Lewis Hamilton is a British Formula One racing driver. He made his F1 dÃ©but at the Australian Grand Prix in March 2007, finishing third, and became the first ever F1 driver to secure a podium finish in each of his first three World Championship Grands Prix.
Lewis Carl Hamilton was born in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England. He is a British Formula One racing driver. As of the 2007 Formula One season he drives for the McLaren Mercedes team. He made his F1 début at the Australian Grand Prix on 18 March 2007, finishing third, and became the first ever F1 driver to secure a podium (top three) finish in each of his first three World Championship Grands Prix.
Hamilton's paternal grandparents emigrated to the United Kingdom from the Caribbean island of Grenada in the 1950s. He was educated at The John Henry Newman School. His grandfather worked on the London Underground. In early 2007, Hamilton moved from Tewin Wood, Hertfordshire to Woking in Surrey in order to be closer to the McLaren factory. The Daily Mirror reported in March 2007 that he was dating a college girl called Jodia. His father, Anthony, who named Lewis after the US Olympic gold medal winning athlete, Carl Lewis, suffered a marital breakdown when Lewis was two, and was left to raise Lewis with his brother, at six, he began his racing career, when due to his hyperactivity, Anthony bought Lewis his first go-kart. Despite raising his family alone, he held down three jobs to support Lewis's career and still found enough time to attend every one of Lewis's races. At the time he was eleven, Lewis came to Ron Dennis and told him, "I'm going to race for you one day...I'm going to race for McLaren." and was soon signed to McLaren's development programme.
Hamilton began karting in 1993 at the age of eight, and quickly began winning races and championships.
He progressed through the Cadet (1995-6), Junior Yamaha (1997), Junior Intercontinental A (1998-9), Intercontinental A (1999) and Formula A (2000) ranks in six seasons. Following his karting successes, the British Racing Drivers’ Club made him a ‘Rising Star’ Member in 2000.
Hamilton began his car racing career in the 2001 British Formula Renault Winter Series, finishing fifth overall. This led to a full 2002 Formula Renault UK campaign with Manor Motorsport. Hamilton finished third overall with three wins and three pole positions. He remained with Manor for another year and won the championship convincingly with ten wins, beating Alex Lloyd with 419 points to 377. But his début appearance in British Formula Three was less successful – Hamilton crashed out of both races at the Brands Hatch season finale, being taken to hospital after the second. He did show his speed at both the Macau and Korean Grand Prix. In the latter he qualified on pole position in his first visit to the Korean track and in only his fourth race outing in a F3 car.
Hamilton and Manor then made their debut in the 2004 Formula Three Euroseries. They won just one race and Hamilton was fifth in the championship. He also won the Bahrain F3 Superprix, race one of the Macau F3 Grand Prix, and had his first test in a McLaren F1 car in December that year. He defected to reigning Euroseries champions ASM for the 2005 season and dominated the championship, winning 15 of the 20 rounds. He also won the Ultimate Masters of Formula 3 at Zandvoort.
After the season, British magazine Autosport featured him in their “Top 50 Drivers of 2005” issue, ranking Hamilton 24th. This success led him to join ART Grand Prix for the 2006 GP2 Series season. Like ASM in F3, ART were the class of the field and reigning champions having taken the 2005 GP2 crown with Nico Rosberg.
Despite stiff opposition from rivals who had raced in the GP2 series during 2005, such as team mate Alexandre Prémat and Nelson Angelo Piquet, Lewis duly won the GP2 championship at his first attempt. Among his notable performances was a dominant win at the fifth round held at the Nürburgring, which he won after serving a penalty for speeding in the pits.
At his home race at Silverstone, supporting the British Grand Prix, he impressed again by overtaking two rivals at Becketts, a series of high-speed (up to 150 mph in a GP2 car) bends where overtaking is rare. He demonstrated his overtaking prowess again at the race in Istanbul, when he recovered from a spin that left him 18th, to take second place in the final corners. He became GP2 champion in unusual circumstances. Giorgio Pantano won the penultimate race at Monza, and set the fastest lap on the final lap, initially taking this bonus point from Hamilton. However, it transpired that he had set this under a yellow flag, indicating to the officials that he had not slowed enough to avoid potential danger, leading to him losing the fastest lap, which instead gave Hamilton the single point he needed to clinch the title.
As early as 1994 Hamilton had introduced himself to McLaren team boss Ron Dennis, at that Year's Autosport Awards, asking if he could drive for the team in the future.
In 1998 he was signed to the McLaren Driver Development Support programme. The contract included a future option on an F1 seat making Hamilton, thirteen at the time, the youngest driver ever to have an F1 contract.
His 2006 GP2 championship coincided with a vacancy at McLaren following the departure of Juan Pablo Montoya to NASCAR and Kimi Räikkönen to Ferrari.
After a long period of speculation of whether he, Pedro de la Rosa, Gary Paffett, or even Mika Häkkinen would drive for McLaren alongside World Champion Fernando Alonso for the 2007 Formula One season, Hamilton was confirmed as the team's second driver. He was told of McLaren’s decision on September 30th, but the news was not made public until November 24, for fear that it would be overshadowed by Michael Schumacher’s retirement announcement.
Hamilton was the first driver with prominent African or Caribbean ancestry to compete in Formula One, although Willy T. Ribbs had tested a Formula One car over twenty years previously. Hamilton started testing for McLaren in Spain in November 2006, and was occasionally quicker than Pedro de la Rosa and the rest of the field.
On his début at the 2007 Australian Grand Prix, he qualified 4th on the grid and finished 3rd in the race. This made him the thirteenth driver to finish on the podium in his Grand Prix début (excluding those in the first ever World Championship round), the last being 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve eleven years earlier. At the following race in Sepang he took second place in a McLaren one-two. That is now a record for the best result in the first two races by a F1 rookie. At Bahrain GP, Hamilton got his first front-row start, starting second behind the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, who later won the race. Hamilton finished second, becoming the first ever F1 driver to secure a podium finish in each of his first three World Championship Grands Prix.
After this record-breaking start, Hamilton has been widely praised by the F1 community. Frank Williams has described him as "superhuman" and compared him to seven-times champion Michael Schumacher, Jackie Stewart has speculated that he could win the 2007 championship, and Martin Whitmarsh has said that he has the potential to become the greatest F1 driver ever.