Lewis Hamilton may have been disqualified from Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, but it would have been a whole lot worse had he managed to win for the first time since the 2021 Formula 1 season.
In the 41 races that have been contested since seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton most recently stood on the top step of the podium, he has not come closer to career win number 104 than he did on Sunday afternoon at Circuit of the Americas.
Much like the 2021 race, when the two were involved in one of the most hotly contested world championship battles in Formula 1 history, Hamilton chased down three-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen in the closing laps but simply ran out of laps and was unable to execute a race-winning move.
But after the race, Hamilton’s runner-up finish was stripped from him anyway. His Mercedes was disqualified after it was inspected and irregularities were spotted by the FIA Technical team. Hamilton’s car, as well as the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, failed the plank wear inspection.
For the first time since 2009, Lewis Hamilton was disqualified from a Formula 1 race.
And factoring in his first lap crash in Qatar, Hamilton has now failed to score points in consecutive races for the first time since 2010.
But on the plus side for Hamilton, you almost have to consider him somewhat fortunate here, because at least he didn’t win.
Given the issue with the car, you could argue that, to some extent, he was doomed from the start, since it didn’t matter where he finished.
For the record, Verstappen’s race-winning Red Bull was also inspected afterward, and no issues were found.
So had Hamilton managed to end his career-long win drought and score his first win in almost two years, which very well might have happened when you consider just how much he closed the gap to the lead Red Bull in the race’s final laps, and then been disqualified, it would have been devastating for himself, his team, and his fans.
And while the decision itself would not have been controversial, it certainly would have been viewed that way by a contingent of fans, especially given the fact that it would have been Verstappen, of all drivers, securing his 50th career win because of it.
Instead, Verstappen earned his 13th win in the last 14 races by crossing the finish line roughly two seconds ahead of Hamilton, and McLaren’s Lando Norris was promoted to a career-best-tying second place. For the third time in his career, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. inherited a podium finish due to somebody else’s post-race penalty.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez also moved from fifth to fourth place. Coupled with Hamilton’s loss of 18 points from his disqualification, this puts Perez 39 points ahead of the Mercedes driver in the battle for second place in the standings instead of just 19.
That certainly isn’t ideal for Hamilton, and it makes Perez a big winner too. But I’m sure Hamilton would rather have that than see his win total drop from 104 to 103.
And it goes without saying that Verstappen fans made out alright here as well. Not only did their driver secure a record-tying 15th win of the season and become the fifth driver ever to win 50 races, but they can now say that the closest Hamilton has come to beating their favorite driver in the last 41 races came in an illegal car.
Verstappen has scored 31 wins during that stretch.
But again, it’s still better than if Hamilton had beaten him in an illegal car and then been disqualified. It certainly would have been tough to live that one down.