing a pair of old flip flops and was still quicker than Bottas.

      Was he? Bottas was the quicker in Q3 and was catching George before the pitstop mess. And 1 race doesn’t tell us much, otherwise the over eager would be proclaiming Vandoorne quicker than Button after Bahrain 2016

      1. Not to mention RUS didn’t actually beat BOT in qualy OR the race. Not to mention Sakhir had approx 4 corners to negotiate. Not to mention this was ONE race on a very strange, very short F1 circuit. Its only the Lewis detractors talking this nonsense up so much. So that tells you a lot.
        I’m disappointed because I’ve been a fan of George for many years now. he is from my home town and a fellow Norfolk boy. I really want to him to do well as I KNOW he is every bit as good (and more) as the other young”Stars” Verstappen & Leclerc. George is being used by this anti Lewis brigade to try and demean Lewis and his great achievements. It makes it difficult to put the anti Lewis comments to bed without demeaning George and his achievements in some way. Lets be clear though…George is nowhere near Lewis level over the course of a season or in difficult racing conditions. So please give it a Rest on George being a “Lewis slayer”. Joining Merc WILL happen for him but it will likely be when Lewis has left. If its before it will create an explosive atmosphere within Merc because George will be able to push and beat Lewis on occasions. The tension will be worse than when ROS was racing

  17. Lots of salty people in here.

    1. Max fans throwing toys out of their prams

  18. Hard to argue with that. Lewis was just incredible last year. Having a good car doesn’t guarantee you a championship. Lewis still had to go out and get the job done and that’s exactly what he did and more. His Istanbul drive was simply incredible, I think I’d rate that as his best race performance. In treacherous conditions, he simply didn’t put a foot wrong and went against the accepted wisdom of pitting for new inters and somehow got to the end of the race. Incredible stuff and I’m glad I’m here to witness it. Sadly the greats are often appreciated after their time.

    1. You said he didn’t put a foot wrong, how about when he went wide? He also lost 2 positions, just cause he didn’t spin it’s not a mistake?

      Also look at the points difference between hamilton and bottas, and I’d say having that car DOES guarantee you the championship if you’re a good driver, if your team mate is bottas, hamilton drove well, but all that did was, instead of beating bottas, dominate him, and by extension the championship, since there weren’t any other good cars, he could’ve done a lot less and still win the title, to enlighten the low competitiveness of the 2020 environment (talking about cars ofc).

    2. In treacherous conditions, he simply didn’t put a foot wrong

      Wel he did. Several times. And was lucky to escape without damage. Check again the first few laps. Then when the tarmac dried, he just put the superiority of his Merc to good use. Did not look like a masterclass to me.

  19. Yet another biased article ranking a driver who has the best car in the field, a compliant number 2 driver as number 1. But hey, it’s a British site, run by a mediocre so called “journalist” supporting another British driver. Standards of this site falling by the day.

    1. Due to users such as yourself.

      I am simply amazed that you have the time or inclination to suggest Keith is biased and as for “so called” that is just frankly unacceptable.

      Go elsewhere.

    2. So who would your number 1 be? I can’t think of anyone I’d rank above Lewis. Probably close between him and Max but I think I’d fall on the side of Lewis, only just. Sure he had the best equipment, but he used it to almost perfection. Hard to criticise his campaign other than the few minor (but admittedly costly) errors mentioned in the article. If Bottas had the season Lewis did, I dare say Keith would have placed him number 1 despite being Finnish, but he didn’t…

  20. Make what you will of this, Lewis’ rating has the most number of comments than any of the other rankings.

  21. F1oSaurus (@)
    7th February 2021, 15:13

    Well deserved. Not only is he blindingly fast over a single lap, but he also shows that he can fight back if he needs to.

    Plus like Ricciardo, he’s one of the few drivers that actually helps his team develop the car in the correct direction and motivate the team to keep striving for perfection.

Comments are closed.