Hamilton Is King

Posted on: 06 November 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

We take a look back at how a family pastime became a world conquering ambition.

Lewis Hamilton became the youngest ever Formula 1 World Champion on Sunday evening after a thrilling finale to the World Championship season in Brazil.

The 23-year-old British sensation finished fifth in the Brazilian Grand Prix to clinch the 2008 title and become the first black driver to win the Championship.

Needing to finish at least fifth to guarantee his crown, Hamilton came within seconds of losing the title but a dramatic final lap saw the Stevenage-born racer home in fifth place.

Final Standings

1) Lewis Hamilton 98

2) Felipe Massa 97

3) Kimi Raikkonen 75

4) Robert Kubica 75

5) Fernando Alonso 61

6) Nick Heidfeld 60

German driver Sebastian Vettel took the fifth position away from Hamilton midway through the race and with Felipe Massa holding onto the race lead, the Briton was staring at defeat in the drivers’ leaderboard.

However, first Vettel and then Hamilton managed to pass Timo Glock in the closing stages after Glock, unlike Hamilton, had risked staying on the wet track with dry-weather tyres. That decision proved costly as the McLaren driver moved back into fifth, ensuring he finished one point ahead of Massa in the overall standings.

Hamilton's success buries the ghosts of last year, when after a remarkable debut season he let slip a massive lead in the final two races and Kimi Raikkonen sneaked in to win the title.

There were no such slip-ups this time around in the fairytale story as Lewis Hamilton became the ninth Briton to win the Formula 1 World Championship.

Back To His Roots

Despite his quiet persona, it’s the self-certainty, assurance and guidance possessed and passed down by his father Anthony that has Lewis where he is today.

Lewis HamiltonWithout his father shining a light, providing the financial and emotional support, both Lewis and Anthony Hamilton might be working in office jobs in Stevenage. The story has become familiar of how Anthony made sacrifices to fund the young Lewis’s career.

“When we first started, I was earning £14,000 a year and I was spending £16,000 on mortgages,” Anthony says.

“We fell into this karting thing (kart racing), it was just something to bring the family together more than anything. We weren’t following anyone, we had no aspirations, and there are no sportsfolk in the family. It was just a great thing to do one afternoon.”

Lewis’s parents separated when he was two and the youngster lived with his mother and his two half-sisters before moving to his father’s at 12 alongside his stepmother and half-brother who has cerebral palsy.

The First Taste

His first taste of racing competition came at the controls of radio-controlled cars after Anthony had bought him one in 1991, aged just five.

Lewis excelled and even finished second in the national BRCA (British Radio Car Association) Championship the following year.

“I was racing these remote-controlled cars and winning club championships against adults,” says Lewis of the time.

That led to the kart racing for the first time. Aged just six, his father bought him a go-kart as a Christmas present and promised to support his racing career as long as he worked hard at school.

“Racing at any level, even go-karting is expensive - I was lucky my dad was behind to help me or I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Lewis says.

When supporting Lewis did become a problem, Anthony took redundancy as an IT manager and became a contractor - sometimes working up to three jobs at a time to support his son’s career - whilst also still finding enough time to attend all his races.

Lewis Hamilton and his dad Anthony“At times it was tough, very tough but he was good at it, people were realising the potential but more importantly he enjoyed racing,” Anthony says.

“I wouldn’t push him or make him carry on racing just because he was good. He was happy and that’s all you want as a parent; you want your child happy, safe and healthy and Lewis was.”

Anthony later set up his own computer company, as well as working as a manager for Lewis on a full time basis. Today, the link between father and son is closer than ever with Anthony doubling up as his advisor.

“Lewis is his own man, I don’t force anything onto him but sometimes he needs a bit of protection, from the press for example.”

“He’s still young and he can make his own mistakes but I’d like to think I can add an opinion of sorts when he needs it.”

Lewis’s meteoric rise led to him racing in the 2001 British Formula Renault Winter Series, the 2002 Formula Renault UK campaign and a debut in the British Formula Three Championship.

Lewis HamiltonThree years into his amateur motor sport career Lewis was already racing in the GP2 series, the breeding ground for young racers and a feeder level for Formula One and in 2006 he was given his big break in Formula One.

His 2006 GP2 Championship coincided with a vacancy at McLaren Mercedes following the departure of Juan Pablo Montoya to NASCAR and Kimi Räikkönen to Ferrari.

The Big Break

After months of speculation on whether Hamilton, Pedro de la Rosa, Gary Paffett or former World Champion Mika Häkkinen would be paired with defending champion Fernando Alonso in 2007, Hamilton was confirmed as the team's second driver.

He was told of McLaren’s decision on 30th September, but the news was not made public until 24th November, for fear that it would be overshadowed by Michael Schumacher’s retirement announcement.

“I don’t like having someone to blame for problems and in the same sense I don’t like crediting one person; I didn’t make Lewis into a racing driver, he wasn’t moulded and in the same sense he will admit he couldn’t have done it all on his own," Anthony says.

“Like in every sport, individual competition or work place, you need a good team in place and I think we were more than a good team. Once Lewis was given the news we knew it was just another ladder climbed and left us with one more goal.”

Lewis Hamilton (right) on the podium at Melbourne this yearThat goal came just almost exactly 24 months later.

Lewis came to enjoy the patronage of McLaren, and access to one of the fastest cars in the sport, but only by first proving his talent.

Now all that hard work has secured the sport's ultimate prize, there will be no let-up in expectations.

Three Is The Magic Number

Today the 23-year-old from Herfordshire is dating popstar Nicole Scherzinger - lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls - earns more money than he knows how to spend and has ambitions that do not extend much beyond winning the three World Championships - equalling Ayrton Senna's haul for McLaren - that will secure the car of his dreams as a reward from Ron Dennis, the team principal.

A McLaren FI LM, similar to what Lewis Hamilton has been promisedIn the McLaren factory sits an orange F1 LM worth about £5 million. Hamilton has coveted it since he was given a car book as a 10-year-old and was enraptured by the picture on the cover.

“I don't ever plan on trying to beat any of Michael Schumacher's records. It's not something that really appeals to me. I just want to win this car off Ron,” he says.

“I have gazed at it every time I've walked past it. I always open it up and smell it. It's carbon, it's fresh, it's No1 out of five and probably the most expensive, beautiful car in the whole world. I told Ron, 'That's the car I really want, what have I got to do for it?'”

Two more World Championships is the answer and Lewis will have his wish come true.

The Backing Of Hill

The last British driver to win the Formula 1 World Championship, Damon Hill has already backed Hamilton to go from strength to strength after his first Championship title.

“Lewis is a tremendous talent, a great ambassador for British motor sport and possibly one of the greatest drivers we have had in this country. He has got a World Championship in the bank and I think he is going to be difficult to stop from now on,” says the 1996 World Champion.

“It was such an exciting race. It has put Britain right back there at the top. A British driver as World Champion, driving for a British team - it's brilliant.”

“Next year will be a whole new experience for Lewis as World Champion. Expectations will be higher than ever, but he will also receive unbelievable support from the fans.”

Hamilton has proved himself to be very good. Now he is under pressure to show he is among the very best.

By Mark O'Haire

Did you watch Sunday’s Grand Prix? Was it the best race ever? Did Lewis Hamilton deserve to be crowned World Champion? Can he go on and equal Ayrton Senna’s record?

Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other readers in the 50connect forums.

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