x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Hamilton's road to success

Lewis Hamilton caps off a remarkable season by winning the drivers' championship. We chart his career from humble beginnings to title success.

The new Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren celebrates with a team member following his fifth-place finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The new Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren celebrates with a team member following his fifth-place finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

It came as no surprise that Lewis Hamilton has achieved his goal of becoming Formula One world champion when reflecting on his career so far. Last year he showed a lack of experience in the final two races of the 2007 season, losing out to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. This time around the McLaren driver found luck was on his side as he squeezed into fifth position at Interlagos, enough to see him crowned world champion. He becomes the first black F1 champion, the youngest ever champion at 23 and the first British winner since Damon Hill in 1996. Hamilton seemed destined to become world champion when he took up the sport competitively at the age of eight in 1993. He approached the McLaren team boss Ron Dennis for an autograph after securing his British Karting Championship in 1995 and left the McLaren chief in no doubt of his intentions. "Hi I'm Lewis Hamilton," said the 10-year-old. "I won the British Championship and one day I want to be racing your cars." It has been a career, albeit a short one so far, that has seen Hamilton rise to stardom in a very short space of time. Helped by being fast-tracked by McLaren, he has attained a number of titles, whipped up a media storm and impressed champions from different eras with his attacking stye. Now he has lived up to his reputation. Here is his story so far. 1993-1995 Like many racing greats, Hamilton entered the sport as an eight-year-old, racing karts. It was here that his father, Anthony, made the young racer wear his trademark yellow helmet, so that he could spot his son on the track. His father dedicated his time and money into helping Lewis fulfil his dreams, taking up three jobs to fund his son's passion. Two years later, the Stevenage-born youngster wins his first title, the British Karting Championship. In the same year he won the Scientifically Treated Petroleum (STP) class. 1996-1997 The Briton added a further four British karting titles to his name. In 1996 he won the Five Nations Karting Championship, the Sky TV Kart Masters Championship and he did his future no harm by winning the McLaren-Mercedes Champion of the Future title, all at cadet class. In 1997 Hamilton retained his McLaren title from the previous year and added the British title in the Junior-Yamaha age group. 1998-2001 Hamilton now had the full backing of McLaren by signing up for their development plan. The team helped fund the prodigy in more prestigious competitions on the continent. He picked up the Intercontinental 'A' title in 1999 and progressed through the Formula A and Formula Super A ranks. In 2000 he won the European title with maximum points and became the World Karting Champion, thus being crowned the world No 1 at 15. He is still remains the youngest ever karting champion. He continued to impress in 2001 when he joined the British Formula Renault Winter Series, finishing fifth overall.

2002-2003 Hamilton graduated from his karting career and stepped into single seater cars, joining the Formula Renault class. He finished third in the championship standings. He continued to race in this division and won the title with two races to spare in 2003. In that year, he won ten races, achieved 11 poles and had nine fastest laps. 2004-2005 His career progression saw him join the Formula 3 Euroseries Championships. He raced for a rookie team called Manor Motorsport, finishing fifth in the final standings, securing one race win and two other podium placings. In 2005 he signed for the defending champions ASM. In a better car with more support, Hamilton secured the title with ease. He logged 15 race victories in a final championship points tally of 172. 2006 Hamilton's next venture was the GP2 competition. He won the title at the first attempt racing for the ART Race team. He amassed five race wins in a 114 point haul. The quick progression, especially in that year, earned him the right to step up to Formula One racing for McLaren alongside the 2006 champion Fernando Alonso. 2007 The Briton made the best rookie start to any F1 season in history. In his first nine races, he secured nine podiums. The impact Hamilton made on the sport was unexpected, most of all by his teammate Alonso, who never thought that his role within the team as top driver would come under threat, having joined the team as world champion from Renault. This caused some friction within the team and did not help either driver who were in a three-way battle with Raikkonen for the championship. Hamilton had a 17-point lead going into the penultimate race at Shanghai. Inexperience saw him throw away his lead to Raikkonen when he retired due to a blown tyre. A seventh place finish was not good enough at Interlagos and Hamilton missed out on the title by one point. Though his 109 point total was a record performance for a rookie driver in the sport. 2008 The disappointment of his runner-up place last year spurred the McLaren driver to make no mistakes second time around. He never dominated the season which has become a characteristic when he chases championships. He made mistakes and sometimes failed to live up to his promise. But at 23, he is the youngest ever Formula One champion. This title could be the first of many as he matures into one of the greatest drivers in the sport's golden age of talent. snelmes@thenational.ae