When Lewis Hamilton crossed the line at the end of a chaotic Turkish Grand Prix, sealing his seventh world drivers’ championship, a question rippled through motorsport circles the world over – is he the greatest racing driver ever ?
Now sitting equal with the great Michael Schumacher on championship titles, and with the most grand prix victories and pole positions in history, Hamilton’s place in the pantheon of F1 legends requires careful consideration. It’s not just Michael Schumacher that Hamilton must be measured against, but also the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio and Jim Clark, both of whom crushed the opposition in Formula 1’s formative decades.
While the ‘greatest of all time’ debate is a largely subjective one, the data and numbers behind Hamilton’s 14 seasons and seven titles make a compelling case.
Granted, there are difficulties and caveats needed when comparing drivers of different eras, but the statistical dominion Hamilton holds over F1 in recent years is undeniable. Of drivers to have competed in at least 50 grands prix, Hamilton’s win percentage is second only to Juan Manuel Fangio’s 47 per cent. However, the Briton has competed in three times as many GPs. He has won half of the F1 championships he has taken part in.
Part of Hamilton’s success is his consistency. In the time since the Briton last failed to finish a grand prix he started, Hamilton has added three world championships to his repertoire. He remains the only driver in F1 history to win in every season in which he has competed.
While Hamilton’s Mercedes-AMGs have been incredibly fast, his success cannot simply be attributed to the car. Valtteri Bottas, in identical equipment only bested Hamilton four times in 2020 and finished the championship closer to Daniel Ricciardo than Hamilton. The mental fortitude and personal sacrifice needed to beat Hamilton in 2016 (one of his worst performing seasons since ’14) drove Nico Rosberg into instant retirement.
It’s easy to dismiss Hamilton’s achievements by pointing to Mercedes-AMG’s dominance in the hybrid era, and while the team has won every title since the introduction of new rules in 2014 it is reductive to say they have gone unchallenged. Ferrari was a serious threat to the German juggernaut in ’17, ’18, and ’19.
Not convinced by these numbers? Well, the Hamilton story is far from over, and looking beyond this year the 35-year-old shows no signs of slowing up.
LEWIS HAMILTON’S CAREER BY THE NUMBERS
- Most wins: 95
- Most poles: 98
- Average start: 3.8
- Average finish: 4.8
- Most podium finishes: 164 (95 1st, 40 2nd, 29 3rd)
- Most career points: 3763
- Laps led: 5405
- Laps raced: 15539
- Most points finishes: 228
- Laps led percentage: 34.8%
- Fastest laps percentage: 20%
- Podium percentage: 61.9%
- Win percentage: 35.8%
- Fastest laps: 53
- Grand Slams (pole, win, led every lap, fastest lap): 6
- Most points in a season: 413
- Championship percentage: 50%
- Pole percentage: 37%
- Entire races led: 22
- Grand Prix starts: 265
- Hat-Tricks (pole, win, fastest lap): 18