Page 87 - Simply Abu Dhabi Magazine IV

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A Formula 1 Legend is Born
On 7 January 1985 a Formula 1 World Champion was
born in Hertfordshire, England. The stuff of fairytales,
Lewis Hamilton’s meteoric rise to Formula 1 is an
incredible story of a boy from a modest background
fulfilling his dreams. In 1991 his father bought him a
radio-controlled car and so it was the young Lewis got
his first taste of racing competition. Hamilton finished
second in the national BRCA championship the following
year and has remarked of that time:
“I was racing these remote-controlled cars and winning club
championships against adults”.
His father then went on to buy him his first go-kart as a
Christmas present when he was six and told his young son
he would support his racing career as long as he worked
hard at school. Educated at The John Henry Newman
School, a voluntary aided Catholic secondary school
in Stevenage, Hertfordshire Lewis played football for
his school team with England international midfielder
Ashley Young and said that if Formula One had not
worked for him he would have been a footballer, being
a big fan of Arsenal F.C or a cricketer, having played
both for his school teams as a youngster. But football
and cricket would have to wait as with a remarkable
competition history, full of fantastic victories, Lewis
Hamilton’s determination to succeed in his chosen field of
championship motor racing really paid off. Coming from
a mixed-race background, with a black father and white
mother, Hamilton is often labelled ‘the first black driver in
Formula One’ and was the first driver of black heritage to
win a major race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in any
Inspired to Achieve
Lewis began racing go-karts at the age of eight at the
Rye House Kart Circuit and was soon winning races
and Cadet Class championships. In fact, his pre-F1
career saw the ambitious young driver win several karting
series, including the McLaren Mercedes Champions
of the Future series and later the European Formula A
championship in 2000.
Inspired by motor racing’s greats, Hamilton has said of
Ayrton Senna’s death;
“I was nine when Ayrton Senna died, and he was my hero. I
remember racing that weekend in Hoddesdon. My dad had a
small Vauxhall Cavalier and a trailer at the back. We’d sit in the
Cavalier and wait for my turn to race. And that day my step-mum
came over to tell us that Senna had just died. It hit me hard –
but I never liked to show emotion in front of my dad. So I went
behind the trailer and cried. That was the turning point of my life
– because when you’re so young, you believe people like Senna are
invincible. And then you realise that they’re also mortal. It made
me understand I need to make the most of my talent”.
It certainly was a turning point and determined to
make it, at the tender age of just ten, Lewis approached
McLaren team Principal Ron Dennis for an autograph
at the Autosport Awards ceremony and told him with
absolute confidence;
“I’m Lewis Hamilton. I won the British Championship and
one day I want to race for McLaren.”
Dennis wrote in his
autograph book;
‘Phone me in nine years, we’ll sort something
out then.’
Less than three years later, in 1992, Dennis delivered on
his promise and McLaren and Mercedes-Benz signed
him to their Young Driver Support Programme on a
development contract in 1992. He was just 12 and as a
result has received significant funding throughout his
promising career. The exciting contract included an
option of a future F1 seat, which would eventually make
Hamilton the youngest ever driver to secure a contract
which later resulted in an F1 drive when they took him
on as a full-time F1 driver starting with the 2007 season.
Up to that point, the McLaren team supported his career
through karting and car racing, as Hamilton drove for
Martin Hines’ Zip Young Guns Karting Team. From the
Cadet ranks, he progressed through to Junior Yamaha in
1997 and the following year Ron Dennis called him after
Hamilton won an additional Super One series and his
second British championship.
A Rising Star
Following his karting successes the British Racing Drivers’
Club honoured Hamilton as a ‘Rising Star’ Member in
2000. In 2001, Michael Schumacher made a one-off
return to karts and competed against Hamilton along
with future F1 drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nico
Rosberg. Hamilton ended the final in seventh, four places
behind Schumacher and despite seeing little of each other
on the track Michael Schumacher commented;
“He’s a quality driver, very strong and only 16. If he keeps
this up I’m sure he will reach F1. It’s something special to
see a kid of his age out on the circuit. He’s clearly got the
right racing mentality.”
After a year of learning in Formula Renault, he won the
2003 British Formula Renault championship with 10
victories and 11 pole positions. Another year of learning
in the F3 Euroseries, saw him win that series in 2005 with
15 victories and 13 pole positions. In 2005 he won the
Formula Three Euroseries racing for the dominant ASM
team, having raced in the category in 2004 for Manor
Motorsport using the superior Mercedes engine. Due to
his Formula Three success, he joined the ART Grand Prix
team in the GP2 Series in 2006 – he didn’t even bother
with a learning season – as a replacement for the previous
year’s champion Nico Rosberg and his performance was
extremely impressive including a dominant win at the
Nürburgring, despite serving a penalty for speeding in the
pit lane. At the European GP2 event he won both races,
becoming only the second driver (after Nico Rosberg) to
do so in the series history and won at Monaco from pole.
At his home race at Silverstone, supporting the British
Grand Prix, Hamilton overtook two rivals at Becketts, a
series of high-speed (up to 150 mph in a GP2 car) bends
where overtaking is rare. In Istanbul he recovered from
a spin that left him in eighteenth place to take second
position in the final corners.
He won the title in unusual circumstances, inheriting the
final point he needed after Giorgio Pantano was stripped
of fastest lap in the Monza feature race. In the sprint race,
though he finished second with Piquet sixth, he finished
twelve points clear of his rival.
Formula One Debut
As his career burgeoned – he had now won the British
Formula Renault, Formula Three Euroseries, and GP2
championships – he went on to drive for McLaren in
2007, making his Formula One debut 12 years after his
initial encounter with Dennis. The departure of Juan
Pablo Montoya to NASCAR and Kimi Räikkönen to
Ferrari saw months of speculation on whether Hamilton,
Pedro de la Rosa or Gary Paffett would be paired with
defending champion Fernando Alonso for 2007 come
to end. And so Hamilton was confirmed as the team’s
second driver. Described as a ‘Rookie Phenomenon’,
Hamilton’s first year in Formula 1 was truly outstanding
and saw him set many records. Hamilton’s first victory
came at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix and he went on
to take fourth place in the 2007 Belgian Grand Prix. He
secured an impressive third place in his first race, going
on to demolish the 40-year-old rookie record of two
consecutive podiums at the start of a season. Scoring nine
podiums in his first nine races, he also won two of those
races. In total, he won four races in 2007 and finished
the championship in second place, just one point behind
Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari. Mistakes in his last two races
cost him the title proving that even Hamilton wasn’t
Renowned for pulling off heart-stopping over-taking
moves, Lewis Hamilton has continually demonstrated
first-class car control and wet weather skills building a
team around him that enable him to showcase his huge
natural talent and never-say-die passionate racing spirit.
He possesses that extra special something that separates
the truly sensational drivers from those who are simply
quick. McLaren recognised this immense potential early
on, knowing that Hamilton was ready for the big time!
After almost winning during his 2007 Rookie year he
went on to secure the title in 2008 with an exhilarating
last lap, last second victory.
Exhilarating Victory in 2008
In January 2008, Hamilton signed a new five-year multi-
million pound contract to stay with McLaren-Mercedes
until the end of the 2012 season and won the first race
of the 2008 season – the Australian Grand Prix – having
qualified on pole position. He achieved his eighth career
pole position in Montreal but he crashed into the back
of Räikkönen during the race, after failing to see that
the Finn was waiting at a red light at the end of the pit
lane. Hamilton went on to win the British Grand Prix
in difficult, wet conditions and claimed in the post race
press conference that it was his most difficult and most
meaningful win. Helped by his sublime wet-weather wins
in Monaco and Britain, Hamilton went into the deciding
races at the head of the championship. A determined
performance at Fuji nearly blew it, but Hamilton took
control dominating in China, and then wrapped up the
title in the most dramatic fashion amid the rain and
eleventh-hour shocks of Brazil.
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