There was never really any doubt that Lewis Hamilton would one day exceed Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix victories. In fact, most fans were pretty sure a few seasons ago that Hamilton would become the driver with the most Grand Prix wins in history: It was always going to be a case of “when”, not “if”.
Clinching that milestone will undoubtedly reignite the debate over Hamilton’s place among the greatest F1 drivers in history. Most will say that the numbers speak for themselves, citing Hamilton’s win percentage compared to, say, Schumacher (34.87% vs 29.55%). Others might point to the advantage Hamilton had with his car over the last several years. Indeed, when it comes to Hamilton, things can get pretty heated as some point to the driver as emblematic of modern F1’s.
There is no right answer to the debate, but we can agree that he has been one of the best drivers of modern times, and that he has delivered some thrilling performances. Below we are going to look at five of those most thrilling victories from the man who now has 91 to choose from:
2018 German Grand Prix
When looking back on this, there was quite a measure of serendipitous good fortune for Hamilton, who won the race from way back on 14th on the grid. What would have happened if Sebastian Vettel hadn’t made a critical mistake and crashed out on Lap 52? What would have happened if it hadn’t started raining? These are moot points though, as Hamilton cut through the field like a racehorse to put the pressure on the drivers at the front. Ignoring a call to pitstop (a miscommunication, we were told), he hung on quite easily and regained momentum in the World Championship.
2011 Chinese Grand Prix
It’s worth reminding Hamilton’s naysayers that the British driver didn’t always enjoy the advantage of the best car on the track. Such was the case in 2011 when he drove for McLaren against superior Red Bull cars. Nevertheless, Hamilton was magnificent in an intriguing battle with old foe Sebastian Vettel, overtaking the German with 12 laps to go after a daring dive on the turn. This felt like an old school race, and Hamilton seemed to love every minute of it.
2014 Bahrain Grand Prix
When it comes to the greatest F1 rivalries, we tend to look back at Lauda vs Hunt, Senna vs Prost, and so on. But we tend to forget how heated things got between Hamilton and his then Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg. The pair, who were childhood friends, threw everything at each other, leading to many fall outs and many physical collisions. The 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix was a masterclass, though, as Hamilton held off an incessant Rosberg lap after lap. One of the best lead-from-the-front drives you’ll ever see in F1.
2008 British Grand Prix
Like the other man on 91 wins, Michael Schumacher, Hamilton is also considered a master of wet-weather driving, and that was on show at Silverstone in the Brit’s 26th Grand Prix start. In fact, the conditions on track were atrocious, but Hamilton, starting in 4th, put on a masterclass of inclement weather handling, lapping almost everyone on the track and finished well over a minute second-placed Nick Heidfeld. This was the first race where the world really began to look at Hamilton and think, “this kid could be an all-time great”.
2018 Italian Grand Prix
Everything seemed set up for a Ferrari ‘home’ victory at Monza, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen starting ahead of Hamilton on the grid. More pertinently, it was clear in qualifying that Ferrari’s cars had better speed and power. Hamilton was having none of it, however, and chipped away at the Ferraris, eventually passing Raikkonen with eight laps remaining. Luck and Ferrari’s in-fighting had an influence on the outcome, of course. But that’s what great drivers do – take advantage of everything the race lays out before them.