Hamilton was involved in his toughest Formula 1 title battle yet with the lightning-fast, ultra-aggressive, Max Verstappen his main rival in 2021.

The season started strongly for Hamilton with a surprise victory in Bahrain where Red Bull clearly had the faster package. 

An uncharacteristic mistake at Imola cost him a shot at the victory as he took to the gravel trap at Turn 7 when trying to get back some lapped traffic, clattering the barrier.

Hamilton spent over a minute trying to recover from the gravel trap but was bailed out by a red flag, caused by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and George Russell’s incident. 

He recovered well to second and followed that up with two excellent wins in Portugal and Spain to reclaim the lead of the championship. 

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Monaco was his worst weekend of the year with seventh in qualifying - four-tenths shy of Bottas, who was a serious contender for pole position before Charles Leclerc crashed and brought out the red flag.

Things didn’t get better for Hamilton in the race as he was overcut by Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel to remain in seventh. 

Red Bull was on course for its first 1-2 of the season with Verstappen running ahead of Sergio Perez at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix until the Dutchman’s tyre failed with six laps to go, resulting in a red flag stoppage.

This handed Hamilton an open goal from second on the grid to capitalise on Verstappen’s misfortune and pull away in the championship.

Hamilton nailed the restart but a misjudgment with the brake bias setting on his steering wheel - as he accidentally pressed the "magic" button - meant he locked up and took to the run-off area at Turn 1, ultimately finishing well down the order and crucially, out of the points.

Verstappen was near-perfect in the first half of the season while Hamilton made notable mistakes in Imola and Baku and was completely off the pace in Monaco.

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Silverstone was a decisive moment with Verstappen 33 points clear after a hat-trick of wins and victory in the first-ever F1 sprint. Hamilton knew he had to make a statement in front of his home crowd.

The pair collided at Copse on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix, but Hamilton came away relatively unscathed, recovering from his penalty to beat Leclerc to the victory.

Mercedes introduced a significant upgrade for Britain and it looked to have given it the edge with Hamilton and Bottas locking out the front row in Hungary.

A poor strategy call not to pit Hamilton for slicks combined with a defensive masterclass from Fernando Alonso meant it was a missed opportunity in Hungary, while a poor start at Monza soon led to another crash with Verstappen when Mercedes was clearly the quickest car on the day. 

With the title slowly slipping away from Hamilton following the run of races in the Americas, he trailed Verstappen by 19 points going into Brazil. It was here he seemed to find a second wind, a new lease of energy after his disqualification from qualifying.

Hamilton’s rear wing failed the FIA’s standard checks and he was forced to start from 20th in the sprint at Interlagos.

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What followed was some of Hamilton’s greatest-ever F1 performances as he went from last to fifth in the sprint to secure 10th on the grid for the grand prix.

Hamilton then overcame Verstappen on race day despite the Dutchman’s over-zealous defensive manoeuvres, before taking wins in Qatar and Saudi Arabia to move level on points with his rival. 

In the grand finale, Hamilton once again drove the perfect race - a performance worthy of winning a record-breaking eighth title - as he took the lead at the start and controlled the race from the front.

Hamilton may have lost out to Verstappen at the end but his performance in Abu Dhabi and the class he showed afterwards highlights why he is one of the greatest drivers in F1 history.

The 36-year-old will be left to rue some of his early-season form and errors but by the end of the season, he was back to his very best.

A wounded Hamilton is a dangerous Hamilton, so watch out everyone in 2022.

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