Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

F1 encyclopedia

Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1 driver

Lewis Hamilton
Credit: VMM
Vital statistics for Lewis Hamilton
BirthplaceStevenage, Hertfordshire, England
Born7 January 1985
F1 debutAustralian Grand Prix, 2007
Driver number44
Current teamMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport
Recent fastest laps
2017Singapore Grand Prix
British Grand Prix
Austrian Grand Prix

Hamilton has been a controversial figure in Formula One since his debut in 2007, but he’s always proved the critics wrong by pulling out an incredible race drive when it matters. The Brit wears his heart on his sleeve both on and off track, and that can help and hinder. From 2014, he embarked on a bitter and tense campaign with friend and rival Nico Rosberg, that resulted in him succeeding to his second, and third, F1 World Championships.

F1 biography

Lewis Hamilton started his racing career with the traditional karting experience, but even before that he was showing his competitive nature by racing remote-controlled cars. His father and subsequent manager bought him his first RC car and then go-kart, and worked hard to fund his son’s career. A now legendary tale in Hamilton’s early history is his first meeting with future boss Ron Dennis. At an award’s ceremony, ten-year-old Lewis approached the McLaren chief and told him he wanted to be racing McLaren cars.” Dennis instructed him to give him a call when he was a bit older.

Hamilton progressed from karts to single seaters in 2001, driving in the Formula Renault and Formula Three categories. In 2006, he made the step up to GP2, driving for the ART Grand Prix team, and won the championship in his debut season. Having raised enough eyebrows, and having given Ron Dennis that call he asked for, Hamilton was promoted to the McLaren F1 team for the 2007 season.

It wasn’t an easy debut into the sport, partnered with the twice World Champion Fernando Alonso, who was expecting something slightly more than equal treatment with the inexperienced rookie. Hamilton rose to the challenge, finishing on the podium straight away, snatching pole positions, and breaking the record for the youngest driver to lead the world championship. He missed out on the championship in 2007, but partnered with the more supportive Heikki Kovalainen in 2008, he fought to the final corner of the final lap of the season to win his first championship.

The first race of the 2009 season was a controversial one for Hamilton. Called to the stewards to investigate a potential overtake by Jarno Trulli on the McLaren under safety car conditions, Hamilton provided “misleading evidence” that saw him disqualified from the event. The year improved from there, and Hamilton returned to the top step of the podium, but couldn’t compete for the championship. The following three seasons were similar – peppered with controversy, followed up with some great on-track driving, but no more championship success. Hamilton also gained notoriety for his on-off relationship with Nicole Sherzinger, who often appeared in the paddock when they were together, and seriously affected Lewis’ moods on-and-off track when they were not.

Ahead of the 2013 season, Hamilton made the shock announcement that he would be leaving McLaren to join Mercedes on a three-year contract. In his first year with the German team, he admitted his expectations were low and he was pleasantly surprised with the pace, pole positions and podiums. With the general wisdom being that Lewis signed to Mercedes to take advantage of their strength after the overhaul of regulations, he continued into 2014 with the hopes of following up his 2008 championship.

It was a long season, littered with tense races, inter-team mind games, a few wars of words in the media, but overall a great success. 11 race wins later and Hamilton secured his second world championship, beating his teammate and friend to the top spot. He bartered with Mercedes to be able to continue using 44 as his number, rather than the title winner's number 1, entering the 2015 season as defending champion. In a season that echoed the one before, Hamilton and Rosberg had an early battle for the title until Lewis began to run away with it, wrapping up his third championship well before the end of the year.

The 2016 season was another hard fought competition, this time swinging in Rosberg's favour, with Hamilton missing out on the championship by just five points. Lewis antagonised his team on various occasions, but ultimately has a good relationship with Mercedes which stands him in good stead for the 2017 season, when he will be joined by a new teammate.

Learn more about Lewis Hamilton with the Pocket F1 Handbook.