A mighty comeback: Germany 2018, Mercedes, win 66
Hamilton’s greatest recovery drive may still be his fightback from 18th to second in Turkey at a GP2 race but then there was this outstanding win, his only victory from below 10th on the grid. He suffered a hydraulic problem in qualifying and started from 14th at Hockenheim with Sebastian Vettel – in a quicker Ferrari at that point in the season – on pole. Hamilton immediately hared off through the midfield and swiftly made it to fourth when the rain descended. Always supreme in the wet he was quickest on track, his pace immediately pressured those in front and on lap 52 Vettel made a huge, unforced error, sliding off at the Sachskurve. Greater drama followed as Hamilton made a last-minute decision to abort a call to come into the pits and, with Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen both stopping, Hamilton had the lead. Bottas attacked on fresh tyres but was called off by Mercedes and Hamilton secured a victory that had looked all but impossible after qualifying.
The greatest drive: Britain 2008, McLaren, win 7
Having made a remarkable debut in 2007, Hamilton’s talent was clear. At Silverstone he gave notice that he could pull off the exceptional. It remains his best wet-weather drive and perhaps his best full-stop. He started from fourth with water on the track but no rain and got away superbly, almost passing his teammate Heikki Kovalainen for the lead. By lap five he had it, having put relentless pressure on Kovalainen. He drew clear with Räikkönen, now second, when the rain returned. Taking new intermediate tyres at a stop he was once more in a class of his own, dropping Räikkönen by 22 seconds within five laps. When the rain intensified to almost a deluge, many drivers took the full wet tyres, but Hamilton trusted his touch on the intermediates and he was briefly much slower than anyone on wets. Yet crucially he kept it on the island and as the track dried did not have to pit again and now no one could match his pace. By the flag he had lapped the field up to fourth place and was more than a minute ahead of Nick Heidfeld in second. He went on to take his first title that season.
Off the mark for Mercedes: Hungary 2013, Mercedes win 22
The switch to Mercedes from McLaren had been brave but criticised by some and his first season with the team was expected to be tough. Wringing a win from their car at a circuit that did not favour it was remarkable. He had taken pole but had no expectation of holding the place across the race. Yet he gave a demonstration of the combination of decisive judgment and error-free execution that would become commonplace in the following years to secure the win.
The Mercedes was easier on its tyres than expected and Hamilton put them to good use. After pitting from the lead, he wasted no time in passing Jenson Button, while rivals Vettel and Romain Grosjean failed to do so as swiftly and lost time. A similarly bold pass on Mark Webber after his second stop ensured Hamilton could put his head down in front from where he was uncatchable. His teammate Nico Rosberg’s best lap was half a second down on Hamilton, who finished 11 seconds clear.
The toughest test: Monaco 2019, Mercedes, win 77
With Mercedes grieving after the death of Niki Lauda, Hamilton desperately wanted to deliver a win in his friend’s honour. It seemed to be in his hands after taking a fine pole and leading from the line but at the first stops his task became herculean. This was no thriller but rather a tense exhibition of control and finesse. Under a safety car on lap 15 Mercedes put Hamilton on the medium tyres while his rivals Max Verstappen and Vettel took the harder rubber. Hamilton had the lead but now had to eke out performance from his rubber for 64 laps. He was hounded by Verstappen and had to drive every lap to perfection to deny the Dutchman a glimpse of a pass, all the while conscious that he could not overwork his tyres. Verstappen lunged three laps from the end and the pair touched but once more Hamilton’s skill in spotting the move and aligning his car such that the contact was minimal ensured he emerged in front. He took the flag having delivered for Lauda in what he described as one of the hardest races of his career.
Against the odds: China 2011, McLaren, win 15
With Red Bull reaching the peak of their dominance and the McLaren failing to offer a substantial challenge, Hamilton’s work was cut out in 2011. Just taking the fight to Red Bull was an achievement and in Shanghai initially it appeared even that would not happen after Hamilton’s car failed to fire up before the start. He did get away from third, however, and both he and Button beat the pole-sitter, Vettel, off the line. The German came swiftly back, retaking the lead, and Hamilton’s chances of victory looked slim indeed. He stuck with it, staying in touch and on a three-stop strategy made his move in the closing stages. Emerging from the final stop in fourth on fresh rubber he made swift work of Rosberg to take third and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa to take second and was five seconds back on Vettel with 12 laps to go. He caught him with four remaining and delivered a magnificent coup de grâce – overtaking completely unexpectedly with a dive into turn seven. He rated it at the time as one of his finest victories.
Outdriving the opposition: Bahrain 2014, Mercedes, win 24
Mercedes were utterly dominant in 2014 but the fight between their two drivers, Hamilton and Rosberg, was fierce. Never more so than at the Sakhir circuit, where Rosberg had been on top all weekend. He was leading the championship at this point, took pole, appeared to have just a little more pace than his teammate and looked well-placed to take victory. Hamilton was having none of it. He sneaked in front on the inside through the first corner and as the pair left the field behind Rosberg threw himself at Hamilton.
They vied wheel for wheel but Rosberg could not make a move stick as Hamilton held his place superbly. On alternate tyre strategies Rosberg had the quicker rubber at the close and climbed all over the back of Hamilton once more. At one point they were wheel to wheel from turn one to turn four. Yet Hamilton held his line and defended perfectly. The attacks continued but the British driver maintained his grip for a dramatic victory, a two-horse race that delivered a real thriller.