Lewis Hamilton may be statistically the best driver in the history of Formula One, yet the jury is out – and may never return – on whether he is the best F1 driver of all time.
Statistics can be used to present varying outcomes even when the data set relied upon is exactly the same. Hamilton is closing in on Rubens Barrichello’s 326 starts which sees the Brazilian third in the all time F1 list of events entered.
Modern F1 driver have better stats
Top of the pile is Fernando Alonso with 366 and still going and behind him Kimi Raikkonen 353 which compares to Hamilton’s current 316 F1 entries.
Further down the list in ninth is Ricciardo Patrasse who raced from 1977-1993 and while the number of years his career spanned was similar to today’s top four his mere 257 entries demonstrates clearly that the modern F1 driver competes in more races each year.
The more races driver has in an era where their team’s car is dominant clearly leads to more opportunity for poles, podiums, wins and titles.
During the Hamilton era at Mercedes the team has three entries in the top six of the table ranking the biggest % of wins in a season (90.5%, 84.2%, 84.2%). Ferrari have two entries (88.2%, 87.5%) and McLaren are top with their 1988 MP4/4 (93.8%).
Mercedes most dominent F1 team
Even more impressive is the Mercedes winning percentage compared to the total races they’ve entered. They sit second behind the one year wonder team Brawn winning 44.8% of their 279 races.
Of the current competitors next is Red Bull winning 28.2% from 355 and then Ferrari with 22.8% of their 1060 entries.
These stats prove Hamilton has been possibly the driver most in the right place at the right time and who knows this could be true of Max Verstappen come the end of his Red Bull contract in 2028.
Neither Lewis or Max have been known to take any prisoners other way to the top. Prior to his move to Mercedes, Hamilton appeared glued to Felipe Massa’s Ferrari back in 2011.
Hamilton early career woes
The British driver was called to the stewards to explain himself at five of the first sic Grand Prix that season and in Monaco was given two separate penalties by the stewards for careless driving in one track session alone.
This of course led to the famous explanation as to why the stewards were ‘picking on’ Lewis being “Maybe it’s because I’m black. That’s what Ali G says. I don’t know.”
Of course Hamilton’s 2011 McLaren was not a patch on the all conquering Mercedes he was later to drive, yet even with the best car on the grid, Hamilton faces an allegation from Helmut Marko that his sub-standard driving ‘wrecked’ another F1 career.
Alex Albon is only the second Thai driver to compete in Formula One and when he was picked up in 2019 to join Toro Rosso his early relationship with Red Bull was restored.
Albon impressive early F1 career
Starting the season alongside Daniil Kvyat, Albon proved his worth and following the Hungarian Grand Prix was surprisingly switched with Pierre Gasly to race alongside Max Verstappen as an F1 rookie.
As with each of Verstappen’s team mates bar Ricciardo, Albon was unable to live with the pace of dutchman though showed strongly in a number of the final 9 events of the year.
In Brazil Albon drove brilliantly and was on for a podium until Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc with some inter team blue on blue brought out a safety car.
At the restart on lap 70/71 Albon was in P2 and Hamilton in P4. Lewis quickly passed Gasly (P3) but then made contact with Albon while trying to pass him at turn 10. Albon was sent into a spin and was forced to rejoin the field in fifteenth position.
Hamilton careless driving penalty
Lewis penalty was far less severe, he lost his second place to Gasly coming home just 0.062 seconds behind the French driver at the chequered flag.
The world went into meltdown the following year with Covid-19 delaying the start of the F1 season. The first race was held in Austria 3-5th July and after a hectic qualifying, Lewis Hamilton was penalised with a three place grid drop for failing to observe yellow flags.
This saw Alex Albon start the race one place ahead of the world champion in fourth. When racing resumed on lap 61/71 Albon got a run on Hamilton who was in third place and passed the world champion in a ballsy move around the outside of turn three.
However carelessly Lewis clipped the rear right of Albon’s car with his front left causing the Thai driver to spin into the gravel. Albon was able to continue but rejoined the field last of the thirteen cars remaining.
Marko reflects on what might have been
Hamilton was demoted fourth by the stewards post chequered flag for causing the incident with the Red Bull driver.
Albon did go on to claim two podiums before the end of the 2020 campaign but lost his seat to Sergio Perez and was out of Formula One in 2021.
Speaking to this weeks inside line podcast, Red Bull’s Helmut Marko insists Albon was ‘really unlucky’ and except for Hamilton’s careless driving Alex’s career with Red Bull may have taken a different turn.
“In Brazil he was fighting for second when Lewis Hamilton turned him round and he lost this podium,” says Marko.
Hamilton cost Albon dear
“Next was in Austria when Alex was fighting for the win and he was again turned around by Hamilton and that hit his confidence massively.
“A second and a win was on the table and a driver error from someone took that away. That made it difficult when his confidence was down and we needed two solid drivers to fight for the championship.”
Albon returned to the grid in 2022 with Williams and without the pressure of having to contribute to a Red Bull constructors’ championship chase, he contributed well in a poor Williams car.
Alex was regularly just outside the points and final qualifying in car clearly worth its place at the back of the grid. His efforts for Williams this season see the team lifted from the bottom of the title race and there is currently paddock talk that Albon may find a seat for 2024 in a much stronger midfield team.
Leclerc ⚔️ Verstappen
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 26, 2023