Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, Jeddah, 2024

Hamilton makes his worst ever start to a season but his next team are on the up

Formula 1

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When Lewis Hamilton stunned Formula 1 before the season began by confirming he would leave Mercedes to join Ferrari next year, it raised an obvious question:

Has he pulled off a repeat of his perfectly-timed first change of teams, from McLaren to Mercedes 11 years ago, which turned then one-time world champion into a record-equalling holder of seven titles?

While that is much too early to call, on the evidence of the first four races of 2024, Hamilton’s decision to leave Mercedes for Ferrari is hard to fault. He has made his worst start to a season in his 18-year career to date, while Ferrari have increased their points haul by more than any other team compared to the same stage in last year’s championship.

Hamilton has just one seventh place, two ninths and one retirement to show for his season so far. That’s worse than Mercedes poor start to the previous two campaigns with its almost entirely unsuccessful ground effect cars.

It’s even worse than Hamilton’s dismal start to his first world championship title defence 15 years ago at McLaren. True, he has scored one more point so far compared to then, but today’s points system is far more generous (see below for his scores adjusted to the current points system). In 2009 he had a fourth, a sixth and a seventh from the opening four rounds – and would have been third in Australia had he not been disqualified for a Safety Car infringement:

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But this is only half the story. Not only has Hamilton had his worst start to a season so far, he’s had a less successful start to the 2024 season than any of his rivals.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2009
Hamilton’s previous worst start to a season was in 2009
Hamilton has 38 less points on the board than he did after the first four rounds of last season. This time last year he’d already reached the podium once and finished every grand prix in the top six – while this year he’s yet to finish higher than seventh.

His slump is slightly worse than that of Fernando Alonso, who is 36 points down year-on-year. Like Hamilton, his best result so far this year is no better than his worst over the first four round of 2024.

Alonso has been linked to Hamilton’s empty seat at Mercedes. But when he looks at how little progress the three-pointed star has made, no wonder he said last weekend that joining them “doesn’t feel that attractive”.

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Pos.Driver2024 points2023 pointsDifference
1Max Verstappen7793-16
2Sergio Perez6487-23
3Charles Leclerc592831
4Carlos Sainz Jnr553421
5Lando Norris371027
6Oscar Piastri32428
7George Russell2428-4
8Fernando Alonso2460-36
9Lewis Hamilton1048-38
10Lance Stroll927-18
11Yuki Tsunoda725
13Nico Hulkenberg36-3
14Kevin Magnussen110
15Alexander Albon01-1
16Zhou Guanyu02-2
18Esteban Ocon04-4
19Pierre Gasly04-4
20Valtteri Bottas04-4
21Logan Sargeant000

But at this early stage in the season Hamilton can draw some comfort from the progress his future team are making. Ferrari have scored almost twice as many points this year than they did over the first four rounds of 2023.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2024
Ferrari have already enjoyed a one-two this year
That’s especially impressive when you take circumstances into account. Their score last year was inflated by the fact round four was a sprint race. And their scoring potential was diminished in Saudi Arabia when rookie Oliver Bearman had to be brought in at short notice as a substitute for the unwell Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Only one other team has made anything like as big a step as Ferrari year-on-year: McLaren. They’ve scored 69 points so far this year which is their best haul since Hamilton last drove for them in 2012.

However it’s clear the teams at the back of the grid are finding it harder to score this season. At this stage in 2023 every team had at least one point on the board. But so far in 2024 Alpine, Sauber and Williams remain on zero.

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Pos.Team2024 points2023 pointsDifference
1Red Bull141180-39
5Aston Martin3387-54

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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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30 comments on “Hamilton makes his worst ever start to a season but his next team are on the up”

  1. Honestly looks like a golden move. Ferrari under Vasseur are finally living up to what Ferrari should. If Ferrari keep improving then he has a chance, though perhaps slim, to actually fight for the long overdue 8th title next season.

  2. But everybody knows that next year Mercedes will surprise everyone with the most dominant car in F1 History, even more than the W13 which arguably was the second most dominant car ever (after the ’61 Sharknose). And of course Fernando Alonso will we driving it and get 6 straight WDCs before retiring, with George Russell as perpetual #2

    1. I like it. George as Alonso’s wing man. He can then wax Barrichello-al after retirement and talk about how he definitely would have won championships if he hadn’t been Alonso’s bonded servant.

      1. lol

        But don’t forget when Kimi replaces him as the new Massa and gets mentored, only for Raikkonen’s son to join the team and become the #1 after Alonso retires.

  3. Something went wrong there in the drivers’ table, looks like you ordered the names according to the points difference but the rest of the columns are ordered by the 2024 points.

    1. @hunocsi Apologies, that should display correctly now

    2. I wish they’d go back to the 10 point system. Makes much more sense.

      1. Didn’t mean to post this as a reply, but doesn’t matter I guess.

  4. Well, he made a brilliant move before delivering him quite the number of world titles. Why not again? And although on paper Leclerc will give more opposition than a Rosberg, in practice he is still incident prone or at the least an inconsistent performer.

  5. “Fewer” not “Less”.

    Less is used when referring to quantity or volume e.g. time or water. Fewer is used when referring to something that is being counted e.g. points or people.

    1. Sonny, that is a rather dusty academic viewpoint. Fewer can only be used when referring to countable objects and lss can be used in either instance. It may be more elegant to write fewer points, but it isn’t obligatory.

    2. Thank you, Stannis.

    3. Use is king, and “less” for countable stuff is very much in use

    4. As a former copywriter and one whose job still involves writing articles, this is the type of thing I always notice. I like writing that adheres strictly to universally standardized rules and whichever style guide they follow (E.G. AP, Chicago, etc.). However, some of the rules really are just a waste of time. More specifically, combing through copy to ensure it has adhered to every single arcane rule is a wast of time. Less vs fewer is not arcane at all though.

  6. Looks like he’ll just go through the motions this season. George is driving his ss off and doesn’t even look that much better.

    1. I don’t think any driver just goes through the motions. He’ll be going into every race thinking about how to get onto the podium, how to win. All sportsmen are highly motivated, highly competitive, and they don’t stop trying just because they’ve handed in their notice.

      1. I’ve seen plenty of sportsmen just showing up to fullfil their obligations at a point in their careers.

        If i think Hamilton will drop the ball completely this season without a care in the world? No, he’ll do what he can, but i expect this to be his worst season yet, letting George through more than just this time and just bringing this subpar car home to low score finishes more often than not because that’s exactly where they are.

      2. Just look at vettel, you can’t say he was performing in 2020 like he was in 2019, 2018 or even 2017, I’m no vettel fan, but those seasons weren’t as bad as 2020, which coincidentally was his last in ferrari.

        1. Lewis simply has never been great when dealing with a car that isn’t predictable. He definitely tries his hardest in every quali, but he can lose heart during races when he thinks nothing beyond a lowly finish is possible.

          Some tried to say Seb wasn’t trying in 2014, which makes no sense. Who doesn’t try to defend their title? I’d maybe understand them referring to later races when he had fallen too far behind and had already signed for Ferrari, but even then it was clear he was trying.

          1. Seb was driving with the worst power unit on the grid. He probably had the best handling car, but an absolute dog snot shooter at the back.

  7. The point comparison would have been better if you had excluded the Bake 2023 sprint points.
    Now the comparison is 4 normal races versus 4 normal races + 1 sprint race.

    See below the adjusted comparison excluding Baku sprint.
    Top 10 drivers:
    Max down 10 (87 versus 77)
    Perez down 15 (79 versus 64)
    Leclerc up 38 (59 versus 21)
    Sainz up 25 (55 versus 30)
    Norris up 27 (37 versus 10)
    Piastri up 28 (32 versus 4)
    Russell up 1 (24 versus 1)
    Alonso down 33 (24 versus 57)
    Lewis down 36 (10 versus 46)
    Stroll down 17 (9 versus 26)

    Top 5 teams:
    Red Bull down 25 (141 versus 166)
    Ferrari up 69 (120 versus 51)
    Mclaren up 55 (69 versus 14)
    Mercedes down 35 (34 versus 69)
    AM down 50 (33 versus 83)

  8. Logan Sargeant sitting pretty in the top half of the table. He’s the most consistent performer and makes Max look like old shoes!

  9. Truly consistent, well, never achieving anything is also consistence.

    And being this a zero-sum game, there is a guy with a lost point for every guy with a won point, so by doing absolutely nothing you are guaranteed to be in the middle.

    You know this: there are lies, d….. lies, and statistics*

    *(Mark Twain attributed this quip to Benjamin Disraeli, but there is no known use before Mark Twain himself, who probably made it up)

  10. someone or something
    10th April 2024, 2:09


    In 2009 he had a fourth, a sixth and a seventh from the opening four rounds – and would have been third in Australia had he not been disqualified for a Safety Car infringement:

    This is wrong for two reasons:
    – Hamilton would not have been third. He finished fourth on the road, and was only briefly classified third, when Trulli was wrongfully handed a time penalty for a supposedly illegal overtake behind the Safety Car. This penalty was later retracted, and Hamilton disqualified from fourth.
    – Hamilton’s disqualification was not for a Safety Car infringement. The bone of contention were two overtakes behind the Safety Car, that much is true. However, they were both legal:
    The first one happened as Trulli ran off the track at the penultimate corner. In leaving the track, he forfeited the protection of his position behind the Safety Car, so Hamilton was entitled to keep the position. However, Hamilton’s crew failed to realise this, and, fearing a penalty, instructed him to give the place back.
    The second overtake followed, initiated by Hamilton pulling off the racing line, slowing down, and waving in Trulli’s direction. Trulli was however hesitant to accept the offer, and pulled alongside Hamilton, only overtaking him as it became evident that Hamilton had no intention of accelerating anytime soon. This was also a legal overtake, since Hamilton was driving at a much slower speed than the Safety Car, which falls under the exceptional circumstances which permit overtaking cars that slow with an obvious problem or are delayed. Granted, this one was a tricky call, but the Stewards applied common sense in ruling that a driver who slows down massively, pulls off-line, and makes gestures to that effect, clearly wants to be overtaken.
    The disqualification however, was for unsporting behaviour after the race, when Hamilton told the blatant lie (apparently because he was told to) that Trulli had overtaken him unprovokedly. This triggered the misguided penalty that was overturned shortly after, when overwhelming evidence disproving any foul play on Trulli’s side came to light. Trulli regained third place, which he had held when crossing the finish line, pushing Hamilton back to fourth. But the Stewards felt that telling a lie to get another competitor punished was just the kind of unsporting behaviour that warrants exclusion from the race results, so that’s what they did. And so, Hamilton lost his fourth place, which was worth 5 points back in the day.

    Now, you could argue that Hamilton actually deserved third place, because Trulli made a mistake by running wide and therefore rightfully lost the place. Hamilton was not required to give the place back.
    But the thing is, he did.
    And the only reason why he was ever, however briefly, classified third, is the very lie he told to get Trulli penalised, the very lie that got him disqualified.

    Long story short: Even though it may superficially look like Hamilton lost third place due to a disqualification, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

    1. Thanks for pointing this out, and in detail!

      Hamilton may have been instructed by the team to lie, but regardless, that was indeed the reason he ended up disqualified, not the safety car shenanigans.

    2. Yep 100% spot on.
      The days of the 25 seconds penalties.
      Dave Ryan was sacked by McLaren, Hamilton said sorry.

      1. Kind of like when Alonso passed a struggling Kubica at Silverstone not fully on the track and after Kubica immediately pulled off the track and retired. So, Alonso couldn’t give the place back. He was given a drive through since he couldn’t let him back by. Even Brundle called it overly harsh. It’d be a 5 second penalty now.

        Due to that penalty and an SC happening at the worst time for Alonso and the best time for Vettel, there was a swap in positions/points that alone cost him the WDC.

  11. I find it crazy that Hamilton is complaining Mercedes hasn’t allowed him to do a Ferrari seat fitting + talks about “what can I do for the guys?” and in the next sentence continues to bash the car.

  12. Can we have this article every other Grand Prix? Really great to see the differences between seasons. Especially with Ferrari gaining momentum…

    1. I agree.

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