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How Hamilton made it six

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 13/11/2019 skysports.com
a man wearing a red and white flag © Getty

This weekend, Lewis Hamilton returns to Brazil - the scene of his epic first title triumph - as a six-time F1 champion.

But how did Hamilton close in on Michael Schumacher's all-time record? Here, we compare his championships.

2008: Glory after F1's most gripping climax

Hamilton entered 2008 as McLaren's new team leader, a testament to just how impressive his F1 rookie year was. With Fernando Alonso returning to Renault following a controversial campaign alongside Hamilton in Woking, Heikki Kovailainen was signed as his team-mate but the young Englishman, just 23, immediately stamped his authority with pole and a victory at the season opener in Australia.

Hamilton didn't win again until round six in Monaco - giving Kimi Raikkonen the early advantage in the championship - but it was worth the wait for a performance that still ranks high on his greatest-ever as Hamilton recovered from an early crash and puncture to win a wet-dry Monte Carlo race, his first around the famous streets. His next win, in even more treacherous conditions, was just as startling for a young driver as Hamilton claimed his first British GP win at a sodden Silverstone, crushing his rivals as he crossed the line more than a minute before anyone else. Hamilton, following a win in Germany, entered the summer break with a four-point lead - in F1's old scoring system - with his eyes firmly set on a first title.

Hamilton would only win once more in 2008 but it came at a crucial time, dominating the penultimate race of the season in China. That meant he would head to the title decider in Brazil seven points clear of his remaining rival, Ferrari's Felipe Massa, needing only to finish fifth to wrap up the championship. Massa brilliantly held up his end of the bargain with a pole and victory while Hamilton, who qualified fourth, dramatically looked to have lost his title after being overtaken by a young Sebastian Vettel as rain fell in the closing stages. However, he would be given the ultimate reprieve on the last lap, and the last corner, as he passed Timo Glock - who was falling back on dry tyres - to take fifth just as the Ferrari garage, and Brazilian fans, were celebrating. The title was Hamilton's after an incredible finale.

2014: New team, new rival, a second title

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Eyebrows were raised when Hamilton swapped the might of McLaren for a relatively raw team in Mercedes - particularly when his first year with the Silver Arrows, 2013, provided little evidence that they would become F1's next superpower. But Hamilton was proved right - and then some - at the start of the hybrid era when Mercedes streaked ahead of the competition, with their advantage meaning that Hamilton's only true rival for the championship would be team-mate Nico Rosberg. A rivalry had emerged between the former friends, and a gripping title battle would follow.

Rosberg won despite Hamilton's pole in Melbourne but the Englishman then took the next four victories, including an epic Bahrain GP which featured a mesmerising battle between the two Silver Arrows. Following the Spanish GP, however, Hamilton only won one race before the summer break - his home British GP - and Rosberg would enter August with an 11-point title lead. Hamilton's season took another turn on F1's return to action in Belgium after contentious contact with Rosberg led to him suffering race-ending damage, while the German finished second. A 29-point deficit made the Italian GP all the more crucial and Hamilton was at his very best in Monza, recovering from fourth to hunt down Rosberg and force him into a costly mistake. That would be the first of five successive victories for Hamilton.

He still had to endure a nervy title decider in Abu Dhabi, though. 2014 was the first and only season where double points were in use at the final race, meaning Hamilton had to finish in the top two to clinch the title (previously, he would only had to have finished sixth with a 17-point lead). But while Rosberg secured pole, Hamilton passed him off the line and then his team-mate suffered reliability issues. Hamilton won the title, his first in six years, in style. Only Niki Lauda had a longer wait between championships than Hamilton.

2015: Rosberg no match for Hamilton

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Yet again, Mercedes were F1's dominant team and for the second year in a row, the world champions would only fail to win three of the season's 19 races. That meant it was time for Hamilton vs Rosberg II. But although tension rose in 2015's early stages - most notably in China (Rosberg felt his race was compromised by Hamilton) and Monaco (a Mercedes pit call handed Rosberg the victory) - Hamilton enjoyed a much more commanding year than his team-mate and was never really troubled for the championship.

By the time F1 arrived in Texas for the US GP, where Hamilton could seal an early coronation, Hamilton had won nine races to Rosberg's three. Perhaps that frustration built up for the German, who was unhappy with Hamilton's conduct into Turn One at the start of the race and later made an error while leading which let Hamilton through to win the race, and the championship. A late overtake on your fierce rival to clinch a third title? It doesn't get much better than that.

2017: Out-lasting Vettel and Ferrari

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After the disappointment of the previous year, 2017 provided Hamilton with a chance to hit refresh. Rosberg retired immediately after claiming the 2016 title - giving Hamilton a new team-mate in Valtteri Bottas - while F1's new rules led to Mercedes facing a renewed threat in the form of Ferrari. The Scuderia's return to title-winning contention meant Hamilton could finally go head-to-head with Vettel, the four-time champion, and prove he was the sport's premier act.

Although Hamilton won a respectful wheel-to-wheel battle with Vettel in Barcelona, it was the German who had the advantage at the start of the season - 25 points ahead following Hamilton's tricky Monaco GP. The pressure was therefore ramping up on Hamilton - but it was Vettel who cracked first in this title battle.

In Baku, the respectful rivalry turned ugly when Vettel rammed into the side of Hamilton while running behind the Safety Car, an act he was handed a race-costing penalty for.

Vettel still had the lead going into the second half of the season but from Belgium - when Hamilton masterfully held off the Ferrari - onwards, Hamilton was in sublime form. He dominated in Italy, giving him his first title lead of the season, and then took advantage of a dramatic Vettel-Raikkonen-Max Verstappen crash to take an against-the-odds victory from fifth in Singapore. Another miserable Sunday for Vettel, this time down to reliability, in Japan gave Hamilton a title opportunity in Mexico, which he took despite finishing down in ninth.

F1 had a new four-time champion.

2018: Making it five as Vettel crumbles

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F1 2018 was built up as the brilliant battle for five between Hamilton and Vettel, with Mercedes once again the pre-season favourites. But it was Ferrari who started stronger, sealing their first back-to-back wins to begin a campaign since 2004, while Daniel Ricciardo claimed an epic Chinese GP victory. Hamilton didn't stand on the top step of the podium until fortunately winning in Baku, and suffered two major blows in Austria and Silverstone after a DNF in Spielberg and a clash with Raikkonen on the first lap of his home race. Heading to Germany, Vettel was in control.

But while Vettel had pole and Hamilton started 14th, the Englishman claimed one of his most unlikely victories as he hunted down his title rival in the rain before Vettel crashed out into the barriers. That represented a 32-point swing in the standings, giving Hamilton the lead, and he never looked back in the title race from there.

He beat Vettel after another mistake from the Ferrari driver in Italy, spinning after contact with the Mercedes, and Hamilton then dominated in Singapore after one of his greatest ever pole laps. Subsequent wins in Russia and Japan gave him a title chance over the North American double header, with Hamilton becoming a champion in Mexico City again. By making it five, Hamilton matched the great Juan Manuel Fangio's haul.

2019: Closing in on Schumacher

Lewis Hamilton wearing a red hat © Getty

With Ferrari appearing to have the strongest car at pre-season testing, and Red Bull hopeful after a switch to Honda engines, Hamilton was braced for his toughest title defence in 2019. But while the season has been entertaining with some classic races, and new young superstars proving their class in Charles Leclerc and Verstappen, Hamilton's main title rival has been Mercedes team-mate Bottas. And the Finn, while enjoying a successful start to the year, hasn't been a match for the 34-year-old.

Mercedes made history by sealing one-twos in the opening eight races of the season, with Hamilton winning a staggering six of those - including against-the-odds wins in Bahrain and Canada as Ferrari threw away their chances. Another sublime Silverstone performance was sandwiched by difficult races in Austria and Germany, but Hamilton was back on it in Hungary as he won an epic duel with Verstappen. Mercedes haven't been quite as dominant since the summer break - with Ferrari sealing five straight poles before Mexico - but Hamilton has remained consistent, only off the podium once (in Singapore). His Mexico victory, although not sealing him the championship, was a particular highlight - and Hamilton then claimed a sixth title in Austin by finishing second behind Bottas. Hamilton has made history, and now only has Schumacher, and his seven championships, in his sights...


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