By Thomas Dodd
- March 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of Briton Lewis Hamilton’s debut in Formula 1.
- Stevenage-born Hamilton has become the most successful British driver in the sport’s history and one of the best of all-time
- Hamilton will seek fourth world championship crown this in 2017 at Mercedes.
An instant impact, daring overtakes, sensational drives in difficult conditions, run-ins with the stewards and tensions with teammates. Lewis Hamilton’s decade in Formula 1 has been anything but plain sailing.
First win – Canadian Grand Prix – June 2007
Lewis Hamilton had already made waves by finishing on the podium in his first five races, but in Canada he took another step on the road to greatness in his rookie season and claimed victory. The race was also his first Formula 1 pole and gave him the lead in the World Championship – a position he would not relinquish until the very last race. A flawless drive convinced everyone, who at that point still needed convincing, that a star had been born.
The fallout with Fernando Alonso – 2007
The pot had been simmering away nicely between Hamilton and the defending champion after the rookie accused the team of giving the Spaniard preferential treatment, but in Hungary it boiled over when Fernando Alonso deliberately held the Briton up during the qualifying to give himself enough time to take claim pole. Hamilton won the race with ease, but the pair never saw eye to eye again and the Spaniard returned to Renault at the end of the year.
A debut season title slips by – Brazil 2007
It would have been a perfect story. The boy from Stevenage, driving for an English constructor led by a team principle he introduced himself to as a small boy winning the title in his first season. But it was not to be. After throwing away a chance to become World Champion in China two weeks earlier, lady luck refused to play ball at Interlagos and after suffering mechanical problems early on, Hamilton could only battle back to 7th and watch Kimi Raikkonen snatch the Championship by a single point.
A first British Grand Prix win – British Grand Prix 2008
Hamilton had taken pole a season before but could nothing to stop Ferrari’s Raikkonen storming to victory. In 2008, though, in changeable conditions the Brit was in a class of his own taking a maiden win in front of his home crowd. After a drought of six years, Hamilton returned to the top step of the podium at Silverstone in 2014 and has won the last two races in Britain as well and the Northamptonshire layout has become one of Hamilton’s most successful venues.
World Champion – Brazilian Grand Prix 2008
It was never going to be straightforward, and so it proved. In one of the most dramatic conclusions to a World Championship ever, Hamilton passed Timo Glock on the final corner of the final lap at the final race to realise his dream and deny Ferrari’s Felipe Massa by just one point. A sign of just how close Hamilton had come to another near miss? The Scuderia had already started celebrating in the pit garage.
“Maybe it’s because I’m black” – Monaco Grand Prix 2011
If there is one thing Hamilton has never shied away from during his Formula 1 career, it’s speaking his mind and giving the press a treasure chest worth of soundbites. After finding himself in front of the stewards’ office after the 2011 Monaco Grand Prix Hamilton delivered one of his most controversial, albeit blatantly tongue-in-cheek, statements by telling the BBC: “Maybe it’s because I’m black, that’s what Ali G says,” by way of explaining his frequent discussions with race officials.
Move to Mercedes – Winter 2012
Having first met McLaren team principle Ron Dennis at the age of 9, Hamilton and the British constructor were welded together in some form until the end of the 2012 season, when the 2008 World Champion announced he was leaving to replace Michael Schumacher at Mercedes. Despite a slow start he won his first race for the team in Hungary, but could not stop Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel claiming a fourth straight title.
Title number 2 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2014
With new rules in place for 2014 Red Bull lost its domination. Their loss was Mercedes’ gain as Hamilton and Nico Rosberg created an unbeatable silver wall at the front of the grid, breached just three time throughout the course of the season. The year culminated with Hamilton claiming title number two in Abu Dhabi – a race which offered double points for the first time in Formula 1 history.
Nico Rosberg – 2013-2016
After far more amicable relationships with Heikki Kovalainen and Jenson Button at McLaren following Alonso’s departure in 2007, everything seemed to be moving in the right direction with Nico Rosberg at Mercedes too. But when the Silver Arrow became the only contender for the title, the relationship in the garage became very cold. Hamilton and Rosberg collided several times between 2013 and 2016, with both usually blaming each other. The pair remained frosty with one another until Rosberg retired after winning last year’s title.
Title number 3 – United States Grand Prix 2015
While 2014 may have gone down to the wire as Hamilton and Rosberg traded the lead at the top standings, 2015 was anything but as close. Hamilton won 10 races to Rosberg’s six, and finished off the podium just twice to seal his third world championships with three rounds left.
Ten years in Motorsport’s pinnacle racing series have seen Hamilton become Britain’s most successful driver ever and one of the most decorated of all time, with 53 wins, three world titles and 61 pole positions. He will go into his 11th season in Formula 1 partnered with Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes, as he seeks a fourth world title to draw him level with Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost, only trailing Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher on the all-time list.
The Formula 1 seasons starts again on 24 March with the Australian Grand Prix.
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