Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

On This Day: 1st June 2006 - A promising new driver // Lewis Hamilton's path to Formula One

Published by Christine

Part of the fun of a sport with such a vast history as F1 is looking back on things that have happened with the benefit of hindsight. For instance, on this very day just four years ago, a young driver by the name of Lewis Hamilton had his fingers crossed that McLaren would grant him a seat.

These days, it seems as though Hamilton has been racing forever, and it is really easy to forget that he is in only his fourth season as a full time F1 star. Way back then, Lewis was racing in GP2, and doing a pretty good job of it. He had his sights set a bit higher though, determined to make his relationship with McLaren come to full fruition.

I think if I keep on winning and performing like I did last weekend, they will find it hard to say no to me - unless someone like Schumacher comes along.

- Lewis Hamilton

Already a very confident young man, it's fair to say.

Lewis was hoping to follow in the footsteps of a certain Nico Rosberg who had already made the transition from the lower formulae straight into F1 with no sign of a testing gig in between. Hamilton wanted the same treatment.

I'm a racer not a test driver. I need to be racing next year. There are benefits in being a test driver, but if you are going to do it, you need to be in a third driver role so that you test on Friday and get used to the tracks. I think if you take a year or two out of racing, you lose something.

- Lewis Hamilton

Point proven. Teams are starting to bring Friday drivers back in, because they've seen that (aside from Lewis) throwing drivers onto unknown tracks with no experience is a dangerous game to play. It's also clear that his quip about taking a year out is true to life, as Schumacher continues to get to grips with his return to F1.

I can't find much word from Ron Dennis at the time about his thoughts on promoting Lewis. Presumably he was well aware of the plans and keeping traditionally quiet about it. Martin Whitmarsh, though, was predictably less restrained, and admitted that he believed Hamilton would win before Button could.

In your face, Whitmarsh, as just two short months later, and Jenson was on the top step of the podium. Okay, okay, no one could have predicted what happened in Hungary 2006. Button was in a pretty awful and ailing Honda, and Hamilton did win pretty much everything the second he stepped foot in a car. Even so, this hindsight thing is glorious.

Meanwhile, Sir Jackie Stewart was asked if he would put the untested Hamilton in a McLaren.

Yes I would. If I am going to have Alonso in the team, who am I going to put alongside Alonso? I'd rather have somebody for the future. And Alonso and him long term could be fantastic.

- Jackie Stewart

Ah yes. Well, we were all fooled, weren't we?