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The key moments which have given Lewis Hamilton the championship lead

Considering Lewis Hamilton hasn't been at his absolute best in 2021, it's a small surprise that he's leading the Drivers' Championship at the halfway mark of the season. RacingNews365.com takes a look at how the defending champion is in top spot.

Lewis Hamilton holds an advantage of eight points over Max Verstappen after 11 scintillating rounds of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship. It's been a rollercoaster campaign for both Hamilton and Verstappen who have raced each other very hard all year. The battle so far has lived up to all of the hype and expectation with off-track matters adding to the intensity between Mercedes and Red Bull. But, it's the drivers who catch the eye of most fans and on paper Verstappen has been than Hamilton despite not leading the championship. Let's take a look at how Hamilton has sneaked ahead in the title race.

Verstappen's costly Bahrain error

Red Bull came flying out of the blocks at the season-opener as Verstappen took pole position by a big margin of 0.388 seconds to Hamilton. In the race, the first on-track controversy came when Hamilton repeatedly went off the track at Turn 4 to gain time and save his tyres. He wasn't penalised due to a grey area in the track limits rules and gave himself a great opportunity of the win with incredible tyre management in the second half of the race. Verstappen was chasing Hamilton in the latter stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix and appeared to have got the job done when he went around the outside of his rival at Turn 4 with three laps to go. But, he went off the track as he lost the rear of the car and was forced to concede the lead. Without the oversteer and without carrying a little bit too much speed, Verstappen would have almost certainly been victorious.

Red flag fortunes in Imola

The championship protagonists went wheel to wheel once more at the Emilia Romagna GP. This time Verstappen aggressively took the lead in wet conditions on the opening lap. It was Hamilton who was on the chase this time and he made a mistake of his own as he tried to go down the inside of George Russell on dry tyres as the track was still wet off the racing line. He broke his front wing and was forced to limp back to the pit lane as he dropped to eighth place. Hamilton had a big slice of luck though as Russell collided with Valtteri Bottas one lap later at high speed which caused a red flag. In the time where Hamilton was reversing his car out of the barriers and was limping around back to the pit lane, he lost a lap. However, the red flag and safety car allowed him to re-gain his lost lap and his car could be fixed properly too. Without this, seventh place was the highest result possible for the Mercedes driver who capitalised on his fortune to come through the field impressively to finish second.

Verstappen's tyre blowout

Verstappen was comfortably leading the Azerbaijan GP but with five laps to go his left-rear tyre gave way in similar fashion to Lance Stroll's scary accident earlier in the race. It promoted Sergio Perez to the lead with Hamilton in second. A standing start restart gave Hamilton an opportunity to snatch the win for Red Bull and he did, momentarily. A mistake from Hamilton when he "flicked the brake magic" on his steering wheel caused his front tyres to lock up instantly and he made a big error at the worst time of the race. Without the Pirelli rubber letting Verstappen down though, Hamilton would not have had that chance.

That Silverstone collision

After months of people talking up an inevitable collision between Hamilton and Verstappen, it finally happened at the British GP. The stewards deemed Hamilton was at fault but it was the fortune of a perfectly timed red flag which Mercedes have confirmed saved Hamilton from retiring due to damage. The perfect storm of making contact with your main rival with them crashing out of the race, with engine damage that will have implications later in the season, plus the timing of a red flag gave Hamilton the opportunity to take a crucial win. That's exactly what happened and it was arguably the key moment of 2021 so far. A collision that will be talked about for years, and perhaps decades if Hamilton defends his title by a slim margin.

Verstappen caught up in Hungary Turn 1 mayhem

Coincidentally, a Mercedes car caused further damage to Verstappen at the following race at the Hungarian GP. Valtteri Bottas hit the back of Lando Norris in damp conditions, which sent the McLaren driver into the side of Verstappen. A red flag allowed Red Bull to fix Verstappen's car but there was still a lot of damage that the Dutchman had to carry for the remainder of the race. Christian Horner said there was less downforce on Verstappen's RB16B than Mick Schumacher's Haas car. Verstappen managed to salvage a ninth place whilst Hamilton took second place with a slightly more cautious approach.

Has Hamilton been lucky?

Without a doubt Hamilton has been very fortunate this year and he could easily have been more than at least a race win behind Verstappen. Luck is part of sport though and you ultimately have to capitalise on it, which Hamilton didn't do in Baku. Fortunes can change so even though it will be very frustrating for Red Bull to not be leading both championships, there is a long way to go. Hamilton will have to raise his game because Verstappen has generally either had the upper hand or been equal at most events this year. Expect more twists and turns in this classic season of Formula 1.

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