Lewis Hamilton is one of the most famous racing drivers in the whole world. The 37-year-old British race-car driver is one of the most successful Formula One (F1) Grand Prix racing drivers of all time. He currently owns the F1 record for career race victories.
Hamilton’s father, Anthony is black Grenadian descent while his mother, Carmen Larbalestier, is White British. Although he is mixed-race, Hamilton is identified as Black. He became the first Black driver to win the F1 world driver’s championship in 2008 but his journey to Formula One started years back.
Started as a Hobby
Hamilton’s goal when he was a kid was to be like his idol, Ayrton Senna, a Brazilian F1 driver and one of the best race car drivers in the history of Formula One racing. Hamilton’s first motorsport experience was with a remote-controlled car (RC). It started out as a hobby for him and his dad. When he was six years old, he entered and became a runner up in a national RC racing championship. The equipment for the sport was expensive so his dad, had to keep four jobs just support his sport and it sure paid off.
After his success in RC racing, Hamilton tried his luck with karting in 1993. He was eight when he began karting and after two years, he started winning championships. He became youngest driver to win the British cadet karting championship when he was 10.
Championships won by Hamilton in his karting career includes:
Super 1 National Championship (IAME Cadet in 1995)
Kartmaster British Grand prix (Comer Cadet in 1996)
Supper 1 National Championship (Formula Yamaha in 1997)
Torneo Industrie Open (ICA in 1999)
World Cup (Formula A in 2000)
European Championship (Formula A in 2000)
Dream Big, Achieve Greater
Hamilton already knows what he wants even at a young age. During awarding ceremony at the Autospot Awards in 1995, he introduced himself to McLaren team boss Ron Dennis. He approached Dennis for an autograph and told him that he won the British championship and that one day he wants to race Dennis’ cars. That day, Dennis wrote in Hamilton’s autograph book, “Phone me in nine years, we’ll sort something out then.” In 1998 he became the youngest driver to officially sign a McLaren Driver Development Support programme at the age of 13. That contract guarantees Hamilton a financial and technical support, including a future option of getting an entry into Formula One.
When he was only 15, Hamilton exhibited the level of his talent. He won five races out of eight European Championship beat his team-mate Nico Rosberg, Marco Ardigo (future World Karting Champion) and Robert Kubica.
Aside from his European crown, Hamilton landed in 2000 the World Cup for Formula A at Suzuka. After his successes in karting, the British Racing Driver’s Club made him a “Rising Star Member in 2000.
In 2001, Michael Schumacher made a one-off return to karts and competed against Hamilton and other future Formula One drivers Nico Rosberg and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Hamilton ended four places behind Schumacher but the German F1 driver praised Hamilton and said “He is fast, mentally very strong, and only 16. If he continues in this path, I am sure he will make it to Formula One.” He was right.
Racing Real Cars
When Hamilton ended his karting apprenticeship, he finally got to drive a racing car. However, unlike the RC cars and karting his first try with racing car didn’t went well. Hamilton who had never driven a car before crashed the Formula Ranault after three laps. But Hamilton was determined to achieve his dream of being an F1 driver and went to try again.
After a bad start in Formula Renault in 2001 and finishing 5th in the British Formula Renault Winter series in 2002 Hamilton finally won a championship for Manor Motorsport in the Formula Renault UK in 2003. It was followed by another win the following year in the Bahrain Superprix.
In 2005, Hamilton signed for a French motor racing team, ASM Formule 3 and won 1st place for both Formula 3 Euro Series and 2005 Marlboro Masters of Formula 3 in Zandvoort, Netherlands.
In 2006 season, moved to ASM’s sister GP2 team called ART Grand Prix and won the GP2 Series at first attempt. He won the title after inheriting the final point he needed when Giorgio Pantano was stripped of fastest lap during the Monza feature race.
The Formula One
Finally, Hamilton got to drive a Formula One for Mclaren Racing Limited in 2007 after Kimi Räikkönen, and Juan Pablo Montoya left. Hamilton finished 2nd in that year’s Autralian Grand Prix with 109 points, just one point behind Räikkönen. However, he recorded nine consecutive podium finishes which is more than any other rookie in the history of Formula One. His astonishing debut season earned him instant fame in the motor racing world.
The next season, Hamilton finally achieved his dream when he won his first FIA Formula One World Championship at the 2007 Canadian Grand prix which was just his sixth Grand Prix.
In 2020, Hamilton tied Michael Schumacher’s record with his seventh championship and at the same time breaking his own record for having 91 F1 victories.
Here are Hamilton’s accomplishments since joining Formula One:
Career Points: 4,165.5
Pole Positions: 103
Achieved Fastest laps 59
Hamilton’s journey to achieving his dream of becoming an F1 driver was never easy. Being the only black racer Hamilton also experienced discrimination. From the first time he started racing RC cars he experienced racial discrimination which is why he is a prominent advocate against racism. He criticized the lack of diversity in Formula One.
It wasn’t all luck that brought him to where he is now. It was his determination and love for the sport that kept him going. Despite the many times he lost or crashed he always gets back up and race again.