DRIVERS: LEWIS HAMILTON
Name: Lewis Hamilton
Nationality: Great Britain
Date of birth: January 7, 1985 - Stevenage, England
Lewis Hamilton's grandfather emigrated to Britain from Grenada in the 1950s. His son Anthony followed his father into the railway business but he eventually started his own IT business. When Lewis was five his father bought him a radio-controlled car and he was so successful with the car that he ended up on the national TV show Blue Peter, racing his car - at the age of just six. When he was seven his father gave him his first kart and in 1995 he won the British National Cadet Karting Championship. It was not long after that he introduced himself to McLaren boss Ron Dennis at an awards dinner and the first contact with McLaren was made. Dennis kept an eye on Hamilton and in 1997 signed a deal to help him develop his career. He enjoyed a highly successful career in karting winning a series of titles before signing to drive for Manor Motorsport in the Formula Renault winter series at the end of 2001. He stayed with Manor in 2002 and finished third in the championship with one victory and then dominated the series - still with Manor - in 2003. In 2004 he went with Manor to the Formula 3 Euroseries but won only one race although he finished fifth in the title. That year he tested for the McLaren F1 team for the first time. In 2005 he switched to the ASM team, which had won the title and he dominated the F3 Euroseries, winning 15 of the 20 races and moved up to the ART Grand Prix team in GP2. He was soon beating his more experienced team mate Alexandre Premat and in an impressive display of driving won the GP2 title at his first attempt. He was duly signed to race for McLaren in 2007 and was soon testing for the team.
His first F1 season started with Hamilton making a quick impression by finishing third in his first GP, in Australia. This was followed by eight consecutive podium finishes, including wins in Canada and the US, and a serious chance of getting the Championship itself, a feat unheard off by any previous rookie.
Sadly, in China, he ended up in the gravel pit when coming in for tyres and missed his chance. He returned stronger in 2008 and fought his way to a stunning World Championship showdown in Brazil, winning the title from Felipe Massa on the very last lap in Interlagos, when he overtook Timo Glock to grab the place he needed. Hamilton was honoured with an MBE by the British government.
Hamilton had won five times in 2008 - in Australia, Monaco, Britain, Germany and China - and started from the pole seven times. He won in Belgium, too, but the stewards penalized him for cutting a corner when passing Kimi Raikkonen and dropped him to third place. But he still racked up enough points to become the youngest ever world champion at the age of 23 years and 301 days.
After all the success in 2008, the first half of the 2009 season was very trying for the youthful Hamilton. The misery began in the season opener in Australia where Hamilton, prompted by McLaren Mercedes sporting director Dave Ryan, lied to race officials by saying that Jarno Trulli had purposely and illegally overtaken him during a safety car period. When all the evidence emerged, Hamilton was disqualified and McLaren fired Ryan. Hamilton called the whole affair the worst thing he’d experienced in his life.
Things weren’t much better on the track where Hamilton finished in the points only three times in the first nine races. The McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 was off the pace because of aerodynamic deficiencies. Fortunately it had one of the best engines plus a Kinetic Energy Recovery System that was the class of the field. It was not until Hungary, round 10, that Hamilton won a race, and he earned four poles in the latter part of the season. A win in Singapore along with podiums in Valencia, Japan and Brazil pulled him up to a distant fifth in the drivers’ championship.
The 2010 McLaren Mercedes MP4-25 featured the innovative F-duct system which gave it superior speed on the straights, but it lacked downforce and didn’t work well on bumpy tracks. Hamilton’s talent allowed him to transcend what was an average car and pull off wins in Turkey, Canada and Belgium. That along with six podium finishes kept him in contention for the world championship right up to the final race. He led the championship twice during the season, but he lost vital points when he crashed while trying aggressive passes on Felipe Massa in Italy and Mark Webber in Singapore, as well as when the McLaren’s gearbox broke in Hungary and the suspension failed in Spain.
Hamilton went into the season having told father Anthony that he was no longer his manager. That led to tension as Anthony had run Lewis’s career since his karting days. Lewis had a new teammate in 2010 - 2009 world champion Jenson Button who had left Brawn Mercedes - and the two British drivers got along fabulously. In the early part of the season Button had the edge, but then Hamilton pulled ahead. Hamilton ended up fourth in the championship and Button fifth.