2006 GP2 Turkey Race 2 - Lewis Hamilton overtakes
Hamilton began karting in 1993 at the age of eight, at the Rye House Kart Circuit and quickly began winning races and Cadet class championships. At the age of ten he approached McLaren F1 team boss Ron Dennis for an autograph, and told him, "Hi. I'm Lewis Hamilton. I won the British Championship and one day I want to be racing your cars." Dennis wrote in his autograph book, "Phone me in nine years, we'll sort something out then." From the Cadet ranks, he progressed through to Junior Yamaha (1997) and Ron Dennis actually called him in 1998 after Hamilton won an additional Super One series and his second British championship. Dennis delivered on his promise and signed Hamilton to the McLaren driver development program. This contract included an option of a future F1 seat, which would eventually make Hamilton the youngest ever driver to secure a contract which later resulted in an F1 drive. Hamilton continued his progress in the Intercontinental A (1999), Formula A (2000) and Formula Super A (2001) ranks, and became European Champion in 2000 with maximum points. In Formula A and Formula Super A, racing for TeamMBM.com, his team mate was Nico Rosberg who would later drive for the Williams and Mercedes GP teams in Formula One. Following his karting successes the British Racing Drivers' Club made him a "Rising Star" Member in 2000. In 2001, Michael Schumacher made a one-off return to karts and competed against Hamilton along with other future F1 drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton ended the final in seventh, four places behind Schumacher. Although the two saw little of each other on the track Schumacher praised the young Briton (see quote box). Hamilton began his car racing career in the 2001 British Formula Renault Winter Series. Despite crashing on his third lap in the car in testing, he finished fifth overall in the winter series. This led to a full 2002 Formula Renault UK campaign with Manor Motorsport. Hamilton finished third overall with three wins and three pole positions. He remained with Manor for another year and won the championship with ten wins and 419 points to the two wins and 377 points of his nearest rival, Alex Lloyd. Having clinched the championship, Hamilton missed the last two races of the season to make his debut in the season finale of the British Formula Three Championship. Here he was less successful: in the first race he was forced out with a puncture, and in the second he crashed out and was taken to hospital after a collision with his team-mate Tor Graves. He did show his speed at both the Macau Grand Prix and Korea Super Prix, in the latter he qualified on pole position in his first visit to the track and in only his fourth F3 race. Asked in 2002 about the prospect of becoming one of the youngest ever Formula One drivers, Hamilton replied that his goal was "not to be the youngest in F1 ...[but] to be experienced and then show what I can do in F1". Later in 2004 Williams would announce that they had come close to signing him but were refused the opportunity due to BMW, their engine supplier at the time, refusing to fund Hamilton's career. Hamilton eventually re-signed with McLaren, and made his debut with Manor in the 2004 Formula 3 Euro Series. They won one race and Hamilton ended the year fifth in the championship. He also won the Bahrain F3 Superprix and raced one of the Macau F3 Grand Prix. Hamilton first tested for McLaren in late 2004 at Silverstone. Hamilton moved to the reigning Euro Series champions ASM for the 2005 season and dominated the championship, winning 15 of the 20 rounds. This would have been 16 but for being disqualified from one win at Spa-Francorchamps on a technical infringement that caught out several other drivers. He also won the Marlboro Masters of Formula 3 at Zandvoort. After the season British magazine Autosport featured him in their "Top 50 Drivers of 2005" issue, ranking Hamilton 24th.
Hamilton has matched or set the following records in Formula One:
* Most consecutive podiums from debut race: 9 – Australian GP 2007 – British GP 2007 (previous record was 2 by Peter Arundell – Monaco GP 1964 – Dutch GP 1964)
* Most consecutive podiums for a British driver: 9 – Australian GP 2007 – British GP 2007 (tied with Jim Clark – Belgian GP 1963 – South African GP 1963)
* Youngest driver to lead the World Championship: 22 years, 4 months, 8 days – at the Bahrain GP 2007 (Previous record was 23 years, 7 months, 22 days by Fernando Alonso at the Malaysian GP 2005)
* Most wins in a debut season: 4, Canadian, USA, Hungarian and Japanese GPs 2007 (equalling Jacques Villeneuve, European, British, Hungarian and Portuguese GPs 1996)
* Most pole positions in a debut season: 6, Canadian, USA, British, Hungarian, Japanese and Chinese GPs 2007 (Previous record was 3 held jointly by Jacques Villeneuve (1996) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2001))
* Most points in a debut season: 109
* Highest average points per race: 6.99
In his debut season, Hamilton took the record of Youngest World Drivers' Championship runner-up, at 22 years and 288 days, previously held by Kimi Räikkönen at 23 years and 360 days. In 2009, this record was taken by Sebastian Vettel, who was 22 years and 122 days when he secured runner-up position in the championship. Hamilton is the first driver of black heritage to compete in Formula One (although Willy T. Ribbs tested an F1 car in 1986) and the first driver of black heritage to win a major race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in any discipline. In addition, he is the third youngest driver to achieve an F1 pole position, and the fourteenth F1 driver to achieve a podium finish on his debut. During the 2007 European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, Hamilton became the first driver to have his car recovered by a crane and put back on the track during an F1 race, although several drivers have been pushed back onto the circuit by the marshals without mechanical aids when judged to be in a dangerous position, such as Michael Schumacher during the 2003 European Grand Prix. Since then, the FIA have now banned the use of mechanical assistance to help move a car back onto the track, meaning that Hamilton became the first and the last driver to have his car recovered by crane back onto the track. Lewis Hamilton's contract for the McLaren driver development program made him the youngest ever driver to secure a contract which later resulted in an F1 drive. Hamilton is known for his aggressive and interesting driving style. He commonly uses oversteer to control the car's direction change. Confidence in car control allows Hamilton to excel in wet conditions as demonstrated in his performance at the 2008 British Grand Prix. Confidence is also demonstrated when overtaking, as reflected in his 32 overtakes in 4 races during 2010. His aggressive style often attracts the attention of critics. For example, critics argued that Hamilton's defensive weaving during the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix in attempt to break the tow of Vitaly Petrov's chasing Renault was potentially dangerous. Hamilton was quick to defend himself to these accusations, but race director Charlie Whiting clarified after the race that such weaving would favour a penalty in the future. Due to the fact that Hamilton has said in the past that Ayrton Senna was his hero, some people assumed that his helmet is yellow in honour of him. In actuality it was made yellow so that his father could tell which kart his son was driving back in his karting days. Hamilton chose the colours blue, green and red and they were originally in a ribbon design however Hamilton later felt that the design was "a bit old hat" so it was changed. In later years a white ring was added and the ribbons moved forward to make room for adverts and logos. During the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton had an altered helmet design with the addition of a roulette wheel image on the top. Hamilton had said, "...I'll also be wearing a specially-painted helmet for the occasion. When you see it, you'll know why I'll be hoping for it to swing the odds in my favour."