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#NoMatterWhat - The rise to stardom of Lewis Hamilton and his domination of Formula 1

Looking at Lewis Hamilton's rise to stardom and how he has been dominating F1 for the last two seasons.

Feature 12 Dec 2015, 16:01 IST
3-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton is no more a rising star, but is now definitely a superstar

Lewis Carl Davis Hamilton, MBE. A man who reigns supreme at the top of his trade. Most F1 enthusiasts know him as Hami, or Ham, or ‘that guy who just won 3 world championships.’

Born to Carmen Lebalestier and Anthony Hamilton in Stevenage, outside London, Hamilton’s parents divorced when he was only two, leading the young Lewis to live with his mum until he was 12, when he moved in with his father and stepmother. Anthony Hamilton would then become instrumental in shaping and helping his son’s career.

He won the championship in 2008 for McLaren. Then he did it again, two years straight, in 2014 and 2015 with Mercedes, winning them the constructors’ championship both years.

Unlike several other F1 drivers past and present, Hamilton did not have the privilege of growing up in an F1 household. He had a rather unconventional start to the sport, racing radio-controlled cars his father bought him in championships.

He beat several adults at those championships, which led IT Manager Anthony Hamilton to gift him a go-kart at Christmas when he was 6-years-old.

Hamilton senior worked upto three jobs at a time to support his career, balancing that with attending all of his son’s races.

Eventually, Anthony would set up his own IT firm and become Hamilton’s full-time manager as his racing career kicked off.

Hamilton started professional karting at the age of 8 and won several championships. A self-assured 10-year-old Lewis Hamilton went up to McLaren boss Ron Dennis at a karting championship asking for an autograph, famously telling him "Hi. I'm Lewis Hamilton. I won the British Championship and one day I want to be racing your cars."

Dennis replied "Phone me in nine years, we'll sort something out then."

3 years later, with Hamilton winning a second British Karting Championship and a Super One series title, Dennis rang him up and signed the youngster to McLaren’s driver development programme. At that tender age, Hamilton’s contract included the clause of a future F1 seat.

He progressed through Super A and Formula A, and would win the European championships. At 16, he was noticed by F1 icon Michael Schumacher, who thought he had the ‘right racing mentality’ to win.

In 2003, 18-year-old Hamilton won the Formula Renault championship title, taking a staggering 10 wins that year, over 40 points ahead of his closest competitor.

Almost signed to Williams in 2004, Hamilton missed out on a seat after their engine manufacturer, BMW, refused to sponsor Hamilton, and he had to hold off on his F1 career for a few more years.

He continued in Formula 3, moving in 2006 to GP2 - and in his first and what would be his only year in that rung of racing, won the championship title, beating out Timo Glock and Nelson Piquet Jnr on his way to the title.

The fates appeared to have conspired in Hamilton’s favour - the year of his GP2 win, Juan Pablo Montoya left Formula One for NASCAR, while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen defected to Ferrari - with whom he would win his first and only championship.

With both seats at McLaren now vacant, the team signed reigning double world champion Fernando Alonso as their primary driver, and ending months of speculation, announced it was Hamilton who would  take the second spot.

The Briton displayed his ability straightaway; in 2007, he became the youngest ever driver to lead the world championship at 22 - breaking the record held by the founder of his team - Kiwi driver Bruce McLaren.

It was eventually the Iceman who would take that year’s title, but Hamilton became the youngest-ever runner-up at the World Drivers’ championship in 2007.

Driving alongside Heikki Kovalainen the following year, Hamilton came back with a vengeance, determined to take the title this time. He beat out his closest title rival Felipe Massa of Ferrari to take the title that year, setting several records in the process.

He became that year the youngest ever world champion (although that record would only last 2 years), the first Briton in over two decades to take it (the last one being Damon Hill in 1996), and the first ever black driver to win the title.

Hamilton, who is mixed race, faced serious racial abuse from hecklers at the Circuit de Catalunya, who wore offensive costumes and mouthed slurs at the young talent. Despite this, he powered on to eventually win the title.

2009 was not a particularly strong year for Hamilton, who would not even be close to the title after several low- and non-points finishes for the first half of the year, and although he turned the tide in the latter half of 2009, it was not enough to bring him close to the title, won rousingly by Brawn GP and Jenson Button.

Brawn GP was bought by Mercedes in 2010, however, with Hamilton now partnering reigning champion Button at McLaren. That year, however, also signalled the beginning of a period of domination by Red Bull and their driver Sebastian Vettel, who pipped Hamilton to become the youngest ever world champion that year, taking the title four years in a row. 

Lewis Hamilton has been the best driver in F1 for the last couple of seasons

He remained with the team until 2013, when he moved to then-Mercedes GP, taking the seat vacated by the legendary Michael Schumacher, who had taken his second and final retirement.

He’d partner Schumacher’s teammate and his own former teammate and childhood friend Nico Rosberg at the team, and he drove with average results to finish in 4th in the drivers’ standings as Vettel continued to rule the roost with nobody able to even come close.

2014 began Hamilton’s modern day ‘rule’ in Formula One - and the team began what would become a habit for the next two years as they locked out the front row race after race. With engines far superior to any of their competitors, they blazed through their competition to take championship and constructors’ victory and the runners’ up title - all two years in a row.

Ferrari have promised to ‘come back with more competitive engines’ in 2016, pledging to end Mercedes reign - so 2016 looks poised to be a competitive season.

Hamilton has remained unfazed in the face of a lot of adversity and has improved year on year, and looking at the way he has been progressing, it is fair to assume that he will continue amazing everyone with his performances and consistency in the future too.

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