Lewis Hamilton’s worst seasons in F1: Where does winless 2023 campaign rank?

Thomas Maher
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton is leaving Mercedes for Ferrari at the end of 2025.

Lewis Hamilton endured his second-ever winless season in F1 in 2023, but was it really all that bad? Let’s see where 2023 ranks in his least successful seasons.

For a driver with seven F1 World Championships and finishing runner-up on three occasions , a year that might be celebrated as amazing by other drivers can be viewed as distinctly average by someone as used to success as Lewis Hamilton.

But even drivers who rank amongst the very greatest in the history of the sport can occasionally have a bad year, but is Lewis Hamilton’s 2023 really one of them? Let’s explore the British driver’s least successful years.

Evaluating Lewis Hamilton’s worst F1 seasons

In terms of outright statistics, the 2022 season was Lewis Hamilton’s worst finish in Formula 1 as the British driver could only manage sixth in the Drivers’ Championship.

The Mercedes W13 was eye-catching in its unique approach to the new ground-effect regulations but, sadly, its zero-sidepod concept that promised so much in the wind tunnel failed to deliver real-world performance once put on the track.

Added to that was Hamilton’s head had dropped following the calamitous disappointment and shock of losing a record-breaking eighth world championship at the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

In a year where new teammate George Russell hit the ground running with a hugely consistent run of form, the explanation offered for Hamilton’s downturn in form was that he was experimenting and evaluating new setups and configurations for the car in a bid to help Mercedes move forward.

Certainly, as the season wore on, the gap between the pair shrunk – to the point where Hamilton could have won in Brazil were it not for a controversial collision with Max Verstappen, which handed an advantage to George Russell which the new Mercedes arrival didn’t waste.

No wins, losing out to a teammate who did win a race, but a rapidly rising trajectory in the second half of the season that saw him claim three second-place finishes in a row means 2022 might not be looked back on favourably by Hamilton, but it’s certainly not his worst season in the sport.

Evaluating Lewis Hamilton’s worst F1 seasons

In terms of outright statistics, the 2022 season was Lewis Hamilton’s worst finish in Formula 1 as the British driver could only manage sixth in the Drivers’ Championship.

The Mercedes W13 was eye-catching in its unique approach to the new ground-effect regulations but, sadly, its zero-sidepod concept that promised so much in the wind tunnel failed to deliver real-world performance once put on the track.

Added to that was Hamilton’s head had dropped following the calamitous disappointment and shock of losing a record-breaking eighth world championship at the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

In a year where new teammate George Russell hit the ground running with a hugely consistent run of form, the explanation offered for Hamilton’s downturn in form was that he was experimenting and evaluating new setups and configurations for the car in a bid to help Mercedes move forward.

Certainly, as the season wore on, the gap between the pair shrunk – to the point where Hamilton could have won in Brazil were it not for a controversial collision with Max Verstappen, which handed an advantage to George Russell which the new Mercedes arrival didn’t waste.

No wins, losing out to a teammate who did win a race, but a rapidly rising trajectory in the second half of the season that saw him claim three second-place finishes in a row means 2022 might not be looked back on favourably by Hamilton, but it’s certainly not his worst season in the sport.

2009 – Lewis Hamilton’s first tough year in F1

Hamilton has also finished fifth in the Driver’s Championship on two occasions – one of those seasons is perhaps the year that can be viewed as Hamilton’s annus horribilis.

But first, let’s look at 2009, the first year Hamilton didn’t have the equipment to fight for a title since entering the sport two years prior. The massive regulation changes for 2009 saw 2008 title rival teams Ferrari and McLaren fail to nail things first time, with Brawn GP (now Mercedes) and Red Bull emerging as title protagonists for the first time.

In a year that closely mirrored McLaren’s 2023 season, the MP4/24 was not a competitive machine to start the season and it took until upgrades were introduced at the Nurburgring for Hamilton to even think about challenging for the podium. But, astonishingly, the turnaround was such that, in Hungary, Hamilton romped to victory and following it up with second place at the European GP.

Crashing out of a podium finish in Italy was wiped clean by another win in Singapore, while two more podium places were to come out of the final three races. While not a great season in terms of statistics, it was very evident that, once the equipment was under him, the reigning World Champion was able to exploit it to his best – he was the highest scorer of all in the second half of the year, even more than title rivals Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel.

Lewis Hamilton racks up numerous fourth place finishes

Hamilton has finished fourth in the championship on three occasions – 2010, ’12, and ’13. 2010 was a strong year, in which he claimed three wins and multiple second places – well clear of reigning World Champion Button in his first season at Woking, and only beaten by the two Red Bulls and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

2012 was a similarly good year, with Hamilton just pipping Button in the Drivers’ Standings and maximising the capabilities of the McLaren – perhaps only Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus could have been eyed up as a beatable target had it not been for some reliability misfortunes and some race-ending incidents he wasn’t to blame for, such as being wiped out at the start in Belgium and in a silly mistake from Nico Hulkenberg in Brazil.

In 2013, Hamilton had moved across to Mercedes in what was seen as a hugely risky move at the time as the Brackley-based team had yet to grow into the behemoth they would become in no time.

Initially working under team boss Ross Brawn, both Hamilton and new teammate Nico Rosberg would win races during the season, with Hamilton edging out on top by 17 points – a more than respectable result for an incoming driver in a team assembling the building blocks of success.

Is 2023 one of Lewis Hamilton’s worst seasons in F1?

Moving on to 2023, it’s clear then that his season can’t be regarded as one of his worst. While standing on top of the podium eluded him as he went without a win for the second consecutive year, Hamilton clearly had the measure of Russell throughout the season.

While Hamilton had his fair share of anonymous weekends, the same fate befell Russell regularly – highlighting the difficulty both drivers had with a recalcitrant W14.

On top of that, Hamilton even briefly looked like landing another runner-up spot as Sergio Perez floundered behind the wheel of the Red Bull RB19 – the car that is now the most statistically dominant car in the history of the sport.

With Hamilton scoring points and podiums in every race, bar his collision with Russell in Qatar and post-race disqualification from second place in Austin, that consistency was far more than what drivers with arguably more regularly competitive machinery achieved – netting Hamilton third place overall.

2011 – Lewis Hamilton’s career stumbles with poor display

But, if Hamilton’s second winless season isn’t enough to be his worst in the sport, what year is deserving of that unwanted plaudit?

As mentioned earlier, Hamilton finished fifth in the World Championship on two occasions. 2009 was one such occasion, but it was the 2011 season that is difficult to look past as the British driver’s worst year in the sport.

While he took three wins that year, he finished 43 points behind teammate Jenson Button – the 2009 Champion having also scored three wins. It was a season to forget for Hamilton overall, with multiple stewards’ visits in the opening races leading him to infamously exclaim: “Maybe it’s because I’m black – that’s what Ali G says! I don’t know,” after being summoned in Monaco.

Hamilton seemed somewhat rudderless that season, having broken up with long-term girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger and signing up with new management company XIX from pop mogul Simon Fuller –  a decision he turned his back on in 2014.

A collision with Mark Webber in Canada was quickly followed by a race-ending clash with Button, while Hamilton’s season was marred by umpteen clashes between himself and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.

One of them, in Singapore, led Hamilton to angrily snap at Massa in the media pen in a testy exchange that showcased the pressure Hamilton was under in a season where his career threatened to derail alongside the calm and collected Button.

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