Serena Williams causes stir with controversial Lewis Hamilton F1 title claim

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton prepares for the start of the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix,

Former tennis superstar Serena Williams has caused a stir on social media by claiming that Lewis Hamilton should have nine F1 titles to his name.

Next month will mark two years since the infamous 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Hamilton lost the race win – and with it a record eighth World Championship – to Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in highly controversial circumstances.

Having dominated from the start of the race, Hamilton was left exposed on old tyres when the FIA’s race director failed to correctly follow F1’s Safety Car procedure, setting up a one-lap shootout with Verstappen on fresh rubber.

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Verstappen overtook his rival to take the title and has gone on to win 33 of the last 43 grands prix since the start of the 2022 season. Hamilton, meanwhile, has not won a race since.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff revealed last week that “a personal anger” is driving him to help Hamilton to an eighth title, with Williams – a personal friend of the British driver – making her feelings clear.

Responding to Wolff’s remark in a comment on an Instagram post, Williams wrote: “He should have had 9 already. But… lemme [sic] be quiet.”

At the time of writing Williams’ comment had 1,266 likes with a number of fans replying to the 23-time Grand Slam Champion. One encouraged Williams to “say it louder for people in the back” while another simply said: “Better if you stick to tennis.”

While a clear reference to Abu Dhabi 2021, the other missing title Williams may be referring to could be 2007, when Hamilton and McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso both lost out by a single point to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

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Hamilton enjoyed one of the most impressive debut seasons in F1 history in 2007, standing on the podium in the first nine races of his career and winning two of them in Montreal and Indianapolis.

2007 was a highly political season during which the sport was rocked by the infamous Spygate scandal between Ferrari and McLaren, which culminated in the latter being handed a record $100m fine.

Hamilton was in a position to clinch the title with two races remaining, but saw his hopes destroyed by a mysterious series of errors by McLaren.

In a rain-affected race in China, Hamilton’s car got stuck in the gravel at the pit entrance after the team delayed pitting him in drying conditions.

At the title decider in Brazil two weeks later, Hamilton was hamstrung by a brief gearbox glitch early in the race before a three-stop strategy – in a race other cars made only two visits to the pits – hampered his recovery, leaving him seventh at the chequered flag as race winner Raikkonen took the crown.

Asked by the respected F1 reporter Mark Hughes in 2012 if he ever got to the bottom of what exactly happened in 2007, Hamilton said: “I didn’t know at the time. But I do now. It’s not something I can talk about.”

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