Lewis Hamilton was born in Stevenage in 1985, and set his sights on motor racing at a very early age. Named after US Olympic gold medal winning athlete Carl Lewis, Hamilton was destined for success from day one. He began go-karting at the age of eight and within two years had demonstrated his obvious skills on the track. So the story goes, when Hamilton was ten years old, he was a part of the McLaren Mercedes Champions of the Future series and, upon meeting the owner of McLaren Formula 1, told him he would one day race for the team.
Hamilton kept this promise and was taken on by McLaren’s young drivers programme three years later. Little did the team know that in 2007 – Hamilton’s debut season in Formula 1 – he would only lose out by the tightest of margins on the championship title, when Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen snatched victory in the final race of the season. By signing Hamilton then, McLaren justifiably broke their rule of not to take on novice drivers!
Success is not new to Hamilton. In 2006 he became champion in his first year racing in the GP2 series – a precursor to his incredible 2007 Formula 1 season. With a list of go-karting titles under his belt, it was clear Hamilton was going to take the world of Formula 1 by storm.
Like racing legends of the past, Hamilton drives to win. This determination and his outstanding first season performance did not sit well with his McLaren team mate and double world champion Fernando Alonso. Friction between the two was fuelled by comments in the media, before they tied on points – finishing joint second – at the end of the 2007 season.
Goings-on off the track even clouded the final race of the season in Brazil. After a misjudged start to the race and problems with his car throughout, Hamilton crept up from a lowly 18th place to pass the chequered flag in a more respectable seventh. It was then reported that several of the drivers who finished before the rookie may have been breaking the Formula 1 rules due to fuel irregularities. Disqualification of these drivers would have meant that Hamilton finished in at least fifth place in the race, granting him the points needed to clinch the championship. However, a stewards’ enquiry ruled out any change in the finishing positions so the result still stands, with an appeal by McLaren pending.
Not only is Hamilton making history with his unprecedented first season record, but he is breaking barriers as a mixed race driver – the son of a white mother and a black father. Hamilton’s father, Anthony Hamilton, acts as his son’s manager and is as confident as Lewis himself that this exciting new British talent is here to stay. Hamilton has stunned McLaren’s rivals as he has his family, spectators and his own team. Founder of Williams Formula 1 team, Frank Williams, summed up this new talent by simply saying, “he’s superhuman”.
An impressive track record
Hamilton may not yet have the Formula 1 World Championship title to his name, but he has had the most impressive season of any debut driver. In his first season as a Formula 1 driver, he notched up the most consecutive podium positions ever following his first race (nine in total). His four wins in 2007 equal Jacques Villeneuve’s record for the most wins in a driver’s debut season, and at the tender age of 22, Hamilton is the youngest driver ever to lead the World Championship.
Hamilton knows that this is just the start of his Formula 1 career and, on his official website, reflects on the final race and his season: “Obviously I am pretty disappointed with the result today, having lead for so much of the season and then not to win the Championship. However I have to put the result into perspective, this is only my first year in Formula 1 and overall it has just been phenomenal. I am still very young and have plenty more years in me to achieve my dream of becoming World Champion.”
Off the track
When he burst into the public eye, Hamilton was reported to have a long term girlfriend, Jodia Ma, who he met when he was studying for his GCSEs at a college in Cambridge. Ma lives in Hong Kong, so a long distance relationship was something Hamilton had to juggle along with all the pressures which are part and parcel of newfound sporting stardom.
However, it has recently been reported that Hamilton has split from his girlfriend and he has been linked to several other young women including pop star Natasha Bedingfield.