British racing driver Lewis Hamilton has injected a new excitement into the Formula One circuit for his home fans. Since his first season in 2007 saw him lose out on the world championship by only one point, he is credited with one of the most amazing debuts in the sport’s history.
The following decade has seen Hamilton, now 32, win three world championships and he is renowned for being one of the best all-round drivers in F1 thanks to his flying starts, skilled overtaking and fierce competitiveness.
In media interviews, Hamilton has attributed a large part of his success to his youth in Stevenage, where his parents encouraged him to take part in racing as a hobby. In 1991, his father bought six-year-old Hamilton a radio-controlled car – and one year later, he was runner-up in the national British Radio Car Association championship.
By the time he was 10, he was already enjoying success in the British Cadet Kart championship, when he became the youngest ever winner with less than two years’ experience in the sport. Following a flurry of karting titles, he was signed to the McLaren young drivers’ programme in 1998 aged just 13. He went on to win many European karting trophies and at 15, he became the sport’s youngest number one driver.
Offers came flooding in for Hamilton to race in other series and in 2002, he chose to drive in the British Formula Renault series. Adapting with ease to the much higher horsepower, Hamilton took to single-seater racing like a natural, finishing third in his first season. One year on, he won the 2003 championship with a record 10 race wins, 11 pole positions and nine fastest laps.
He progressed to the F3 Euro series, winning the championship in his second season after 15 race wins. This led to Hamilton joining the GP2 circuit in 2006, when he won the championship – and gained interest from Formula One racing bosses.
McLaren chiefs needed a second driver to partner Alonso for the 2007 season and decided to find out how their protégé would manage in a Formula One car. His impressive test times proved their gamble to be correct and he was awarded a race seat.
He won four races in his first season and missed out on winning the title by only one point – a mistake he put right in his second season, when he was crowned the youngest ever F1 champion at 23 – a title held by Alonso prior to this.
He went on to win the F1 world championship again in 2014 and 2015 and is already on track for a fourth win this season. Now driving for Mercedes, he’s way ahead of his rivals half-way through the season. His recent win at the Singapore Grand Prix puts his career total of F1 victories to 60, behind the all-time record holder Michael Schumacher, who won 91 races during his long career.
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