Lewis Hamilton in four races from 2008 to 2019

Hamilton called his last race ‘one of his worst’ – but is it among his 10 poorest?

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A dejected Lewis Hamilton called his performance in the Canadian Grand Prix one of the worst of his career.

That was probably a harsh verdict on his efforts in a race where he finished three places higher than he started and might have made his bold early switch to slicks pay off had he not encountered a slow Zhou Guanyu. Hamilton’s qualifying effort was subpar, however, and losing a podium finish to his teammate with two laps to go was always going to leave a bitter taste.

Does a performance like that really deserve to be considered one of the low points of his career? After 341 grand prix starts, even having won a record-setting 103 of them and stood on the podium almost 200 times, there must be the occasional duff drive on the list.

There have been a few race-ruining slips along the way – such as crashing into Kimi Raikkonen in the pits at Montreal in 2008, colliding with his team mate at the start at Spain in 2016, or the fluffed restart in Baku three years ago.

But rare have been the occasions where his performance seemed consistently below par. Here are 10 times Hamilton looked off his game in a grand prix, prior to this season.

2008 Bahrain Grand Prix

Bahrain International Circuit
Started 3rd, finished 13th

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2008

Hamilton’s second season in F1 began strongly with victory in Australia, but his pursuit of the championship which had narrowly eluded him as a rookie suffered a setback at round three. A strange collision with Fernando Alonso broke his Hamilton’s front wing and sent him into the pits early.

From there he struggled to recover, spending the race stuck behind Giancarlo Fisichella’s Force India, though he was able to pass Kazuki Nakajima, who was starting his fourth race for Williams. Hamilton finished a lap down after title rival Felipe Massa came past him with 10 laps to go en route to victory.

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2009 British Grand Prix

Started 18th, finished 16th

Robert Kubica, Lewis Hamilton, Silverstone, 2009

Hamilton won his second British Grand Prix in stunning fashion, taking the chequered flag a minute before anyone else after the heavens opened. The following year, lumbered with McLaren’s uncompetitive MP4-24, he didn’t figure.

He was eliminated in Q1, slowest of the six Mercedes-powered cars and only quicker than Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso. From 19th on the grid he never rose higher than 14th in the race, two places higher than he finished.

But better times were not far away. McLaren introduced a floor update which transformed the car and two races later Hamilton took his first victory of the season.

2011 Indian Grand Prix

Buddh International Circuit
Started 5th, finished 7th

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Hamilton’s patchy 2011 campaign was arguably his least impressive at McLaren. But his one-lap pace shone through – in the race before the Indian Grand Prix he claimed a pole position which denied Red Bull a clean sweep for the season.

He should have shared the front row of the grid with Sebastian Vettel at the Buddh International Circuit, but a grid penalty for failing to respect yellow flags left him fifth. In a race dominated by tyre degradation, Hamilton slipped backwards at the start, Massa overtaking him.

The pair appeared to have magnets in their cars at times that year, and they tangled again here. While Jenson Button finished eight seconds off the dominant Vettel, Hamilton was only a few seconds away from being lapped when the chequered flag dropped.

2012 Korean Grand Prix

Korea International Circuit
Started 3rd, finished 10th

Although his race was ultimately compromised by a dose of misfortune, it was far from Hamilton’s strongest showing to begin with. Alonso mugged him at the start and from there he didn’t appear to have the pace to run at the front.

Having pitted early as his tyres began to go off, Hamilton then ran wide and collected a chunk of Astroturf which aggravated his situation. He brought the car and a chunk of the circuit home in the last points-paying place.

2013 Spanish Grand Prix

Circuit de Catalunya
Started 2nd, finished 13th

Start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013

In his first year at Mercedes, the team’s cars had a habit of chewing their tyres. Strong qualifying performances in the first half of the year were often the precursor to poor races.

Spain was the most extreme example of this, and Hamilton suffered noticeably more than team mate Nico Rosberg. The pair locked out the front row of the grid but Hamilton went backwards more quickly than his team mate.

“It was an experience that I don’t really want to go through again,” remarked Hamilton after taking the chequered flag seven places behind Rosberg, out of the points.

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2015 Hungarian Grand Prix

Started 1st, finished 6th

Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Hungaroring, 2015

During the peak of Mercedes’ domination of Formula 1 after the V6 hybrid turbo rules were introduced, Hamilton was at times accused of allowing his interests outside the track to distract him from the competition. If any race gave credence to that view it was his performance at the Hungaroring in 2015 having spent Saturday night watching Ridley Scott filming The Martian nearby.

Having put his car on pole position, Hamilton fell to fourth at the first corner, then went off again further around the lap and came back around in 10th place. He later collected a penalty for avoidable contact with Daniel Ricciardo.

Hamilton apologised for his errors and at one point asked his team if he was now last. He wasn’t, ans although sixth place was a lot less than his all-conquering car was capable of it didn’t stop him clinching a third world title later in the year.

2016 European Grand Prix

Baku City Circuit
Started 10th, finished 5th

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas, Baku, 2016

On F1’s first visit to the Baku City Circuit, Hamilton was tripped up by the unfamiliar circuit in qualifying and by a strange, short-lived regulation in the race.

Starting 10th after crashing in Q3, Hamilton made slow progress at first, finding it harder to pass on Baku’s long straights than expected. Then his power unit developed a problem which his race engineer was forbidden to assist him with due to a recently-introduced rule limiting what information drivers could receive on the radio.

Hamilton lost three to four tenths of a second each time around for a dozen laps while he fiddled with settings on his steering wheel. Finally a change of ‘strat’ mode cured the problem, though by that point he was doomed to finish outside the podium places. This was a rarity for Mercedes at the time and undoubtedly contributed to Hamilton’s later championship defeat to Rosberg, who experienced a similar problem during the race but solved it more quickly.

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2019 German Grand Prix

Started 1st, finished 9th

In the kind of mixed conditions where Hamilton has conjured up great performances in the past, the 2019 German Grand Prix got away from him completely, and he apologised to team principal Toto Wolff afterwards.

Hamilton slithered off at the final two corners and collected a five-second time penalty as he dived for the pits, failing to follow the correct route as he did. A missed opportunity to pit for a fresh set of intermediate tyres amplified his problems, and as he fell out of the points places Hamilton urged his team to retire his car to save the engine mileage.

The team’s decision to leave him out was vindicated even though he crossed the line in 11th place. The Alfa Romeo drivers were penalised for technical infringements, promoting Hamilton to ninth. But it was far from the result Mercedes hoped for when they agreed to sponsor the race and chose to participate in a one-off heritage livery marking 125 years of their participation in motorsport.

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2022 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

Started 14th, finished 13th

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, battles Fernando Alonso, Alpine, for position, Imola, 2022

Hamilton’s podium finish in the first race for their new W13 greatly flattered the first car the team built to the new ‘ground effect’ regulations. That much became clear when Hamilton failed to escape Q1 at the second round in Jeddah, though he salvaged a point on race day.

Imola was much worse, however. As the team experimented with different set-ups in a fruitless bid to cure their dire porpoising problems, Hamilton managed 14th on the grid and made almost no progress in the race, while new team mate George Russell took a creditable fourth. Over two years later, the team is still pulling itself out of this slump.

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2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Yas Marina
Started 11th, finished 9th

By the end of 2023 Hamilton at least knew Mercedes had finally heeded his call for a drastic change in car philosophy for the upcoming season. That seemed to come across in a scrappy end-of-season performance where he was over three tenths of a second off Russell in qualifying, and missed the cut for Q3 as a result.

That was the prelude to a scrappy race in the midfield, spoiled by a tangle with Pierre Gasly and nearly compromised again when he narrowly avoided a collision with Alonso. When the chequered flag fell his team mate was 20 seconds and six places up the road.

Over to you

Were these weaker drives than the one Hamilton produced in Canada last week? Is he being too hard on his performance in Canada? have your say in the comments.

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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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34 comments on “Hamilton called his last race ‘one of his worst’ – but is it among his 10 poorest?”

  1. I love the Martian (the film as well as the book) and I would’ve gladly given a up a GP win to watch Ridley Scott direct it. So, good for Lewis.

    1. LOL!! You’ve beaten me too it.

  2. The 2019 German GP was odd, if I remember correctly Hamilton straight up asked the team if he could retire. Together with that Hungarian race it’s one of those rare events when even a great champion just gives up.

    1. I remember him asking a similar thing of McLaren during that difficult 2009 season, possibly in the Silverstone race that’s mentioned here. “We should save the car, guys” or something like that.

    2. Same thing happened at Hockenheim in 2012, a Grand Prix that surprisingly isn’t on this list.

    3. Lewis has a habit of giving up when the going gets tough, 2014 British GP qualifying is another example

    4. You do know they have a limited number of engines?…

    5. Spa 2014 too after the puncture, but obviously, most of these are related to saving the engine.

  3. I have an opinion
    19th June 2024, 9:45

    2007 Chinese Grand Prix is a candidate for this list.

    1. That’s more a single moment caused by Mclaren’s paranoia for Alonso and horrible race management on both ends. Lewis actually was ahead of Alonso that entire race until that moment. Canada 08, Spain 16 are excluded for the same reason as they are moments.

      Compared to most of the list here where he was just hopeless in race pace and finished far behind his teammates China 07 doesn’t qaulify.

    2. I don’t recall that being a particularly bad race for him until he started losing time on overly worn tyres. Then a lapse of concentration when he finally headed for the pits – a bad mistake, for sure, particularly in the context of the championship battle, but this article seems to be more about races where he was just off the boil rather than making big errors.

      1. In my opinion even germany 2019 is a stretch, it was the usual dominating performance until that mistake that broke the front wing and caused a 50 sec pit stop, then it was pretty bad, yes.

        I would’ve included one of the monaco races where he didn’t make it into q3 and then spent the race unable to pass other cars, must’ve been around 2017-2018.

      2. Definitely 2017, now I think about it, 2018 was the procession behind ricciardo who had an engine issue and he was up there with vettel, raikkonen and bottas.

      3. I agree, I was there. He was doing well, tire wear was bad, and the team kept him out too long on them. Then, a lapse and race done.

    3. I would say the 2009 Chinese GP.

  4. The 2007 German Grand Prix was easily Hamilton’s worst race. One disaster after another.

    His Canadian GP wasn’t that bad at all. He was a lap down at one point.

  5. Abu Dhabi 2021. Had it all under control after the first corner, only to throw it all away on the last lap…

    …ok I’ll see myself out.

  6. Some of these were good races until they werent anymore.

    Others were bad throughout the whole event. These are way worse.

    Canada wasnt that bad, but he should have been better than that.

    1. Yes, germany 2019 is an example of your first line.

  7. This list highlights how good Hamilton actually is. It’s surprised me somewhat.

    Many results aren’t that bad or were caused by a single mistake or poor car performance.

    He gained positions in many of these and had several top 10 finishes.

    I’d be interested to see a similar articles for the other drivers. I’ve been very critical of Perez and I’d say his Canada GP is way worse than anything on this list.

    1. In Perez’s stint at Red Bull alone you can make a list with worse performances than this.

      Monaco and Japan last year and Canada now top everything on this list.

  8. José Lopes da Silva
    19th June 2024, 14:41

    “The 10 poorest races of” would be a nice interesting for the summer break. In the same way, the 10 best races of midfield or lacklustre drivers.

    Obviously, start with the 10 poorest races of either Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher. For instance, regarding Senna, I believe all of them will be until the end of 1990, with the eventual exception of the wet Spain races of 1991 and 1992. Otherwise, his races from Phoenix 1991 onwards were usually flawless or quite good.
    Perhaps being fooled by Prost in Monza 88 could count as one of the 10 worst?

    1. For Schumacher I’d nominate Hungary 2006 as one of his worst drives, especially as it was in mixed conditions where he was usually supreme. Overtaken by championship rival Alonso in the early stages, despite their respective qualifying penalties, then lost his front wing defending from Fisichella and went a lap down. Despite this, he could have had a podium, but in the closing stages, trying to get to the end on worn tyres, he defended against de la Rosa and Heidfeld so aggressively – colliding with both cars and skipping over a chicane on multiple occasions – that he damaged his car beyond hope of continuing, though he’d completed enough of the race to be classified eighth and score a point.

      Of course, many of Schumacher’s worst drives would have come after his disastrous 2010 comeback, so he might not make as compelling an article as Senna would.

      1. Japan 2003 and China 2004 i remember being pretty bad for his standards.

        2005 with those tyres designed to hurt his tactics may have some too but i don’t think it’s very fair as Bridgestone was crap that year anyway.

      2. José Lopes da Silva
        19th June 2024, 16:47

        Let’s tell Keith to skip Mercedes years entirely from Schumacher’s analysis.
        Edvaldo, agreed with Japan 2003 and I think the whole 2003 was quite sub-par from Schumacher. After the end of the season I sincerely thought that he was going into decadence.

        Australia 94 was also quite poor. Monumental error in practice; lost the pole, unusual after Imola; Hill could keep up him on pace, the first time it happened the whole season in dry; and then another error.

        1. I think Michael Schumacher’s biggest weakness was a tendency to crack under pressure. In his career, he was in five final race title-deciders and arguably cracked in all five. He hit the wall and then Hill in Adelaide 1994, turned in on Villeneuve in Jerez 1997, stalled on the grid in Suzuka 1998, had all sorts of problems in Suzuka 2003 and then got a puncture after colliding with Fisichella in Interlagos 2006.

          I think there are quite a few more examples of races where Hamilton was off-form, such as Sochi 2017, Melbourne 2019, Monaco 2021 where he was simply outperformed by Valtteri Bottas. I think that consistency is Max Verstappen’s greatest strength. Not once in three and a half years has Sergio Perez performed better than him over a weekend (although Baku 2023 comes the closest). But I still think that Hamilton on his day of days was slightly faster than Verstappen at his best.

          1. José Lopes da Silva
            20th June 2024, 12:57

            The Schumacher pattern in title decisions is spot on, here

          2. Señor Sjon
            21st June 2024, 9:50

            The championship was lost in Suzuka 2006 when the usual bulletproof Ferrari suddenly expired. He was keeping Alonso at bay fine then. They were tied in points before Suzuka and if they had finished like they ran, he would have entered Interlagos 2 pts ahead of Alonso with Schumacher 8-6 ahead in victories. So he just needed to follow Alonso around to win the title in Brazil. But Schumacher was very fast in Brazil only to get 10th on the grid due to a car failure starting Q3. Fisichella was teammate of Alonso and was defending very hard against Schumacher, resulting in a puncture for Schumacher. Almost a lap down, he ended 24s behind Massa without the aid of a SC. Whould have, should have. But Ferrari was by far the fastest that day and that should have helped him clinch the 8th title. 8th titles are a bit of an enigma for the ones trying to achieve it.
            Japan 1998 was also Ferrari doing nothing to cool the car and clutch after the aborted start. McLaren ran over to their cars with fans and stuff. When the second start was due, the car just died on him.

  9. 2011 had more races that I would qualify as being much worse than the most recent Canadian Grand Prix. There were a couple of races with really bad tyre degradation (Malaysia for example), or some races where he was crashing into everyone, like Monaco – and that race got even worse in the media pen afterwards.

    1. Monaco 2011 was the one that came to mind for me as well (although I mostly found the media pen part entertaining). Although silver lining ‘n all, it made the race worthy of more than 1/10.

      A lot of the races listed are not that bad (or the exec summary just looks bad – Imola ’22 was more down to luck, starting on the wet side and then not having the speed to pass anything).

  10. I am surprised by numerous picks that made it into this list.

    Bahrain 2008? Although Alonso was cleared of brake-testing Hamilton, I still believe he was deliberately trying to compromise Hamilton exit speed from the opening corners. For that reason alone, it doesnt deserve to be on the list.

    Hamilton efforts in 2010-12 should be judged with allowance that he was racing against a recent F1 drivers champion in equal car on equal terms. India 2011? Maybe he wasn´t as good with tyres as Button was, but his race was ruined by Massa. Korea 2012? Starting third on the grid he well outqualified Button who was 11th on the grid. In 2012 especially, McLaren had races where, pacewise, they were lost, and Korea was definitely one such race (Spain or Britain were amongst those too).

    Germany 2019? Mercedes wasn´t a dominant car on that week, atleast in the rain. Bottas had two massive moments and ultimately he did not finish the race. Hamilton still managed to lessen his error, so his crash wasn´t a race-ending one, like for Vettel and others.

    There is no way that Canada this year, should be on this list, his pace in the race was great. The only problem was he lost three tenths on Russel which put him six places behind. But Russel is great qualifier, this will become obvious in years to come.

    On the other hand, China 2024 was definitely one of worst 10 races. On pace, he was behind Russel significantly (truly the only case this year so far). I would also add the last races of 2015 seasons, when he already clinched the title, he simply let Rosberg take all remaining races.

    1. Great post.

      It was his dozy attitude to the end of 2015, which meant he started off 2016 just as bad.

  11. Silverstone 2007 was their last decent race

  12. It’s easily Baku 2016 for me. He just had a lazy attitude all weekend, resulting in that memorable qualifying crash.

    His failure to suss out what to do, with his engine mapping, during the race summed him up. Ironically, the regulation change hindered Rosberg, who always needed more help, than Lewis.

    But he arguably deserved to lose the title, purely based on this terrible racing weekend.

    Mind you, virtually all of 2011 was arguably as bad!!

Comments are closed.