Who is Lewis Hamilton? The Mercedes driver gunning for a record eighth title

10-05-2021 08:00
Who is Lewis Hamilton? The Mercedes driver gunning for a record eighth title

Well, where to start. This man needs absolutely no introduction, it’s Sir Lewis Hamilton. With seven world titles to his name, the 36-year-old needs just one more to move clear of Michael Schumacher’s record, and become the first ever Formula 1 driver to have won eight championships.

In the first article of our new series profiling all current F1 and F2 drivers, we had to begin with Hamilton. From the very first moment he stepped into an F1 cockpit, he has oozed class and his speed simply can’t be argued against.

Whether he is the single greatest driver of all time is up for debate, but his name is most certainly in the conversation, that’s for sure. 

Let’s list some of his F1 records shall we: 

- Most consecutive race starts (265 between the 2007 Australian Grand Prix and the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix)
- Most race victories (97)
- Most pole positions (100)
- Most consecutive race finishes (48 between the 2018 British Grand Prix and the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix)
- Most wins at different circuits (29)
- Most podiums (168)

You get the idea.

But how did his career start?

Hamilton began his karting career at the age of eight, and his speed was evident from the get-go. By the time he was 10, Hamilton had won the British Kart Championship to become the youngest ever winner of the competition, and soon afterwards he secured a contract in the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Programme. 

Two years after signing that contract, Hamilton became European Champion (in 2000) after competing in Formula A, the premier class of karting. His teammate that year? None other than Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton progressed into the British Formula Renault Winter Series in 2001 and after finishing fifth, he was rewarded with a full-time drive in the Formula Renault 2002 season with Manor Motosport. He then proceeded to finish third in the standings, behind Danny Watts and Jamie Green.

He took three wins that season, but ended up 59 points behind title winner Watts.

After staying in Formula Renault for the following year, he clinched the title ahead of Alex Lloyd after winning 10 races, and was rewarded with a move up to the Formula 3 Euro Series in 2004. He finished fifth in his debut year, before going on to win the 2005 title, but not before testing for McLaren at Silverstone in late 2004.

A step up to GP2, now known as F2, with ART followed, and he won the championship in his debut year. It’s a feat that only himself, Nico Rosberg, Nico Hulkenburg, Charles Leclerc and George Russell have achieved; as a notorious record-breaker, it’s no surprise that Hamilton is amongst those to have done it.

That title winning year he took home five victories as well as a further nine podiums to beat the likes of Nelson Piquet Jr and Timo Glock, also future F1 drivers, to first place.

His F1 career:

With Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya confirmed to be leaving McLaren after the 2006 season, two spots were up for grabs. Two-time Drivers’ Championship winner Fernando Alonso filled one, and after his GP2 victory, Hamilton was chosen to be the Spaniard’s partner. You can read extensively about Hamilton’s debut year here.

After narrowly missing out on the 2007 title, Hamilton returned with vengeance the following year, taking home the 2008 crown in the most dramatic fashion, on the final corner of the final race, he truly left it later but boy was it sweet. He became the first ever black champion in the sport, and started a trailblazing legacy that he’s still adding to.

That 2008 victory was solitary for several years as McLaren and Hamilton were unable to challenge for championships, with Brawn in 2009 and then Red Bull asserting their dominance on the sport.

After finishing P5 in 2009, P4 in 2010, P5 in 2011 and P4 in 2012, Hamilton chose to leave McLaren, opting to join Mercedes, who had finished a lowly fifth in Constructors’ Championship in 2012 (in comparison to McLaren’s P3).

The decision was viewed as foolish and money-orientated by many F1 fans and pundits, but it’s proven to have been inspired.

He finished a respectable fourth in his debut campaign at the team, but with Sebastian Vettel over 200 points ahead of him, it seemed a title challenge wouldn’t ensue any time soon.

However, the regulation changes ahead of the 2014 season, to enter the new hybrid power unit era, played right into Hamilton and Mercedes’ hands.

He took the 2014 title by 67 points from teammate Rosberg, taking 11 wins and 16 podiums along the way. 2015 was much the same, and he once more beat out Rosberg to take the title, scoring 10 wins to secure his third Drivers’ Championship, to equal the likes of Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda and his hero Ayrton Senna.

Facing a far more competitive Rosberg in 2016, tensions boiled and the two clashed as they fought for the title. The two childhood friends became the bitterest of rivals. This came to a head at the Spanish Grand Prix, in which Hamilton tried to overtake Rosberg on the grass before losing grip and colliding into the side of his teammate’s car. It allowed Max Verstappen to take victory on his Red Bull debut, and Toto Wolff stressed the two were to give each other respect and focus on winning the Constructors’ Championship rather than let an inter-team rivalry get out of hand.

Rosberg ended up winning the Championship, but the strain proved too much and he retired after the season. Partnered with Valtteri Bottas ever since, Hamilton has dominated since Rosberg’s retirement, winning the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 titles. Vettel came close to disrupting Hamilton’s hold on the P1 trophy in 2017, but the Brit proved victorious.

Now in his 15th season in the sport, Hamilton is gunning for that elusive eight world championship title, a feat that no driver in history has achieved. With murmurs of retirement surfacing in the media, one thing is almost certain, the Brit won’t leave the sport until he has broken Schumacher’s record.

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Is Lewis Hamilton the greatest F1 driver in history?

Yes (if he wins an eighth world title)
(64 votes)

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