If you’re interested in Formula One even a little bit, you will have definitely heard of Lewis Hamilton. The British driver is a six-time world champion who currently races for the Mercedes F1 team and is well on his way to claim another title. Hamilton is often dubbed one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time for a very good reason.
Find out how the talented driver first entered Formula One, his motorsport career before F1, why he races under the number 44, and more.
R/C Cars Started Lewis’ Career
Lewis Hamilton was born at the beginning of 1985 in Stevenage, a small British town around 30 miles outside of London. His parents separated in 1987 and Lewis ended up living with his mother and half-sisters until 1997.
Hamilton’s motorsport journey began when he was just five years old. His father, Anthony, bought Lewis a remote-controlled car. Around a year later, Lewis Hamilton entered the 1991 National BRCA championship. Young Hamilton finished the race in 2nd place, the then-six-year-old ended up beating adults. Anthony started wondering whether Lewis’ talent would transfer to other types of motorsport.
1993- The Beginning of Karting
Anthony gave Lewis his first gokart as a Christmas present when Hamilton was just six years old. Two years later, young Hamilton started racing at the Rye House Kart Circuit. By the time Lewis turned 10 years old, he had already won the British karting championship in the cadet class, as well as the STP Karting Championship.
In 1996, Lewis Hamilton was named the Sky TV KartMasters Champion and the Five Nations Champion, by winning the Champions of the Future series earlier that year.
Lewis Hamilton first spoke with Ron Dennis, the boss of the McLaren Formula One team at the time, back in 1995. Hamilton approached Dennis for an autograph, introduced himself, and told Dennis that he wished to be able to race in his team one day. Dennis noted in Hamilton’s autograph book to give him a call in nine years’ time.
Just three years later, 13-year-old Lewis Hamilton became the youngest driver in the McLaren Driver Development Support program. Hamilton’s contract promised both financial and technical support of his motorsport career, as well as a possible F1 entry in the future. Ron Dennis had kept his promise.
More Success In Karting
Hamilton continued racing in karting leagues throughout the 1990s. At one point, a British betting company took a bet that Hamilton would win the World Drivers’ Championship by the time he turned 25 years old.
In 1998, Hamilton became the national British karting champion for the second time in his career. That same year, he was contacted by Ron Dennis and signed for the previously mentioned McLaren Driver Development Support program. In 2000, Hamilton became the European Champion in Formula A. That same year, the British Racing Driver’s Club made Hamilton a Rising Star member.
Hamilton’s First Race with Michael Schumacher
In 2001, Lewis Hamilton participated in a karting race at Michael Schumacher’s Kerpen circuit in Germany, where the F1 legend raced against Hamilton as well as other future Formula One drivers, including Nico Rosberg and Vitantonio Liuzzi. During the qualifying session, Schumacher set an all-time record at the track.
16-year-old Lewis Hamilton finished the race in seventh place, four places behind Michael Schumacher. The four-time World Champion at the time spoke highly of Hamilton, he called the young racer very strong and predicted that he would make it to Formula One one day.
Car Racing Was Off To A Rocky Start
In 2001, Lewis Hamilton began racing in cars for the first time. McLaren asked Manor Motorsport to give Hamilton a shot in their Formula Renault race car. The young driver was signed up for a testing session at the Mallory Park circuit.
Lewis Hamilton was just 16 years old at the time. He had never driven a car before, not even a road car. The young driver ended up crashing the race car after just three laps! It was certainly not the best way for Hamilton to start his Formula Renault adventure.
Formula Renault Success
Despite a crash during his first test session in the Formula Renault race car, Lewis Hamilton entered the British Formula Renault Winter Series as a driver for Manor Motorsport in 2001. After finishing the series in fifth place overall, Hamilton entered the proper 2002 Formula Renault UK season together with Manor Motorsport.
Hamilton completed the 2002 Formula Renault UK season in third place overall, having won three races and gotten three pole positions. Due to his successful season, Manor Motorsport invited the driver for the 2003 racing season in the same category.
Lewis Hamilton Dominated The Formula Renault UK league in 2003
Lewis Hamilton began the 2003 season in the Formula Renault UK league once again. His first win of the season took place at Silverstone during the fifth race of the year. From then on, Hamilton was on a winning spree. He had won 9 out of 10 of the following races that year.
Lewis Hamilton finished the 2003 Formula Renault season in first place overall, having won 10 races in total that year alone. What’s more, he also set 9 fastest laps and scored 11 pole positions during the season. Hamilton was nearly 50 points ahead of the runner-up, Alex Loyd. Lewis was so much ahead of the other drivers that he could afford to skip the last two races of the season.
Hamilton’s Debut in Formula Three
Instead of participating in the last two races of the 2003 Formula Renault UK season, Lewis Hamilton took part in Formula Three for the first time ever. After all, he was going to be the champion of the Formula Renault league anyway.
The driver debuted in Formula Three at the 2003 British Formula 3 Championship. Although Lewis Hamilton performed rather well in the test sessions, he got a puncture during his first race and had to retire the car. In effect, the driver failed to post a qualifying time for the upcoming race.
A Serious Crash
Lewis Hamilton’s second Formula Three race of the season during the 2003 British Formula 3 Championship held at the Brand’s Hatch circuit could have ended horribly. After failing to post a qualifying time, Hamilton collided with his teammate Tor Graves during the race.
Hamilton’s accident was rather serious. The young driver was knocked unconscious and had to be transported to a nearby hospital. Luckily, he hadn’t broken any bones during the crash. He did, however, suffer from serious bruising, a concussion, and a slight memory loss. Hamilton was released from the hospital a day after the crash.
Hamilton Joined The Euroseries Formula Three Championship
Despite a rough start of Hamilton’s career in Formula Three, the determined British driver was back in Formula Three for the 2004 season. This time, he was racing in the Euroseries Championship rather than the British league. In fact, it was the debut of Manor Motorsport at the Euroseries Formula Three that year.
During that championship, Lewis Hamilton won once at the Norising race in Nuremberg, Germany. Hamilton completed the championship in fifth place overall, falling behind Jamie Green, Alexandre Premat, Nicolas Lapierre, and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton failed to finish three races during the 2004 Euroseries championship.
More Success In 2004
Hamilton entered a selection of other Formula Three races with Manor Motorsport in 2004. Arguably, one of his most notable races that year was the 1st place finish at the 2004 Bahrain F3 Superprix. Hamilton also raced in the 2004 Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix, though he only came in 14th. He finished the Masters of Formula Three championship in 7th position the same year, too.
At the end of 2004, Lewis Hamilton had his first testing session for McLaren at the Silverstone circuit. The young driver was moved up to the ASM Formula 3 team in 2005.
Hamilton Dominated Formula Three in 2005
For the 2005 season, Hamilton moved to the ASM Formule 3 team and competed in the Formula 3 Euro Series that year. Lewis completely dominated the championship, he came in 1st place in 15 out of the 20 races in the season, becoming the overall winner. In that championship, he also managed to score 13 pole positions and end up on the podium 17 times.
In 2005, Lewis Hamilton participated in the Masters of Formula 3 as well. He was the winner of the race at Zandvoort in the Netherlands. Overall, 2005 was an extremely successful year for the talented driver. Hamilton also made it to Autosport’s prestigious “Top 50 Drivers of 2005” lineup.
GP2- The Best Path Towards Formula One
After 2 successful years in Formula Three the team which Hamilton was racing for, ASM Formula 3, moved him to its sister team in the GP2 (Formula 2) league. In 2006, Lewis Hamilton raced in GP2 for ART Grand Prix.
Moving up to the GP2 league was a great step towards securing a spot in Formula One. Nico Rosberg had entered Formula One in 2005 after a successful season in GP2 racing for the same team Hamilton was just signed with. If Lewis could prove himself in GP2, a step up to Formula One was very likely.
The 2006 GP2 Season
Hamilton’s first-ever GP2 season was off to a good start. He won his first race in the fifth round of the championship, despite receiving a penalty for speeding in the pit lane. At the second-last race of the season, he received a bonus point for the fastest lap of the track and ended up winning the series.
Lewis Hamilton won his first-ever GP2 season, despite being disqualified from one of the 2 races held at Imola. In his first season, Hamilton managed to win 5 out of the 21 races, as well as 14 podium finishes and 7 fastest laps.
The Life-Changing Moment
Hamilton’s exceptional performance in the 2006 GP2 season meant it was high time for the talented driver to progress up into Formula One. Luckily for him, McLaren happened to have a vacancy for the upcoming 2007 season. Media outlets speculated whether or not Hamilton would join Fernando Alonso in Formula One for the following year.
McLaren made their decision at the end of September, though the news only reached the public two months later. Lewis Hamilton’s dreams to race for McLaren in Formula One came true, though the upcoming years were going to be the most competitive of his entire career.
The Debut In Formula One
Lewis Hamilton took part in his first-ever Formula One race at the Australian Grand Prix in 2007. The talented driver raced alongside Fernando Alonso, a two-time world champion at the time. Hamilton ended the race with a podium finish, which was only a taste of what was about to come later in the season.
The 2007 Malaysian Grand Prix was the second race of the season. Lewis Hamilton finished in 2nd place, right behind his teammate Alonso. What’s more, Hamilton had set the fastest lap of the race.
A Record-Breaking Rookie Season
Hamilton’s first season in Formula One was perhaps the most impressive rookie season the sport had ever seen. Lewis Hamilton ended up winning 4 out of the 17 races in that season! Some of the records he broke that year included the most consecutive podium finishes from the debut (9), as well as the most wins in a rookie season (4).
The World Drivers Championship that year was claimed by Kimi Raikkonen, a driver who had previously raced for McLaren and was a driver for Ferrari at the time. Lewis Hamilton was the runner-up, just a point behind Raikkonen with 109 points in total. His overall score at the end of the season had broken another record.
The 2008 Season
Naturally, Lewis Hamilton wasn’t planning on leaving Formula One anytime soon. He remained as a driver for McLaren during the 2008 season. The Briton was off to a great start, he had won the 2008 Australian Grand Prix which was the first race of the year.
Throughout the season, Lewis Hamilton was criticized for his driving style which was apparently too aggressive. A fellow Formula One driver, Robert Kubica, claimed that Hamilton’s driving was overconfident. According to some sources, dangerous maneuvers performed by Hamilton especially in Monza, as well as other races in the season, validated Kubica’s theory.
Lewis Hamilton Became The Youngest Formula One Champion Ever
The last race of the 2008 Formula One season, The Brazilian Grand Prix, was a dramatic stand-off between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa. In order to become the champion, Massa had to finish in first place with Hamilton coming in 5th at the very best. Hamilton moved up to 4th place at the last corner of the final lap, resulting in what was likely one of the most dramatic last laps in the history of the sport.
Coming in at 4th place meant that Hamilton had just enough points to finish 1st overall, becoming the world’s youngest Formula One champion of all time. Felipe Messa was only a point behind.
2009- The Downfall
After becoming the world champion in 2008, the following year was nowhere near as successful for the young driver. Lewis Hamilton was disqualified during the first race of the season, the 2009 Australian Grand Prix. Although he finished the next 3 races of the year within the top 8, he then fell outside of classified finishers for 5 races in a row.
In 2009, young Hamilton still managed to win 2 races. He claimed victory at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, as well as the Singapore Grand Prix. Hamilton finished the season in 5th place overall, with barely half of the points of the winning driver that year.
Fourth Place In The 2010 Formula One Season
After a somewhat disappointing season in 2009, Lewis Hamilton was back behind the wheel of a McLaren Formula One race car in 2010. That year, the Briton finished on the podium at the Australian Grand Prix inaugurating the season. Lewis Hamilton won 3 of the 19 races that year, along with 6 podium finishes including the one in Australia.
By the end of the 2010 season, Hamilton had a chance of winning the title. If he managed to finish the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in first place, he’d become the world champion once again. Unfortunately, Hamilton was overtaken by Sebastian Vettel who claimed the title instead. The Briton finished in fourth place overall with 240 points, while Vettel scored 256.
2011 Was Yet Another Downfall
Lewis Hamilton was close to claiming the championship title in the 2010 season, though the following year was quite the opposite. Despite a strong start with a 2nd place finish at the Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton was clearly out of form.
The young driver claimed himself that he had lost focus and that distractions in his private life negatively impacted his performance. By the end of the season, Hamilton was outscored by his teammate Jenson Button for the first time and ended up in 5th place overall. Lewis promised that he would be back in form the following year.
Hamilton Kept His Promise
Lewis Hamilton did keep his promise for the 2012 season. The British driver finished the first three races of the season in 3rd place, followed by victories in Canada, Hungary, Italy, and the United States.
On the other hand, the talented driver could not finish 5 races in the season, including the last race of the year during the Brazilian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton placed 4th overall in the 2012 Formula One season, nearly 100 points behind Sebastian Vettel who had won the championship that year.
The Surprising Team Change
Michael Schumacher is a legendary Formula One driver who had entered 306 F1 races in total during his career. Schumacher is a holder of over 20 all-time records in the sport, such as the highest amount of wins in one season (13 races won in 2004 F1), the most seasons with a win (between 1992 and 2006), or the highest amount of fastest laps (77 in total) to name a few.
Schumacher was a driver for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team in 2012. He announced that he would retire from Formula One after the 2012 season. To everyone’s surprise, Lewis Hamilton announced that he will be replacing the German driver from the 2013 F1 season onwards.
Hamilton Was Reunited With His Childhood Karting Rival
When Lewis Hamilton joined the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team for the 2013 season, he became teammates with Nico Rosberg. The two have known each other since childhood when they used to be rivals in a variety of karting races.
Automotive journalists and Formula One specialists described Hamilton’s switch to the Mercedes F1 team as a risky gamble. Afterall, the team had practically no success in recent history. Hamilton’s decision quickly proved to be a good one, the Brit came in 1st place at the Hungarian Grand Prix that year and finished the season in 4th place overall.
A Rule Change Turned Out A Game-Changer For Mercedes
Prior to the beginning of the 2014 Formula One season, the FIA introduced a set of new regulations for the upcoming years. Most notably, the F1 race cars had to be fitted with turbo-hybrid engines from now on. The decision, though met with lots of criticisms from die-hard fans of the sport, turned out to be a real game-changer for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes-Benz as a whole.
The 2014 season was off to yet another rocky start. The British driver failed to finish the race, although his teammate Rosberg came in 1st place. The rest of the year was a polar opposite for Hamilton.
The Unbelievable 2014 Season
Despite retiring in the first race of the season, Lewis Hamilton and his teammate completely obliterated the competition later that year. Hamilton finished in 1st place for 4 consecutive races after the Australian Grand Prix, with Rosberg coming in 2nd every time.
Overall, Hamilton claimed victory 11 times during the 2014 Formula One season, claiming the World Championship title. Nico Rosberg scored another 5 wins in the season, coming in as a runner-up overall. The 16 total victories had earned Mercedes the Worlds Constructors Champion title. The outstanding victory proved once and for all that Hamilton’s risky decision to switch teams was indeed a terrific choice.
Have you ever wondered why Lewis Hamilton chose the number 44 as his unique race car number back in 2014? Another new rule introduced by the FIA enabled the drivers to pick a unique number that would stick for the rest of their career, unless the driver switched teams.
Lewis Hamilton decided to go with the number 44 as he raced under the same number in karting leagues back at the beginning of his impressive career. After becoming a World Champion in 2014, he refused to switch his racing number to 1 and decided to stick to 44 to this day.
The Three-Time World Champion
2015 saw another impressive victory by Lewis Hamilton. The Formula One season began with a 1st place finish at the Australian Grand Prix, followed by a 2nd place finish in Malaysia. That year, Lewis Hamilton placed 1st in 10 races in total.
In 2015, Lewis Hamilton ended up on the podium in all but 2 of the 19 races held during that season. Hamilton became a World Champion for the third time in his career, just like his idol Ayrton Senna. Rosberg came in second yet again, and the rivalry between the two intensified throughout the season.
Hamilton Extended His Contract With Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton was clearly on a winning spree, and Mercedes did not want him gone from the team. In 2014, the driver announced that his contract had been extended for another 3 years. According to various sources, the deal was worth over $132 million dollars, making the Briton one of the best-paid sportsmen of all time. Formula One fans, as well as experts on the sport, all had their eyes on Hamilton for the upcoming 2015 season.
Surprisingly, Lewis Hamilton was able to retain his image rights, as well as keep his trophies and championship-winning race cars.
The Rivalry Intensified In 2016
2016 was perhaps the most action-packed season for Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The two skillful drivers were racing head to head throughout the season. Instead of taming the aggression between the drivers, Mercedes allowed the two teammates to fight freely and compete against one another.
The controversial team policy led to some spectacular situations during the season. The first four races of the 2016 Formula One season saw Rosberg coming in 1st place, with Hamilton ending up as far as the 7th spot.
The Infamous Engine Blowout in Malaysia
As the rivalry kept intensifying throughout the season, Lewis Hamilton went on a winning spree starting at the Austrian Grand Prix. The driver came in 1st place 4 times in a row, followed by a 3rd place finish at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s race car suffered from a mechanical issue that resulted in a blowout during the 2016 Malaysia Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit. In effect, the driver was forced to retire from the race. Nico Rosberg finished in 3rd place.
Nico Rosberg Was The Champion In 2016
Lewis Hamilton scored three consecutive wins right before the final race of the season held at Yas Marina. The aggression between the two Mercedes teammates peaked during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton deliberately attempted to slow Nico Rosberg down. The snaky tactic seemed to have paid off at first, though Rosberg managed to keep up and ended up finishing 4th.
Hamilton finished the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 1st place, though he was 5 points behind his teammate Nico Rosberg. Had Rosberg finished in 4th place or below, Hamilton would have become a four-time World Champion. To everyone’s surprise, Nico Rosberg announced his retirement from Formula One directly after claiming the World Champion title.
Four-Time World Champion
In 2017, the recently-retired Nico Rosberg was replaced by Valtteri Bottas who became a new teammate for Hamilton. Luckily for the Briton, his new teammate was nowhere near as competitive as Rosberg. 2017 was off to a great start with Hamilton claiming victory just two races into the season.
Lewis Hamilton had yet another record-breaking season. He scored 11 pole positions, an all-time high in the history of the sport. What’s more, Hamilton finished every single race in the points. In effect, Hamilton became the World Champion for the fourth time.
The Fight For Five
2018 was another incredibly exciting season for Formula One. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, who were both four-time World Champions at the time, both competed for the fifth champion title in their careers. For that reason, the 2018 season was dubbed the Fight For Five by F1 fans and journalists.
At first, Vettel appeared to have a whopping advantage over Lewis Hamilton. The tables have quickly turned following a series of both mechanical and driver errors for Sebastian Vettel. In the end, Lewis Hamilton became the champion for the fifth time in his career. Oh, he also broke the record for the highest number of points in a single season, having accumulated 408 in total.
Contract Extension With Mercedes
It was clear for Mercedes that Lewis Hamilton was a great fit for the team. The driver signed another two-year contract with the Mercedes Formula One team. The contract guaranteed that the British driver would remain a driver for Mercedes until at least the end of the 2020 season.
According to various sources, this contract was reportedly worth over $50 million per year, making Lewis Hamilton the best-paid Formula One driver of all time.
Hamilton’s 6th Champion Title
Lewis Hamilton was back in a Mercedes Formula One car for the 2019 season, to yet another great start with a 2nd place finish at the inaugural Australian Grand Prix. That year, Lewis Hamilton finished on the podium in all but 4 races of the season, matching his personal all-time high for the fourth time in his career.
Lewis Hamilton claimed his 6th World Champion title in 2019, while his teammate Bottas followed closely in 2nd place overall. Along the way, Hamilton set a new all-time high record for the highest amount of points in a single season with 413 scored in total.
The Current Season
2020 was off to a rough start, with a majority of the race calendar either postponed or cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first race of the season, held in Austria, saw Hamilton coming in at 4th place. He later had 3 consecutive wins, a 2nd place finish, and 6 more wins so far. The Briton is first in the driver championship standings with just 4 races left in the current season.
Lewis Hamilton won his 92nd Formula One race at the Portuguese Grand Prix in 2020, beating an all-time high previously set by Michael Schumacher.
Lewis Hamilton most certainly has what it takes to receive a World Champion Title for the seventh time in his career. There are just four races left this season, given that the coronavirus pandemic will not alter the schedule once again. Hamilton is in the lead by nearly 100 points, and a first-place overall finish is definitely possible.
It is hard to assume what lies ahead of the British driver. Theoretically, his contract with Mercedes is coming to an end in 2020. So far, Hamilton has not confirmed whether or not he will stay with the team for the upcoming years.