Lewis Hamilton’s worst F1 season starts and what happened next: Where could 2024 potentially rank?

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton is enduring his worst-ever start to an F1 season.

Lewis Hamilton’s start to the 2024 season isn’t what might be expected of a seven-time F1 World Champion, but is it his worst-ever start to a championship?

Shaking off the disappointment of his engine failure in Melbourne, Australia capped off a trio of tough races to kick off the 2024 championship as he occupies 10th in the Drivers’ Championship. In his 18th season in F1, is 2024 the worst start to a season Hamilton has ever had?

3. 2023 – P5, P5, and P2 (38 points) – Fourth in the championship

With Hamilton scoring a podium for second place in last year’s Australian Grand Prix, it ensured that the 2023 season couldn’t be considered to be a bad start to the season. Even if it was one of Hamilton’s less successful years, it’s testimony to his lofty standards and abilities that two fifth-place finishes and a second-place rank as one of his worst season starts.

Hamilton had scored 38 points to place fourth in the championship after three races in 2023 but, with Mercedes open about having pursued the wrong development direction with the W13 and W14, Hamilton still wasn’t enamoured with his car despite claiming second place in Melbourne.

“I still feel uncomfortable in the car, though,” he said after the race.

“The car… I still don’t feel connected to it. So I’m driving as best I can with that disconnect. And I’m working as hard as I can to try and create that connect. But I think it’s a long project.

“Let’s keep pushing. We can close that gap. It’s going to be tough, but not impossible.”

Following that result, the season continued in more or less the same vein – even as Mercedes started introducing upgrades aimed at moving their design concept in a more favourable direction. Hamilton finished in the fourth-seventh place range for most of the season, with occasional high points like podiums in Canada, Great Britan, and Singapore, as well as very competitive outings for second place in Spain and Mexico.

But victory eluded him, marking his second winless season in F1, although he came close in Austin as he plied pressure on Max Verstappen – only to be disqualified afterward for a plank infringement.

2. 2010 – P3, P6, and P6 (31 points) – Sixth in the championship

Having been the highest points scored in the second half of the 2009 championship, from Hungary onward, Hamilton’s hopes to kickstart 2010 with a strong showing initially looked good as he finished in third place in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

With Ferrari and Red Bull ahead of McLaren on pace in the season-opener, Hamilton was fighting for a podium place in Australia but ended up in sixth after Mark Webber took him out under braking.

Having started on the hard tyre in Malaysia, Hamilton was able to get involved at the sharp end of the pack in the first half of the race, but would end up in sixth place by the chequered flag as he ended up getting stuck behind Adrian Sutil.

The 2010 McLaren, while not an outright pacesetter, eventually underlined its potential as Hamilton would go on to take three wins – in Turkey, Canada, and Belgium – as well as five second places.

While the first three races didn’t quite work out for Hamilton, resulting in it being one of his weaker championship campaign beginnings, it was more circumstantial than performance-based and the rest of the season underlined this.

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1. 2009 – DQ, P7, and P6 (4 points) – Joint seventh in the championship

There was nothing circumstantial about the start of the 2009 championship, with McLaren simply not being up to the task to kick off the new regulations.

With the cars looking very different as the aerodynamic rules were overhauled, as well as the sport re-introducing slick tyres, it was notable that the two teams who had fought to the bitter end of the 2008 championship – McLaren and Ferrari – each fell away from the front of the pack as Red Bull and Brawn GP (now Mercedes) had their first moments in the sun.

Hamilton’s season kicked off in acrimonious circumstances as he was disqualified from the first race as the stewards felt he and McLaren had attempted to mislead them over the circumstances of a pass made by Jarno Trulli under Safety Car conditions.

Hamilton salvaged seventh in Malaysia, having started the race from 13th on the grid, as the race was abandoned early due to monsoon conditions in Sepang, before racing from ninth to sixth place in China.

The Shanghai race was a scrappy affair for Hamilton with spins and more minor mistakes that resulted in teammate Heikki Kovalainen finishing ahead despite having started behind.

With three races over in Hamilton’s first title defence, he was languishing in seventh place with just four points scored (points were only scored by the top eight in 2009). Under the current points system, Hamilton would have scored 14 points.

By mid-season, McLaren and Ferrari started to get on top of the new regulations and the British driver won in Hungary to kick off a very strong second half of the season in which he and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed being the two top scorers. However, it was too late to salvage a championship assault, and Hamilton finished the year fifth overall.

Where does the 2023 F1 season rank for Lewis Hamilton?

2024 – P7, P9, and retired (8 points) – 10th in the championship

Unfortunately for Hamilton, the depths of 2009 have been eclipsed by the start of the 2024 season. While the Mercedes W15 is, by comparison to the 2009 McLaren, a more competitive beast, the much closer field of today means that there is plenty of competition for the points places.

With Mercedes introducing a new design concept for the W15, both Hamilton and George Russell have indicated greater satisfaction with the new car, but this is yet to translate into higher placements than its immediate two predecessors.

Worse for Hamilton is that Russell appears to be far more comfortable with the W15’s foibles, and has had to watch on as his teammate has been ahead on track more often than not.

Despite Russell crashing out in Australia, Hamilton has less than half the points tally of his younger teammate and, at present, his best-placed finish is seventh at the season opener in Bahrain.

2009’s tally, points-adjusted, is 14 and, with Hamilton currently on eight points, it means that 2024 has been the worst opening trio of races in Hamilton’s career so far. He would have needed to finish seventh or higher in Australia to have eclipsed his 2009 tally, a tough ask even without his engine failure.

What are the prospects of F1 2024 being statistically the worst for Lewis Hamilton?

Hamilton is well-known for easing himself into a season, usually becoming faster and more dangerous an opponent as the championship wears on. Where others fatigue, Hamilton presses on. It’s for this reason that it’s not all doom and gloom for the seven-time World Champion just yet.

While the results haven’t been strong so far, the W15’s potential does seem far greater than its predecessors, and Russell has shown that, even without that potential being fully unlocked, it can be a stronger machine than perhaps Hamilton has shown so far.

Japan is one of Hamilton’s favourite circuits on the calendar and, having had the measure of Russell at Suzuka six months ago, there are plenty of reasons to be confident that Hamilton can bounce back.

Podiums, certainly, aren’t out of the question although, with Red Bull and Ferrari seemingly a step ahead, they may not be as plentiful as Mercedes would like. Victories? As it stands, they look unlikely, unless the performance potential of the W15 is greater than expected.

2022 ended up being Hamilton’s least successful campaign in Formula 1, despite a reasonable start to the year, as he finished sixth overall. With the field ever-closer in performance, 2024 may yet end up proving to be Hamilton’s nadir at Mercedes if things don’t rapidly turn around.

The issue for Mercedes is that Hamilton’s motivation might not be quite what it was, given he’s out of there at the end of the season…

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