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Seven-time World Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton enters 2022 with his sights set on adding a record-breaking eighth title to his collection, having narrowly missed out on the feat in 2021. The Briton has dominated Formula 1 in recent years thanks to a Mercedes team that’s been a class above the rest of the pack.
Biography of F1 driver Lewis Hamilton
Sir Lewis Hamilton has been at the pinnacle for Formula 1 for over a decade now, the Briton rising through the karting and junior formula ranks to cement himself as one of the greatest drivers to ever compete in the sport.
Hamilton was marked out early as a racing protege, signing a development contract with McLaren aged just 11 after a successful karting career, and has gone from strength to strength in F1 on his way to seven World Championships with Mercedes.
But how did the man from Stevenage reach the top of the motorsport pyramid? Here is everything you need to know about the life of Sir Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton’s early career
The young Hamilton’s long climb to Formula 1 started when he began competing in British karting championships aged eight, winning several trophies including the STEP karting championship, Champions of the Future, and the Super One Series.
The road to F1 began in earnest when Hamilton in 1998 became the youngest driver to ever be contracted by a team when he signed for the McLaren Driver Development Support programme, aged 13.
In the same year, he graduated to Junior Intercontinental A level racing, coming second overall in the McLaren Mercedes Champions of the Future, while in 1999 Hamilton moved to race in Intercontinental A and won the Italian Industrials Championship.
In his penultimate year racing karts, Hamilton won the European Formula A series, winning all four rounds, as well as the World Cup Championship in Japan, and the second round of the Italian Open.
Move to open-wheel
In 2001, Hamilton brought his karting career to an end and moved into open-wheel racing in the British Formula Renault Winter series with Manor, finishing seventh in his first season. In 2002, he raced in Formula Renault UK, where he finished third in the championship, and fifth in Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup.
The future World Champion stayed in the series the following year, dominating with nine out of 10 wins in the final races of the season to take the title with room to spare ahead of his rivals.
With points to spare, Hamilton opted to miss the last two races of the year to make his British Formula 3 Championship debut.
However, the decision would prove to be ill-fated as the driver retired in the first race due to a puncture and in the second a crash with teammate Tor Graves landed him in hospital.
After the crash, he switched to race still with Manor in the Euroseries F3, winning in his first outing at the Norisring street track, with further wins at the Bahrain F3 Superprix and the Macau F3 Grand Prix.
Having proved his winning potential, Hamilton was given the opportunity to test an F1 car for the first time in late 2004 with McLaren.
The following year, the driver swapped teams to race with ASM in the Euroseries, dominating the grid on his way to 15 of 20 race victories, as well as taking victory at the Marlboro Masters of Formula 3 at Zandvoort.
Hamilton stars in GP2
Despite his overwhelming junior career success, Hamilton was still looking for a way to make it into a Formula 1 seat, and in a bid to secure a route onto the grid moved to GP2 with ASM sister team ART for the 2006 season.
The outfit had launched the career of Hamilton’s future teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg, and Hamilton was up against a tough grid of future F1 drivers including Nelson Piquet Jr and Timo Glock.
Battles with Piquet Jr, especially in the first rounds of the championship, set the tone for the season, but Hamilton began to find his stride and secured his first victory at the fifth race at the Nurburgring, despite earning a penalty for speeding in the pit lane. He went on to complete the double that weekend.
Further wins at Monte Carlo and Silverstone came, along with a remarkable recovery drive in Istanbul, and Hamilton clinched the title in odd circumstances at the penultimate race of that year at Monza, where he was granted a bonus point for fastest lap after Giorgio Pantano picked up a penalty for a yellow flag infringement.
With the success continuing to roll, the stage was set for the young Briton to fulfil his potential and make the step up into Formula 1.
Promotion to F1 with McLaren
After capping off his junior career with a GP2 title in 2006, Hamilton burst onto the Formula 1 scene in 2007 by joining one of racing’s most heralded teams, McLaren, after a seat became available following the departures of Juan Pablo Montoya to NASCAR and Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari.
Hamilton faced competition from Pedro de la Rosa, who had substituted for Montoya the previous year, and there was no guarantee that McLaren would opt for a rookie to fill the seat, having not started a season with an inexperienced driver since 1993.
But, ultimately, it was Hamilton who was given the drive, with team boss Ron Dennis explaining that he had “been in the family for a long time and he deserves the opportunity we are giving him.”
Partnering two-time and defending World Champion Fernando Alonso, Hamilton quickly showed he belonged with the biggest names on the grid, standing on the podium on his debut and taking four wins in his rookie F1 season. The victories included Montreal and Indianapolis, and that year Hamilton also set a record for the most podiums in a row in a rookie season, with nine on the trot following his maiden race.
The dream pairing would last for just one season as Alonso terminated his contract at the end of the campaign after numerous incidents between the two and increased tension within the team.
Hamilton’s scintillating start to life in F1 put him 12 points ahead in the World Championship before Alonso began to hit back. But relations between the pair soured with a series of incidents, including Alonso holding up his teammate in the pit lane after Hamilton looked to have ignored team orders to let the Spaniard pass him during qualifying.
Meanwhile, Hamilton continued to push for the Drivers’ title, and running into the last few races of the season looked to have the better of his teammate as well as Ferrari rival Raikkonen.
However, a series of incidents across the final two races – including retirement at the Chinese Grand Prix, where he slid off at the pit entry, and a gearbox issue in Brazil – cost him valuable points.
On the track, both McLaren drivers incredibly missed out on the world title by one point to Raikkonen, denying Hamilton the opportunity to become the first driver to win a Formula 1 title in his rookie year.
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“Is that Glock?!”
Hamilton continued to impress in 2008, taking home five victories and 10 podium finishes. Nevertheless, he attracted his fair share of critics, as he was accused of arrogance and dangerous driving.
Hamilton entered the final race of the season in a championship battle with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. The McLaren driver arrived with a seven-point advantage in the standings, but the race at Interlagos was a tricky one with changing weather conditions.
The Brazilian started from pole on a wet track with Hamilton fourth. Massa took the chequered flag, meaning Hamilton needed a fifth-place finish to take his first F1 world title. With light rain falling, one of F1’s most incredible finishes took place.
Hamilton managed to find his way past Timo Glock on the final corner of the last lap, in the last race of the season, to finish fifth, as the Toyota driver couldn’t find any grip with his dry-weather tyres on the wet track. The joy in the Ferrari garage, which had already begun to celebrate, quickly turned to despair as Hamilton became the sport’s youngest World Champion, until Sebastian Vettel claimed that honour in 2010.
Hamilton’s difficult 2009 season
It would be Hamilton’s only title with McLaren as Brawn took the field by storm in 2009.
Hamilton’s 2009 campaign started under a dark cloud when he was disqualified from the Australian Grand Prix after it was deemed he had provided the race stewards with deceptive information when Jarno Trulli passed him under the Safety Car to end the race.
The disappointment would continue for almost the entire season, with Hamilton and McLaren clearly lacking the pace to defend the title against the dominant Brawn GP. Hamilton registered just one victory all year.
However, he still managed to finish the season in fifth overall, behind the Brawn GP and Red Bull drivers.
An all-British line-up with Button
Jenson Button served as Hamilton’s teammate from 2010 to 2012, but McLaren would find themselves unable to match the pace shown by Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel.
As the young German driver took his first of four World Championships over the coming seasons, Hamilton had a much stronger campaign than the previous year, leading the championship at the halfway point after multiple wins. However, he would go on to finish in fourth overall.
The next year brought further trouble for Hamilton, who had multiple crashes and retirements across the year and finished behind his teammate for the first time in the points standings, despite taking three wins across the season.
In 2012, McLaren once again found themselves trailing Vettel and Red Bull, with a number of reliability issues hampering their campaign.
The end of that year would bring Hamilton and the team’s long-running relationship to an end as the driver made a surprise announcement to leave the outfit that signed him as a teenager and join the revitalised Mercedes works squad.
Hamilton swaps McLaren for Mercedes
As a result, Hamilton would leave the team he grew up with and replace the retiring Michael Schumacher at Mercedes for the 2013 season.
Seen by many as a gamble, given the team’s lack of success up to that point, the move didn’t pay off immediately as Hamilton claimed just one victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix in his maiden campaign.
Mercedes finished second in the championship that year, taking three wins, with one for Hamilton and two for teammate Nico Rosberg. Hamilton managed to edge out his teammate on the points tally over the course of the season.
Head-to-head with Rosberg
Since the introduction of turbo-hybrid power units in 2014, Hamilton has won every single Formula 1 Drivers’ title, with two exceptions. The first was 2016, when he was beaten to the punch by teammate Nico Rosberg.
The 2016 season saw the Mercedes teammates fight throughout the year, with Rosberg at an advantage as his title rival suffered from reliability issues despite the team retaining its comfortable advantage over the rest of the pack.
The pair clashed on multiple occasions, including a dramatic crash as Hamilton attempted to overtake his teammate at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, which took both drivers out of the race.
Rosberg shocked the F1 world when he retired following his world title victory in 2016, with Mercedes opting to sign Williams driver Valtteri Bottas as Hamilton’s new teammate.
That year, Ferrari and Vettel pushed Mercedes in the championship, with the German taking victory at the season-opener in Australia, while Bottas showed his calibre by taking wins in Russia and Austria.
Hamilton took yet another victory at his home Grand Prix at Silverstone, and brought home a string of wins after the summer break in Belgium, Singapore and Italy, leading the table into the last races and landing his third consecutive championship.
Mercedes continued to dominate in 2019, with Hamilton beating out challenges from Bottas and new Ferrari signing Charles Leclerc to secure the title once again with three races to spare, victory coming with a second-place finish in the USA for title number six.
Like most drivers, Hamilton’s 2020 season was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Hamilton himself contracted the virus at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain and was forced to sit out a race.
However, despite a resurgent challenge from Red Bull and Max Verstappen, Hamilton managed to secure a record-matching seventh World Championship on his way to breaking the record for most race wins in F1.
The driver took more than half of the race victories on offer in 2020, including another home Grand Prix win when his tyre punctured on the final lap and he had to bring the car over the line with three wheels.
A dramatic battle with Verstappen
Mercedes arrived into the 2021 season slightly on the back foot after some struggles during pre-season testing, leading team boss Toto Wolff to call it a “terrible” start to the year.
These fears were somewhat eased when Hamilton qualified on the front row of the grid at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, where he went on to win the race ahead of Max Verstappen.
It was soon clear that Red Bull would push the Silver Arrows more than in previous years, though, with a closely-fought battle for the title unfolding between Hamilton and Verstappen throughout 2021.
The fight resulted in some controversial moments, including a collision at the British Grand Prix as well as a second crash in Monza.
Ahead of the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the end of the 22-race calendar, Hamilton and Verstappen stood on equal points, with Hamilton having won eight races whilst Verstappen had been victorous at nine.
Hamilton looked strong in the race, and seemed to be on course to claim a record eighth World Championship. However, a late Safety Car call in the final laps of the Grand Prix allowed Verstappen to pit for fresh Soft tyres and overtake Hamilton – running on older Hard tyres – on the last lap.
As such, the Dutchman won the race and with it his first F1 title.
The turn of events caused much controversy, and Hamilton subsequently disappeared from public view, with radio silence on his social media channels for several weeks.
Going for eight world titles
Hamilton goes into 2022 still on the hunt for a record-breaking eighth F1 World Championship, having previously equalled Michael Schumacher’s tally of seven in 2020.
He also holds the record for most wins, pole positions and podium finishes.
Those successes on the track mean it’s no surprise that Hamilton is Formula 1’s highest-paid driver, with his contract for 2022 thought to be worth $40 million, to go along with an estimated net worth of over $300 million.
Hamilton’s influence extends outside of F1 as well, as he is a noted environmental and social activist, while making Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in 2020. He’s also launched a vegan restaurant called Neat Burger and purchased, along with a high-profile group of investors, the fashion magazine W.
The driver also owns the X44 electric racing team, which participates in the sustainability-focused off-road racing series Extreme E.
Additionally, Hamilton became a Sir when he received his knighthood at Windsor Castle in December 2021.