Hamilton Cements His Place as the Best F1 Driver of His Generation

Lewis Hamilton clinched a sixth Formula One Drivers’ World Championship yesterday at the United States Grand Prix, putting him second in the all-time rankings behind the Red Baron, Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton looked set for victory at the Circuit of the Americas after qualifying (by his standards) a lowly fifth, but his tyres dropped off at the end, allowing his team-mate Valtteri Bottas to overtake him and claim victory.

In addition to being second in the all-time rankings for Drivers’ World Championships, Hamilton is one of only four drivers in the history of the sport to win three or more consecutive championships, the all-time pole position record holder with 87 poles, and second in the all-time win rankings, with 83 victories.

He is also the only driver in the history of Formula One to win at least one race in every single season that he has competed in, and has amassed the most points of any driver in the sport’s history. Let’s take a closer look at how he achieved this unprecedented success: 

A Timeline of Lewis Hamilton’s Motorsport Career

  • 1993: First gets behind the wheel of a kart at the Rye House Kart Circuit. Almost immediately begins winning races and Cadet-class championships. 
  • 1995: Approaches then-McLaren boss Ron Dennis and asks him for an autograph. He says to Dennis: “Hi. I’m Lewis Hamilton. I won the British Championship and one day I want to be racing your cars.” Dennis replies: “Phone me in nine years, we’ll sort something out then.”
  • 1997: Betting houses offer odds of 40/1 for Hamilton to win a Formula One race by the age of 25, and 150/1 odds of him winning the Drivers’ World Championship.
  • 1998: Continues through the ranks of UK karting. Win Super One series and second British karting championship. Ron Dennis makes good on his promise and contacts Hamilton six years earlier than expected. He signs him to the McLaren driver development programme. The contract includes an option to give Hamilton a Formula One seat in the future, making him the youngest-ever driver to secure a contract that would later result in a Formula One seat.
  • 1999-2001: Continues through the ranks of European karting, winning the European Championship in 2000. Teams up with future Formula One team-mate and great rival, Nico Rosberg, to race in Formula Super A for TeamMBM.com.
  • 2006: Graduates to GP2 (Now Formula Two) with the ART Grand Prix team in 2006. Takes five victories on the way to winning the championship. His victory coincides with two Formula One seats being available at McLaren following the departures of Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya. Signs to race for McLaren alongside Fernando Alonso in 2007.
  • 2007: Makes his debut in Formula One, becoming the first black driver to race in the sport and finishing on the podium in nine consecutive races and taking back-to-back victories in Canada and the USA, rattling his double world champion team-mate in the process. Things come to a head in Hungary, when Alonso blocks Hamilton in the McLaren pit box. The two squabbling McLaren drivers end up losing the Drivers’ World Championship by a single point (they scored 109 each, while Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen scored 110). Nevertheless, Hamilton’s debut season in Formula One remains the most successful in the sport’s history.
  • 2008: Takes five victories on his way to becoming the youngest-ever Drivers’ World Champion, securing the world championship on the last corner of the last lap of the last race of the season, overtaking the slowing Toyota of Timo Glock to take fifth position and win the title at Brazil’s Interlagos by one point.

I don’t believe in the whole cloud nine thing. I am flying super-high right now. I have my family with me.

  • 2009: McLaren struggles to cope with the sweeping regulation changes made ahead of the new season. That season’s car, the MP4-24, had severe aerodynamic problems. Nevertheless, he manages two victories after the summer break to finish fifth in the championship.
  • 2010: Mounts another title challenge, but two late-season crashes in Italy and Singapore hamper his chances. He goes into the final grand prix still in contention for the world championship, but ultimately loses out to Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
  • 2011: An erratic season sees Hamilton being outscored by team-mate Jenson Button in the drivers’ standings. Both drivers take three victories, however Button manages more consistency. It’s the only season that Hamilton was ever outperformed by a team-mate.
  • 2012: Scores four victories on the way to fourth in the championship, finishing two points ahead of team-mate Button. Signs for Mercedes.
  • 2013: Teams up with old karting team-mate, Nico Rosberg, for what is a learning year for Mercedes prior to new regulations coming into force in 2014. Takes five pole positions and a solitary victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix to finish fourth in the championship.
  • 2014: Mercedes become the dominant force in the new turbo-hybrid era of Formula One, allowing Hamilton, taking 11 victories to win his second drivers’ world championship in style.
  • 2015: Takes 10 victories to become a triple world champion, putting him level with the likes of Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Nelson Piquet and his boyhood hero, Ayrton Senna.
  • 2016: Despite winning 10 races throughout the season, Hamilton suffers two retirements to Rosberg’s one. He finishes second in the championship to Rosberg, despite winning one more race. Rosberg retires five days after winning the championship, citing the lack of a desire to keep up with the commitment and sacrifice required to beat Hamilton.
  • 2017: Valtteri Bottas replaces Rosberg as Hamilton’s team-mate. Utterly dominates him and takes nine victories on his way to become a four-time world champion. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel emerges as his nearest rival, but still manages to finish almost 50 points clear of him.
  • 2018: Adds another 11 victories to his tally while Bottas fails to score a single victory. Finishes nearly 100 points ahead of Vettel. He secures back-to-back championships for a second time in his career, bringing him level with the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio, who raced back in the 1950s, on five titles.
  • 2019: Another 10 victories are added to his tally as he takes his sixth world championship with two races to spare. He says of his latest success: “I don’t believe in the whole cloud nine thing. I am flying super-high right now. I have my family with me. I don’t remember the last time my mum and dad and step mum and step dad were at a grand prix, and I don’t think I’ve had them at World Championship grand prix before. I am really happy to share that with them – the people who have been at the core of who I am and sacrificed everything they have for me to have the life I have to do and have this opportunity.”

How Hamilton Stacks Up Alongside the All-time Greats

World championships

  • 1. Michael Schumacher – 7
  • 2. Lewis Hamilton – 6
  • 3. Juan Manuel Fangio – 5
  • 4. Sebastian Vettel, Alain Prost – 4
  • 5. Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna – 3

Total Wins

  • 1. Michael Schumacher – 91
  • 2. Lewis Hamilton – 83
  • 3. Sebastian Vettel – 53
  • 4. Alain Prost – 51
  • 5. Ayrton Senna – 41

Percentage of F1 Career Races Won

  • 1. 46.51% – Juan Manuel Fangio – 52 entries, 24 wins
  • 2. 39.39% –  Alberto Ascari – 33 entries, 13 wins
  • 3. 34.25% – Jim Clark – 73 entries, 25 wins
  • 4. 33.47% –  Lewis Hamilton – 248 entries, 83 wins
  • 5. 29.55% – Michael Schumacher – 308 entries, 91 wins

Total Points Finishes

  • 1. Michael Schumacher – 221
  • 2. Kimi Raikkonen – 212
  • 3. Lewis Hamilton – 211
  • 4. Fernando Alonso – 202
  • 5. Sebastian Vettel – 194

Total podium finishes

  • 1. Michael Schumacher – 155
  • 2. Lewis Hamilton – 149
  • 3. Sebastian Vettel – 119
  • 4. Alain Prost – 106
  • 5. Kimi Raikkonen – 103

Pole Positions

  • 1. Lewis Hamilton – 87
  • 2. Michael Schumacher – 68
  • 3. Ayrton Senna – 65
  • 4. Sebastian Vettel – 57
  • 5. Jim Clark, Alain Prost – 33