The three races that cost Lewis Hamilton the 2021 F1 World Championship

Jake Nichol December 14, 2021
The three races that cost Lewis Hamilton the 2021 F1 World Championship
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images


Lewis Hamilton did not lose the 2021 F1 World Championship in Abu Dhabi – instead there were three races earlier in the season where he did, as Max Verstappen did what he could not.

Whether Mercedes likes it or not, Max Verstappen is the 2021 F1 world champion – and their driver, Lewis Hamilton was beaten into second place.

The team does have a point in its protest against the result that FIA safety car restart procedure was not followed correctly by race director Michael Masi.

But should the team take it to the International Court of Appeal – a body set up to investigate disputes in FIA championships – it will be likely thrown out.

The cover point will likely be that Masi has control over the safety car, and Verstappen will be officially confirmed as champion – which he is in Red Bull’s eyes.

But while Mercedes comes to terms with being dethroned, it can’t argue that Verstappen was not the best driver in 2021.

Hamilton was not the better man across the year – and there were three races along the way that cost Hamilton the 2021 F1 World Championship.

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A season of remarkable consistency

Between them, Verstappen and Hamilton hauled 35 of the 44 podium places available to the two of them in 2021.

Verstappen got 10 wins and eight seconds.

Hamilton tallied eight wins, eight seconds, and a third.

They finished one-two 14 times.

The only two races where neither scored points where in Baku – when Verstappen suffered a tyre blowout and Hamilton ran wide on the Turn 1 restart.

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They also both failed to score at Monza, when the #33 Red Bull landed on top of the #44 Mercedes.

For the purposes of this article The Focus will disregard Baku.

Without Verstappen’s Pirelli blowout, he’d had won that race comfortably and the Hamilton error would never have happened. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Instead it will look at three races both did finish, where Hamilton left a massive number of points on the table.

Verstappen hoovers up when Hamilton wins

In Hamilton’s eight wins in 2021, Verstappen finished second to him every single time.

The only exception was at Silverstone where the two collided and Verstappen ended up with a 51g shunt into the fence.

Across these seven second-place finishes to Hamilton, including the fastest lap point and sprint race points in Sao Paulo, a total of 136 points were up for grabs.

Verstappen hauled 130 of them – that’s 95.58% of total points available.

His run to second place in Russia stands out as a turning point of the season.

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While Hamilton judged the conditions perfectly for his 100th win, Red Bull gambled to bring Verstappen in for intermediate tyres as the rain began to fall.

They timed it perfectly – vaulting him from the minor, single-digit point positions to second place.

Verstappen’s season was a perfect exercise in damage limitation and maximising the result when the win wasn’t possible.

Comparatively, at three races in particular, Hamilton did not do this.

It was these three races that cost him the 2021 F1 World Championship.

The three races that cost Lewis Hamilton the 2021 F1 World Championship

Across the 10 races Verstappen won, Hamilton finished second to him seven times.

Including fastest laps, a total of 133 points were available to Hamilton in these races.

He hauled 130 of them – a strike rate of 97.74%.

So when Hamilton finished second to Verstappen, he done a fantastic job of maximising the result, an even better job than Verstappen in fact.

Photo by Peter Van Egmond/Getty Images

He only missed fastest lap in France, Mexico and Abu Dhabi when he finished second to Verstappen.

But in Monaco, Austria and Belgium – their respective results and points swings being listed below – Hamilton failed to maximise his result.

  • Monaco – Verstappen – P1 – 25 points
  • Monaco – Hamilton – P7 +FL – seven points
  • Hamilton loses 18 points
  • Austria – Verstappen P1 +FL – 26 points
  • Austria – Hamilton – P4 – 12 points
  • Hamilton loses 14 points
  • Belgium – Verstappen – P1 – 12.5 points
  • Belgium – Hamilton – P3 – 7.5 points
  • Hamilton loses five points
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Across these three races, Hamilton loses 37 points to Verstappen – that is a 74 point swing in the Dutchman’s favour.

In a championship that went down to the final race level on points, a 74 point swing is a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon.

Verstappen hauled 63.5 points across these races to Hamilton’s 26.5.

It means that if Verstappen’s 63.5 is treated as 100%, Hamilton only picked up 41.7% of the points available to him across the three races of Monaco, Austria and Belgium.

That’s where Lewis Hamilton lost the 2021 F1 World Championship.

Coupled in with the ridiculous decision not to pit after the safety car lap in Hungary for slicks when everyone else did so cost him a further 14 points overall.

So, the 2021 F1 World Championship was there to be won for Lewis Hamilton across the season.

Very simply, he did not deserve the championship when Max Verstappen was the class of the field.

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.