Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton MBE (born 7 January 1985) is a British racing driver who races in Formula One for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. A five-time Formula One World Champion, he is often considered the best driver of his generation and widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport. He won his first World Championship title with McLaren in 2008, then moved to Mercedes where he won back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015 before winning back-to-back titles again in 2017 and 2018. The most successful British driver in the history of the sport, Hamilton has more World Championship titles (5) and more race victories (79) than any other British driver in Formula One. He also holds records for the all-time most career points (3,205), the most wins at different circuits (26), the all-time most pole positions (86) and the most grand slams in a season (3).
Born and raised in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Hamilton’s interest in racing started when his father bought him a radio-controlled carwhen he was six. He was signed to McLaren’s young driver support programme in 1998, after he approached McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at an awards ceremony three years earlier and said “one day I want to be racing your cars”. After winning the British Formula Renault, Formula 3 Euro Series, and GP2 championships on his way up the racing career ladder, he made his Formula One debut twelve years after his initial encounter with Dennis, driving for McLaren in 2007. Coming from a mixed background, with a black father and white mother, Hamilton is the first and only black driver to race in Formula One.
In his first season in Formula One, Hamilton set numerous records as he finished runner-up in the 2007 season to Kimi Räikkönenby just one point, including those for the most consecutive podium finishes from debut (9), the joint most wins in a debut season (4) and the most points in a debut season (109). The following season, he won his first title in dramatic fashion; on the last corner of the last lap in the last race of the season, becoming the then-youngest Formula One World Champion in history. After four more years with McLaren without finishing higher than fourth in the drivers’ standings, Hamilton signed with Mercedes in 2013, reuniting with his childhood karting teammate, Nico Rosberg. In his first season, he finished 4th once again, the third time in five years.
Changes to regulations mandating the use of turbo-hybrid engines contributed to the start of a highly successful era for Hamilton and Mercedes, during which he has won a further four World Championship titles. Hamilton won consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015 during an intense and sometimes volatile rivalry with teammate Nico Rosberg, to match his hero Ayrton Senna’s three World Championships. Following Rosberg’s retirement, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel became Hamilton’s closest rival as the pair engaged in two intense championship battles, but Hamilton prevailed to claim consecutive titles for the second time in his career in 2017 and 2018, joining Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as drivers with five or more World Championship titles.
Hamilton was born on 7 January 1985 in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England. Hamilton’s mother, Carmen (Larbalestier), is white British, while his father, Anthony Hamilton, is black British, making him mixed-race; he self-identifies as black. Lewis’s parents separated when he was two; as a result of this, he lived with his mother and half-sisters until he was twelve, when he started living with his father, stepmother Linda and half-brother Nicolas, also a professional racing driver, who has cerebral palsy. Hamilton was raised a Roman Catholic.
Hamilton’s father bought him a radio-controlled car in 1991, which gave him his first taste of racing competition before finishing second in the national BRCA championship the following year. He said of the time: “I was racing these remote-controlled cars and winning club championships against adults”. His father bought him a go-kart for Christmas when Hamilton was six and promised to support his racing career as long as he worked hard at school. To support his son, Anthony took redundancy from his position as an information technology manager and became a contractor; sometimes working up to three jobs at a time, while still attending all his son’s races. Anthony later set up his own computer company, still managing Lewis. Hamilton ended his working relationship with his father in early 2010.
Lewis Hamilton was educated at The John Henry Newman School, a voluntary aided Catholic secondary school in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. In addition to racing, he played association football for his school team with eventual England international Ashley Young. Hamilton, an Arsenal fan, said that if Formula One had not worked for him he would have been a footballer or a cricketer, having played both for his school teams. In February 2001 he began studies at Cambridge Arts and Sciences (CATS), a private sixth-form college in Cambridge. At the age of five Hamilton took up karate to defend himself as a result of bullying at school; later, he learned to ride a unicycle, as part of his karting rivalry with future Formula One Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, who could already ride one.
Hamilton began karting in 1993, when he was eight, at the Rye House Kart Circuit and quickly began winning races and Cadet class championships. Two years later, he approached McLaren Formula One 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.” Hamilton drove for Martin Hines’s Zip Young Guns Karting Team. By the age of 12, his driving skill was high enough that Ladbrokes took a bet, at 40/1 odds, that Hamilton would win a Formula One Grand Prix race before the age of 23; another predicted, at 150/1 odds, that he would win the World Drivers’ Championship before he was 25. He progressed through to Junior Yamaha in 1997, and in 1998, Dennis called Hamilton after he 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 Formula One seat, which would eventually make Hamilton the youngest ever driver to secure a contract which later resulted in a Formula One 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 teammate was Nico Rosberg who would later drive for the Williams and Mercedes teams in Formula One; they would later team up again for Mercedes in 2013. 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 Formula One 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.
2001–2005: Formula Renault and Formula Three
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 in which 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 3 Championship. In his 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 teammate Tor Graves.
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 Formula One” but rather “to be experienced and then show what I can do in Formula One”. Later in 2004, Williams would announce that they had come close to signing Hamilton but did not because BMW, their engine supplier at the time, would not fund him. He 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.
2006 season: GP2
Due to his success in Formula Three, he moved to ASM’s sister GP2 team ART Grand Prix for 2006. Like their sister team in F3, ART were the leaders of the field and reigning champions having taken the 2005 GP2 crown with Nico Rosberg. Hamilton won the GP2 championship at his first attempt, beating Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Timo Glock. His performances included a dominant win at the Nürburgring, despite a penalty for speeding in the pit lane. At his home race at Silverstone, supporting the British Grand Prix, Hamilton overtook two rivals at Becketts, a series of high-speed bends where overtaking is rare. In Istanbul he recovered from a spin that left him in eighteenth place to take second. Hamilton won the title in unusual circumstances, inheriting the final point he needed after Giorgio Pantano was stripped of fastest lap in the Monza feature race. In the sprint race, though he finished second with Piquet sixth, he was 12 points clear of his rival. His success in the GP2 championship coincided with a vacancy at McLaren following the departure of Juan Pablo Montoya to NASCAR and Kimi Räikkönen to Ferrari. After months of speculation on whether Hamilton, Pedro de la Rosa or Gary Paffett would be paired with defending champion Fernando Alonso for 2007, Hamilton was confirmed as the team’s second driver. He was told of McLaren’s decision at the end of September, but the news was not made public for almost two months, for fear that it would be overshadowed by Michael Schumacher’s retirement announcement.
—Michael Schumacher, speaking about Hamilton in 2001.
Formula One career
2007 season: A record-breaking rookie year
In his first season in Formula One, Hamilton partnered defending double World Champion Fernando Alonso who had joined McLaren after leaving Renault. On his debut at the Australian Grand Prix, he finished third, becoming the 13th driver to finish on the podium on his debut. At the next two rounds in Bahrain and Barcelona, Hamilton finished second behind Felipe Massa to take the lead in the Drivers’ Championship, to become the youngest driver ever to lead the World Championship. After finishing second behind Alonso at Monaco, Hamilton suggested he was prevented from racing his teammate, but the FIA cleared McLaren following an investigation. Hamilton achieved both his first pole position and first victory of his Formula One career in the Canadian Grand Prix. A week later Hamilton won the United States Grand Prix, becoming the first Briton since John Watson in 1983 to win a Formula One race in the US.
Hamilton finished third at Magny-Cours behind Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa, to extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship to 14 points. In his first home Grand Prix at Silverstone, Hamilton finished third to equal Jim Clark’s 1963 record of 9 consecutive podium finishes for a British driver. This run came to an end at the European Grand Prix where during qualifying, Hamilton crashed at the Schumacher chicane after a problem with a wheel nut. He was unable to complete qualifying so started in tenth position. During a heavy rainstorm which ultimately stopped the race, Hamilton slid off into a gravel trap, but managed to keep his engine running and was lifted back on to the circuit and able to rejoin the race after the restart. He went on to finish out of the points in ninth, and was the first and only driver to have his car recovered by a crane and put back on the track during a race. The FIA subsequently banned the use of mechanical assistance to move a car back on track.
Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix from pole following a controversial qualifying session in which teammate Alonso, having set the fastest time, was given a five place grid penalty for preventing Hamilton from leaving the pit lane in time to complete his final lap. After the race Hamilton declared that he had restored his relationship with Alonso. At the Turkish Grand Prix Hamilton suffered a puncture and ultimately finished fifth. Alonso beat Hamilton in the Italian and Belgian Grands Prix, reducing Hamilton’s lead in the championship to just 2 points. He increased his lead to 12 points after winning the Japanese Grand Prix in heavy rain after Alonso crashed. After the race, Hamilton was investigated by the race stewards over his involvement in an incident behind the safety car, but was cleared ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, where Hamilton, starting from pole, retired after sliding into a gravel trap as he came into the pit lane. Hamilton went into the final race of the season four and seven points ahead of Alonso and Räikkönen respectively.
In the Brazilian Grand Prix Hamilton finished seventh and Räikkönen won, which meant that Hamilton came second in the championship by a point. On the first lap Hamilton was passed by several cars and dropped to eighth; eight laps later he could not select a gear and ending up coasting for 40 seconds. He recovered to seventh place but Ferrari switched their two drivers allowing the championship to go to Räikkönen. Hamilton took the record of Youngest World Drivers’ Championship runner-up, at 22 years and 287 days, previously held since 1960 by Bruce McLaren at 23 years and 5 days; Hamilton’s record has since been beaten by Sebastian Vettel in 2009. In October the FIA began investigating BMW Sauber and Williams for fuel irregularities; the BMW drivers had finished in fifth and sixth place, and if they were to be excluded Hamilton would be promoted to fifth and would win the 2007 Drivers World Championship by one point over Räikkönen. Ultimately neither team was penalized; McLaren appealed. Hamilton subsequently told the BBC he did not want to win a Formula One title through the disqualifications of other drivers.
The first public indication that Hamilton was unhappy with the team appeared after he finished second at Monaco in 2007. After post-race comments made by Hamilton which suggested he had been forced into a supporting role, the FIA investigated whether McLaren had broken rules by enforcing team orders. McLaren denied favouring double world champion Fernando Alonso, and the FIA subsequently vindicated the team, stating that: “McLaren were able to pursue an optimum team strategy because they had a substantial advantage over all other cars. They did nothing which could be described as interfering with the race result”.
Tensions surfaced again at the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix, where during the final qualifying session for the race Hamilton was delayed in the pits by Alonso and thus unable to set a final lap time before the end of the session. Alonso was relegated to sixth place on the starting grid thus promoting Hamilton, who had originally qualified second, to first, while McLaren were docked Constructors’ Championship points. Hamilton said he thought Alonso’s penalty was “quite light if anything” and only regretted the loss of constructors’ points. Hamilton was reported to have sworn at Dennis on the team radio following the incident. British motorsport journal Autosport claimed that this “[led] Dennis to throw his headphones on the pit wall in disgust: a gesture that was misinterpreted by many to be in reaction to Alonso’s pole”, however McLaren later issued a statement on behalf of Hamilton which denied the use of any profanity.
As a result of these events, the relationship between Hamilton and Alonso reportedly collapsed, with the pair not on speaking terms for a short period. In the aftermath it was reported that Hamilton had been targeted by Luca di Montezemolo regarding a Ferrari drive for 2008. The rivalry between the pair led to speculation that either Hamilton or Alonso would leave McLaren at the end of the season. Alonso and McLaren subsequently terminated their contract by mutual consent in November.
2008 season: Youngest-ever world champion
A month after Alonso’s departure, it was confirmed that Heikki Kovalainen would drive the second car for McLaren in 2008 alongside Hamilton, who signed a new five-year multimillion-pound contract to stay with the team until 2012. Hamilton won the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, from pole. In Malaysia, he finished fifth from ninth on the grid, serving a penalty for impeding Nick Heidfeld’s qualifying lap. He was back on the podium in Spain where he finished third, before finishing second in Turkey, and winning the Monaco Grand Prix to take the lead of the championship. In Montreal, Hamilton crashed into the back of Räikkönen during the race, after failing to see that the Finn was waiting at a red light at the end of the pit lane as the whole field went past under the guide of the safety car, causing both cars to retire. Hamilton was given a 10-position grid penalty for the next race, the French Grand Prix.
Despite an error in qualifying that saw him start fourth, Hamilton went on to win the British Grand Prix in difficult, wet conditions in a performance regarded as one of the best of his career. In the next race at Hockenheim, Hamilton won despite a tactical blunder by his team’s strategists. Hamilton won the Belgian Grand Prix, but was later judged to have gained an unfair advantage by cutting a chicane to avoid hitting Räikkönen. McLaren said that their telemetry showed Hamilton backed off to let Räikkönen past but Hamilton was given a 25-second penalty, which relegated him to third and handed title rival Massa victory. Hamilton’s lead in the Drivers’ Championship was cut to two points, and an appeal by McLaren to the FIA World Motor Sport Council was rejected. The Italian Grand Prix saw Hamilton finish seventh, and Hamilton’s lead in the championship was reduced to one point.
Hamilton finished third at the next race in Singapore, while Massa failed to score any points, allowing Hamilton to increase his championship lead to seven points. In Fuji, Hamilton was given a drive-through penalty for forcing other cars off the track when he made an error on the first lap. Before he could serve the penalty Hamilton attempted to pass Massa, who hit him after making a mistake. Massa was later given a drive-through penalty for this move and Hamilton finished twelfth. With just two races to go, Hamilton led the World Championship by five points from Massa. In China, Hamilton won the race to take a seven-point lead in the World Championship into the last race of the season. Speaking afterwards, Hamilton said “All weekend we have had God on our side as always, and the team did a phenomenal job in preparing the car, which has been a dream to drive.”
At the Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton needed to finish at least fifth, if Massa won the race, to secure the World Championship. Just before the race began a rain shower struck and Hamilton ran in fourth place before dropping down to sixth after pitting for dry tyres. Intermittent rainfall meant all drivers stopped multiple times between wet and dry tyres and, with three laps remaining and Massa leading the race, Hamilton was running in fifth and needed only to maintain position to secure the title. On the penultimate lap, Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel passed Hamilton, meaning the British driver started the final lap in sixth position and looking unable to retake fifth place from the German. However, on the final lap he and Vettel made up an 18-second gap to overtake Timo Glock, who was struggling on dry tyres, on the last corner to re-take fifth place and deny race-winner Massa the title by one point.This made Hamilton the youngest driver to win the World Drivers’ Championship, the first black driver, and the first British driver to win the World Championship since Damon Hill in 1996.
Hamilton was verbally heckled and otherwise abused during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya by several Spanish spectators who wore black face paint and black wigs, as well as shirts bearing the words “Hamilton’s familly [sic]”. Hamilton became unpopular in Spain because of his rivalry with Spanish former teammate Alonso. The FIA warned Spanish authorities about the repetition of such behaviour and launched a “Race Against Racism” campaign.Shortly before the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, a website owned by the Spanish branch of the New York–based advertising agency TBWA and named “pinchalaruedadeHamilton”, which translates into English as ‘burst Hamilton’s tyre’, was featured in the British media. The site contained an image of Interlagos that allowed users to leave nails and porcupines on the track for Hamilton’s car to run over. Among thousands of comments left since 2007, some included racial insults. His rival, Alonso, condemned the racist abuse.
Hamilton started the season opener of the 2009 season in Australia from eighteenth on the grid after the McLaren team incurred a penalty for changing his gearbox during qualifying. Hamilton benefited from a late crash between Vettel and Kubica to move into fourth place by the end of the race. He was then promoted to third after Jarno Trulli was penalised for overtaking him under safety-car conditions. During a post-race stewards’ hearing, Hamilton and McLaren officials told stewards they had not purposely let Trulli pass, which was contradicted by the release of the McLaren race radio communication. Hamilton was then disqualified from the race for providing “misleading evidence” during the stewards’ hearing. He later privately apologised to FIA race director Charlie Whiting for having lied to the stewards. He went on to describe the incident as the hardest week of his life, and considered quitting Formula On.
After failing to score points in five consecutive races, Hamilton made public calls to scrap the car and a former team owner and commentator Eddie Jordan described the MP4-24 as “possibly the worst car McLaren have ever designed”. However, after bringing upgrades to the car, McLaren and Hamilton’s fortunes were reversed at the Hungaroring, the tenth round of the season where he won the race to take his 10th career win and the first for a KERS-equipped car. McLaren’s return to form continued in Valencia, where Hamilton finished second. At the Singapore Grand Prix, Hamilton took his second win of the season. He finished third at the Japanese and Brazilian Grands Prix. In the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton led the race, but retired on lap 20 due to a rear brake problem, his first technical-related retirement in Formula One. Hamilton finished the season in fifth place in the World Drivers’ Championship.
2010 season: Another title challenge
For the 2010 season Hamilton drove alongside Jenson Button, who joined McLaren after Heikki Kovalainen’s departure to Lotus Racing. Hamilton finished third at the season opener in Bahrain and finished in sixth place at the next race in Australia after a late-race collision with Mark Webber. Hamilton started from twentieth place on the grid in Malaysia after a poor tyre choice by McLaren left him out on dry tires in wet conditions. He recovered, passing a number of cars in the race, to finish sixth. Hamilton achieved a second-place finish in China behind Button, completing McLaren’s first 1–2 finish since the 2007 Italian Grand Prix. In Monaco Hamilton qualified and finished fifth. Hamilton’s fortunes improved in the Turkish Grand Prix, where he claimed his first victory of the season as he and Button completed a 1–2.
Hamilton qualified on pole for the Canadian Grand Prix, his third in as many attempts at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. After setting his pole lap, Hamilton received instructions from his team to stop on circuit due to a lack of fuel in the car which would not be sufficient for a sample to be taken by the FIA. Hamilton was reprimanded after failing to complete his in-lap in a sufficient time and the team was fined $10,000. Hamilton went on to win the race and take the lead in the Drivers’ Championship after McLaren’s third 1–2 of the season. In Valencia, Alonso complained on his radio that Hamilton had gained an advantage by not following the safety car, and Hamilton subsequently received a drive-through penalty.
He finished second at his home race at Silverstone, and followed it up with fourth at the German Grand Prix. Despite running into the gravel, Hamilton won in Spa to reclaim the championship lead. However, successive crashes at the Italian and Singapore Grands Prix dropped him to third in the championship. In Japan, Hamilton finished fifth, followed by a second-place finish in South Korea. He finished fourth at the Brazilian Grand Prix meaning he would remain in contention for the title going into the last race of the season. In the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton finished second to Vettel, who won the World Drivers’ Championship and broke Hamilton’s record for being the youngest ever Formula One World Champion.
2011–2012: Final years with McLaren
At the start of the 2011 season, Hamilton dismissed Red Bull Racing as “just a drinks company”. Hamilton began the season qualifying and finishing second in the Australian Grand Prix, despite having floor damage to his McLaren.In Malaysia, he qualified second but finished seventh in the race after being tagged by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the closing stages. Hamilton received a 20-second time penalty post-race for weaving whilst defending, dropping Hamilton to eighth place. Hamilton took his first win of the season in China, before finishing fourth in Turkey, and second in Spain. In Monaco, Hamilton qualified tenth after Q3 was red-flagged before he could set a time due to a heavy crash from Sergio Pérez. During the race Hamilton received a drive-through penalty and was involved in two further collisions, the last of which he was given a 20-second time penalty for. After the race, Hamilton said that he felt victimized by the FIA, having been summoned to the stewards in five out of six races in the season so far. When asked to why he had been targeted by the stewards so much, Hamilton replied in jest, “Maybe it’s because I’m black, that’s what Ali G says”.
At the Canadian Grand Prix, Hamilton collided with Webber at the first corner before rejoining behind his teammate, Button. A few laps later Hamilton attempted to pass Button who pushed Hamilton into the pitwall, forcing him to retire with a broken driveshaft. Hamilton finished fourth in Valencia and Silverstone. In Germany, Hamilton took his second victory of the season, before a chaotic race in Hungaryin which Hamilton had five pitstops and a drive-through penalty after which he finished fourth. He finished fourth at Monza after a race long battle with Michael Schumacher, In the Singapore Grand Prix, Hamilton collided with Massa which left Hamilton needing a new front wing and serving a drive through penalty. Massa accused Hamilton of being “incapable of using his brain,” during a post race interview and grabbed Hamilton’s shoulder before sarcastically retorting “Good job, bum”; Hamilton told the Brazilian to leave him alone. In Japan, Hamilton suffered a puncture before once again tangling with Massa, although Hamilton escaped a reprimand and finished fifth.
In Korea, Hamilton took pole position, ending a run of 16 consecutive pole positions for Red Bull. However, he was passed on the first lap by Vettel who went on to win the race as Hamilton finished second. At the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, Hamilton recorded the second-fastest time in qualifying, but was penalized three places on the starting grid, after a yellow-flag infraction in Friday practice. Hamilton finished seventh after yet another incident with Massa for which the Brazilian received a penalty as Hamilton had to replace the front wing. In Abu Dhabi, Hamilton qualified second and won the race. After retiring from the Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton and Massa ended their feud as the two drivers spoke after the race before sharing a hug. Hamilton also apologized to his team for the “mishaps” throughout the season, and vowed that “2012 will be a good one”. Hamilton finished fifth overall in the championship, recording three wins, six podium finishes and one pole position. He also finished behind a teammate in the World Championship for the first time in his career as Button finished runner-up.
Hamilton remained at McLaren alongside Button for the 2012 season. Hamilton qualified in pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, but finished third after being passed by Button at the start, and by Vettel after pitting before a safety car. Hamilton again qualified on pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix, but in the race was passed early on by Fernando Alonso and Sergio Pérez, finishing third. Hamilton took his third consecutive third-place finish in China, with Nico Rosberg and Button ahead. Hamilton qualified in second place in Bahrain, but during the race, a series of poor pit stops put him out of contention, and he finished eighth. Hamilton was also involved in a controversial racing incident with Rosberg, with Rosberg appearing to push Hamilton off track while he attempted to overtake. Hamilton qualified on pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix, but had to stop the car on track in order for a reputable fuel sample to be given post-qualifying. The stewards decided he had breached qualifying rules introduced after a similar incident involving Hamilton at the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix and excluded him from the qualifying results, and demoted him to the back of the grid; but despite this, Hamilton finished eighth, ahead of Button, who had started in tenth.
Hamilton achieved his first victory of the season at the Canadian Grand Prix, his third win at in Montreal, after overtaking Alonso in the closing stages. Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix to claim his second win of the season. Hamilton, along with championship leader Fernando Alonso, retired from the Belgian Grand Prix after being involved in a multiple car accident on the first corner of the race for which Romain Grosjean was deemed responsible and was given a one-race ban. Hamilton bounced back with pole position for the Italian Grand Prix, and led for the majority of the race to claim his third victory of the season and keep his hopes of winning the Drivers’ Championship alive. Hamilton again qualified on pole at the Singapore Grand Prix, but suffered a gearbox failure whilst leading the race. He also retired from the lead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, before winning the United States Grand Prix in Austin. Hamilton’s season ended with another pole position and retirement in Brazil, when he was involved in a collision with Nico Hülkenberg while leading in the late stages. He finished in fourth place in the World Championship.
2013 season: First win with Mercedes
In September 2012, it was announced after much speculation that Hamilton would be leaving McLaren to join the Mercedes for the 2013 season, partnering Nico Rosberg after signing a three-year contract with the team. The move was met the surprise by pundits and the public, with some describing the move to Mercedes, a team with no recent history of success, as a gamble. It was later revealed that three-time World Drivers’ Champion, Niki Lauda, was one of the key figures in persuading Hamilton to join Mercedes.
In his first race for Mercedes, the Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton qualified in third and ended the race in fifth.Hamilton finished third in Malaysia to take his first podium for the team, although Rosberg was prevented from attempting to overtake him by team orders.At the following race in China, Hamilton secured his first pole position for Mercedes, but finished in third. At Monaco after being out-qualified by his teammate Rosberg for the third successive race, Hamilton admitted that he was struggling to control the car under braking. Prior to the race, both Red Bull and Ferrari had lodged formal complaints against Mercedes for taking part in what was determined to be an illegal 1,000-kilometre (620 mi) tyre test. Neither Mercedes drivers received any punishment for the breach of rules, and Mercedes was given a reprimand.
At the Hungarian Grand Prix, Hamilton won the race from an unexpected pole position, eventually crossing the line nearly 11 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Kimi Räikkönen. It was Hamilton’s first win as a Mercedes driver, making him the first British driver to win a Formula One race in a Mercedes works car since Stirling Moss at the 1955 British Grand Prix and continued Hamilton’s streak of winning at least one race prior to the mid-season break. At the Belgian Grand Prix he secured his fifth and last pole position of the season and finished the race third. Although he did not score any podiums for the rest of the season, a string of point finishes helped him end the season in fourth place.
2014 season: Second world title
New driver number regulations for the 2014 season allowed drivers to pick a unique car number to use for their entire career. Hamilton chose the number 44, which he used during his karting days. After pre-season testing in Jerez, Mercedes were widely considered favorites for 2014, appearing to have reacted well to changes to regulations mandating the use of turbo-hybrid engines.
Mercedes’ anticipated pace was realized at the season opener in Australia where Hamilton took pole, although he was later forced to retire while teammate Rosberg won by over 20 seconds. In Malaysia, Hamilton won his first race of the season from pole in a Mercedes 1–2, the team’s first since 1955. In Bahrain, Hamilton qualified in second place as both Mercedes cars locked out the front-row. Hamilton engaged in a close duel with Rosberg throughout the race. A late safety car seemingly swung the favour to Rosberg, who had the benefit of being on a faster tyre, but after the restart Hamilton held firm in a close wheel-to-wheel encounter to take consecutive victories for the first time since 2010. After the race the pair engaged in a mock fight, although it later emerged that Rosberg had used engine modes banned by Mercedes to give himself a power advantage over Hamilton in the closing laps.
Hamilton dominated in China where he took pole and then led every lap of the race to completed a hat-trick of wins for the first time in his career. Mercedes continued to dominate in Spain where Hamilton once again set pole position and went on to win the race, his fourth successive win. In Monaco, Hamilton qualified second behind Rosberg who, on provisional pole, ran deep at Mirabeau and drove into a sliproad, prompting yellow flags and forcing Hamilton to abort his final qualifying lap. Several pundits made suggestions of foul play, but the stewards cleared Rosberg of any wrongdoing. Hamilton made clear that he felt Rosberg had ruined his lap on purpose and, after starting and finishing the race second, announced that he and Rosberg were no longer friends. Rosberg won the race with Hamilton finishing second. During qualifying in Germany, Hamilton had a brake failure and started twentieth before recovering to finish third. An engine fire in qualifying in Hungary meant he started from the pit lane from where he again managed to finish to third ahead of Rosberg.
At the first race after the summer break in Belgium, Hamilton took the lead from Rosberg at the start but a collision between them on lap two punctured his rear tyre and he later retired from the race. Wins from pole in Italy and Singapore saw Hamilton take the lead in the Drivers’ Championship. Hamilton followed this by victories in Japan, the Russia and the United States to achieve five consecutive victories for the first time in his career. In the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, teams and drivers scored double the amount of points awarded for race finish positions for the first time in the history of Formula One. Hamilton had a perfect start, passing Rosberg before Turn 1 to take the lead before going on to win to secure his second World Championship title. Rosberg ultimately finished down in fourteenth, as problems with the ERS system on his car significantly reduced his pace. Despite advise over the radio to retire the car, Rosberg said he would like to go to the end and finish the race, which he ultimately did. An emotional Hamilton said over his team radio after crossing the line, “This is the greatest day of my life”. Ahead of the podium ceremony, Rosberg entered into the cooldown room to congratulate Hamilton on winning the title. Hamilton later paid tribute to Rosberg for his graciousness in defeat. Hamilton finished the season with 384 points, recording 11 wins and 7 pole positions.
2015 season: Third world title
Before the start of the season, Hamilton announced he would not be exercising his option of switching his car number to 1 for the 2015 season, as was his prerogative as reigning World Champion, and would instead continue to race with his career number 44. It was the first season since 1994, when Alain Prost retired from the sport following his fourth and final World Drivers’ Championship title in 1993, that the field did not contain car bearing the number 1. Mercedes looked to again be the fastest car on the grid for the 2015season, as the new W06 Hybrid completed more laps in pre-season testing than any rival car, and did so using just one power unit.At the opening race in Australia, Hamilton qualified in pole position before winning the race ahead of Rosberg in second, with Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari in third, 34 seconds back. After taking pole before finishing second in Malaysia, Hamilton won from pole in both China and Bahrain meaning he had taken a total of 93 points out of a possible 100 after four rounds. Entering the eight-race European portion of the season, Hamilton carried a 27-point lead over Rosberg, which was quickly reduced as he finished second behind his teammate in Spain.
Ahead of the Monaco, Mercedes announced they had extended the contract with Hamilton for three additional years, keeping him with the team until the end of the 2018 season in a deal reportedly worth more than £100 million over the three years, making him one of the best paid drivers in Formula One, as well as allowing Hamilton to retain his own image rights, which is considered unusual in the sport, and keep his championship winning cars and trophies. In the race, Hamilton looked on course to win the race having led for 65 laps, but an error by the Mercedes strategists who wrongly called him in for a pit-stop handed the win to Rosberg while Hamilton finished third.Mercedes later apologised for the mistake.
Hamilton returned to the top of the podium by winning from pole in Canada and Britain, the latter for the second time in a row and third overall, also surpassing Jackie Stewart’s 45-year-old record of laps led in eighteen consecutive Grands Prix. He finished sixth in an eventful Hungarian Grand Prix, ending his run of 16 consecutive podium finishes, the second-longest in Formula One history. Hamilton won from pole in Spa and took his second career grand slam in Monza to extend his championship lead over Nico Rosberg, who was forced to retire in the latter race due to engine failure, to 53 points. At the Singapore Grand Prix, Hamilton was only able qualify in fifth ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg, and had moved up to fourth in the race before he was forced to retire due to a power unit issue. Hamilton recovered from his retirement in Singapore by winning in Japan and Russia, meaning he could clinch the title at the next race in the United States, with three races to spare.
Starting behind his teammate, Hamilton very aggressively forced Rosberg wide at Turn 1 to claim the lead before a thrilling race unfolded where the advantage continuously swung between both Mercedes drivers and the chasing Red Bulls. Rosberg led in the closing stages but made a mistake at Turn 12, running deep and letting his teammate through a handful of laps from the flag. Hamilton never relinquished the lead and claimed his third championship. Rosberg was furious after the race, saying his teammate’s Turn 1 move had been “one step too far”. He infamously threw his podium cap at Hamilton as they waited to take the podium. Hamilton called his third title “the greatest moment of my life”, thanking his father and his family for their support. Comparing the title win to his two previous ones, he said: “the last two times were really climactic in the last race. This one still feels just as special if not more special […]. It has kind of topped last year for me – it’s equalling Ayrton [Senna]”. After securing his third title, Hamilton finished in second behind his teammate in the final three races of the season in Mexico, Brazil, and Abu Dhabi. Hamilton ended the season with 381 points, recording 10 wins and 11 pole positions to win the FIA Pole Trophy for most pole positions of the season and the DHL Fastest Lap Award.
2016 season: Runner-up to Rosberg
For the second year in a row, Hamilton decided not to exercise his prerogative as reigning World Champion to bear the number 1 on his car, and would instead race with his career number 44. In pre-season testing, Mercedes covered the most distance in testing, almost 5,000 km (3,100 mi) and once again looked to be favourites for both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships. At the season opener in Australia, Hamilton qualified on pole. After a poor start, he recovered to finish second behind Rosberg. In the second race of the season in Bahrain, Hamilton again qualified on pole. In the race however, Hamilton was crashed into on the first lap by Bottas, for which Bottas was handed a drive-through penalty, before recovering to finish the race in third behind Rosberg and Räikkönen. In China, Hamilton did not set a time in qualifying and started at the back of the grid. He got as high up fifth but was overtaken by Räikkönen and Ricciardo near the end of the race to finish seventh. In Russia, Hamilton did not set a time in the third part of qualifying, meaning he started from tenth on the grid. He finished second behind Rosberg, despite having zero water pressure for the last sixteen laps. After the first four rounds, Hamilton entered the European rounds of the season yet to win a race and trailing Rosberg, who had won the every race so far, in the Drivers’ standings by 43 points.
In Spain, Hamilton started on pole ahead of Rosberg. The start of the race saw Hamilton and Rosberg collide, causing both drivers to retire from the race. Both drivers made good starts, but Rosberg passed Hamilton around the outside of Turn 1. In the next few corners, Rosberg’s car entered an incorrect engine mode due to an error the German had made on the formation lap, meaning he was slower than Hamilton coming out of Turn 3, and Hamilton went to overtake for the lead. Rosberg forced Hamilton on to the grass where he lost control, eventually spinning into Rosberg and taking both drivers out of the race. The stewards deemed it a racing incident and decided Hamilton had been justified in his attempt as he was 17 kilometres per hour (11 mph) quicker than Rosberg coming out of Turn 3.
Hamilton took his first win of the season in Monaco before winning the next race in Canada. Hamilton finished fifth in Baku after struggling with a software issue that limited his engine’s ability to harvest energy. The next four rounds saw Hamilton take four consecutive wins for the third time in his career as he reclaimed the lead in the Drivers’ standings. The first of which was in Austria, where Hamilton and Rosberg made contact as Hamilton tried to pass his teammate on the final lap. The stewards found Rosberg guilty for causing an avoidable collision and handed him a ten-second penalty. A week later, Hamilton completed a hat-trick of wins at the British Grand Prix,before taking the championship lead in the following race in Hungary, which was extended to 19 points after winning in Germany. Despite having reclaimed the lead from Rosberg, Hamilton remained pessimistic about his title hopes as, with nine races left in the season, he was anticipating grid penalties for exceeding his engine allocation.
2017 season: Fourth world title
At the season opener in Australia, Hamilton took pole ahead of his new Mercedes teammate Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Vettel ultimately took victory, with Hamilton only able to take second after being stuck behind Verstappen after his first pit-stop. Journalists and commentators suggested that the race signalled an end to the Mercedes dominance of the past two seasons. Hamilton took his first win of the season at the next race in China where he won from pole led every lap and set the fastest lap to give the Mercedes driver his third career Grand Slam. Hamilton received a penalty as he finished runner-up in Bahrain, and raised concerns over the pace of his car. At the next race in Sochi, Hamilton struggled for pace and finished fourth, while teammate Bottas took his first Grand Prix win.
Mercedes brought a series of upgrades to the Spanish Grand Prix, and qualifying saw Hamilton take pole ahead of Vettel. Hamilton went on to secure victory after passing Vettel in the latter half of the race, reducing the German’s lead in the championship to six points. However, two weeks later in Monaco, Hamilton qualified in fourteenth as he struggled to warm his tyres as well as his final flying lap being impeded by an accident involving Stoffel Vandoorne while Ferrari locked out the front row. Hamilton recovered to finish seventh, while Vettel won the race and extended his championship lead to 25 points. Hamilton responded by taking pole in Canada, equalling his hero Ayrton Senna with the 65th of his career. He was presented with one of Senna’s old helmets, a gift from the late Brazilian’s family for equalling his record. Upon receiving the gift, Hamilton paid tribute to the Brazilian three-time World Champion, saying “He inspired me to be where I am today so to receive this is the greatest honour”. Hamilton went on to win, leading every lap of the race and setting the fastest lap for his second Grand Slam of the season.
Hamilton secured his fifth pole of the season at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as he looked to reduce the deficit to championship leader Vettel. The race was full of incident, with three safety cars and a red flag. Just before the second safety car period was ending, Vettel rear-ended Hamilton, accusing his title rival of brake testing him, though FIA telemetry data showed that Hamilton had not. Moments later, Vettel pulled alongside and swerved into Hamilton’s Mercedes as they prepared for a restart, for which he received a ten-second stop-go penalty. However, with Hamilton being forced to pit for a loose headrest a couple of laps earlier, Vettel emerged in front and held off Hamilton to move 14 points clear in the standings. Vettel took full responsibility, issuing a public apology to Hamilton and committing to devote personal time over the next 12 months to educational activities across a variety of FIA championships and events.
In Austria, Hamilton qualified third and would start in eight place due to a five-place grid penalty after his car required an unscheduled gearbox change. Hamilton finished the race in fourth place, while Bottas took his second ever Grand Prix victory. Vettel finished in second to extend his championship lead to 20 points over Hamilton. At the British Grand Prix, Hamilton qualified on pole and went on to win, achieving a record-equalling third grand slam of the season. With his fifth British Grand Prix win, he equalled the records of Alain Prost and Jim Clark. Championship rival Vettel suffered a tyre failure with two laps to go, and subsequently finished seventh and so his lead over Hamilton in the Drivers’ standings was reduced to one point. Hamilton finished in fourth position in Hungary, behind Bottas, after requesting that he swap places with Bottas to try to overtake both Ferraris. Unable to do so, Hamilton relinquished the position back to Bottas on the final corner of the last lap while Vettel won the race.
A hat-trick of victories after the summer break saw Hamilton regain the lead of the championship. Hamilton won from pole in Belgium and a week later in Italy he surpassed Michael Schumacher for the all-time most pole positions and went on to win the race. Hamilton took an unlikely victory at the Singapore Grand Prix after qualifying in fifth. During the first-ever rain affected night Grand Prix, Hamilton took the lead on the first lap after a crash in turn one involving Räikkönen, Verstappen and Vettel forced all three to retire. Despite major setup difficulties after introducing upgrades at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Hamilton took pole position before finishing in second place behind Verstappen. In Japan, Hamilton took his first Suzuka pole and took his eighth win of the season, while title-rival Vettel retired after four laps, extending his championship lead to 59 points. Hamilton broke another record during qualifying of the United States Grand Prix. In windy conditions, Hamilton claimed pole position and his 117th front row start, setting a new record for all-time front row starts, surpassing Michael Schumacher. Hamilton went on to win, and Mercedes clinched their fourth consecutive World Constructors’ Championship title. The victory extended Hamilton’s lead in the Drivers’ Championship such that a fifth-place finish at in Mexico would clinch the title with two races remaining.
In Mexico, after qualifying in third, Hamilton suffered a puncture after a first lap collision with Vettel. Hamilton, suffering damage to his diffuser and underfloor sustained in the first-lap collision, finished ninth to clinch the drivers’ title with two races remaining. During qualifying of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton made a rare mistake on his first flying run in the first qualifying session and hit the barriers, and so started the race from the pit lane. An impressive comeback drive followed as he passed most of the field to finish fourth. Mercedes dominated qualifying of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Hamilton qualifying second in the first front row lock-out for the team since Azerbaijan. Mercedes capped off the season with their fourth 1–2 as Bottas won the race from pole with Hamilton unable to pass despite several attempts in the closing laps. Hamilton ended the season with 363 points, finishing all twenty races in the points, recording 9 wins and 11 pole positions to secure the FIA Pole Trophy for the third season running.
2018 season: Fifth world title
The 2018 season was the first time that two four-time World Champions, Hamilton and Vettel, would be competing for a fifth title and was billed as the Fight for Five by journalists and fans. Hamilton started the season by taking a record seventh pole position in Melbourne, but finished second behind Vettel, who used a timely virtual safety car period triggered by the stricken Haas of Romain Grosjean to pass Hamilton before successfully defending the position until the finish. After finishing on the podium in Bahrain and finishing fourth in Shanghai, Hamilton won his first race of the season in Azerbaijan, after an error from Vettel allowed Hamilton to take second place, before he inherited the race lead from teammate Bottas who suffered an unfortunate late puncture. The victory gave Hamilton the lead of the championship for the first time in 2018. After the race, Hamilton was late to the podium ceremony to console Bottas. At the next race, Hamilton took his first consecutive victories of the season as he won from pole in Spain in Mercedes’ first 1–2 finish of the season. However, Hamilton relinquished the championship lead over the next two rounds in Monaco and Canada.
In Formula One’s return to France, Hamilton won from pole while championship leader Vettel caused a collision in turn one, demoting him to the back of the grid from where he ultimately finished fifth, allowing Hamilton to retake the championship lead by 14 points. In AustriaHamilton suffered his first retirement since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix due to a mechanical issue, bringing an end to a record 33-race streak without retirements, all of which he finished in the points. Vettel’s third-place finish meant the championship lead swung back in the German’s favour. Despite starting from pole at Silverstone, Hamilton was denied a home victory after a collision with Räikkönen on the first lap left him virtually last. Despite the spin, Hamilton recovered to finish in second place while Vettel stormed to victory.
In the week leading up to the German Grand Prix, Hamilton signed a two-year contract with Mercedes, reported to be worth up to £40 million, making Hamilton the best paid driver in the history of Formula One. A hydraulic issue in qualifying meant Hamilton could only manage fourteenth place on the grid. In the race, Hamilton took one of the best wins of his career as he worked his way through the midfield and dealt with the changing weather conditions, compounded by another mistake from Vettel who crashed into the barriers from the lead of his home race. The championship lead swapped hands yet again, this time in favour of the Briton. Hamilton took consecutive victories again, and his fifth Grand Prix win of the season as he won from pole in Hungary, extending his lead in the championship to 24 points entering the summer break.
After the summer break, Hamilton returned in formidable form; winning four of the next five races including four consecutive Grand Prix victories. The season resumed in Belgium where Hamilton took his sixth pole position of the season. However, the Ferrari of Vettel went on to take victory on the power-sensitive Spa circuit after passing Hamilton on the first lap. Hamilton took full advantage of another error from title-rival Vettel, who spun on the first lap as Hamilton passed him around the outside, to take victory at Monza in front of the Tifosi after passing pole-sitter Räikkönen with eight laps to go. At the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix, a track at which Mercedes had struggled for performance in the hybrid era, Hamilton took an unexpected pole position with one of the finest laps of his career. Hamilton himself said the lap “felt like magic”, while team-boss Toto Wolff described it as “stardust”, commenting “only he will know what he did around that lap… it’s surreal”. Hamilton converted his pole position into a win in the race, extending his championship lead over Vettel who finished third behind Red Bull’s Verstappen.
—Sebastian Vettel reflecting on his title fight against Hamilton in 2018.
Hamilton took a controversial victory in Russia where, after falling behind Vettel in the pit stops before passing him on track, Mercedes ordered teammate Bottas to gift Hamilton the lead of the race to further extend his championship lead over Vettel. After the race, Hamilton described his teammate as “a real gentleman”. A commanding win from pole in Japan, with Vettel finishing in sixth after spinning in the race, followed by a podium finish in the United States meant Hamilton could clinch the title in Mexico for the second year running. Hamilton finished fourth in Mexico to clinch his fifth World Championship title with two races remaining. The newly crowned World Champion finished his season in imperious form with consecutive wins from pole in Brazil and Abu Dhabi as he set a new record for the most points scored in a season (408). He also became the first driver to surpass 3000 total career points. Hamilton finished the season with 11 pole positions, 11 race victories and a record-equalling 17 podium finishes.
Hamilton is regarded as one of the most complete drivers on the grid. The all-time record holder for most pole positions, Hamilton is considered one of the fastest qualifiers in the history of the sport, and has received praise for his ability to produce fast laps at crucial moments. Also a tenacious racer, he excels across a wide range of areas. He has been described as having an aggressive driving style, which at times results in a tendency to lock up the front wheels. Hamilton has been praised for his ability to adapt to variances in the car set-up and changing track conditions; throughout his career, he has typically used less fuel than his teammates as a result of his ability to carry momentum through corners despite instability in the car. Hamilton has been praised for his consistency, especially later in his career, finishing 33 consecutive races in point-scoring positions; a run only brought to an end as a result of mechanical issues as opposed to driver error. Ross Brawn wrote that “over the course of , Hamilton hardly put a foot wrong, winning not only the races he should have, but also some where the opposition was stronger, and that is the true mark of a champion”.
Ayrton Senna was a major influence on Hamilton’s driving style. “I think it’s partly because I watched [him] when I was young and I thought ‘this is how I want to drive when I get the opportunity’ and I went out there and tried it on the kart track. My whole approach to racing has developed from there”. He has been compared to Senna in raw speed. In 2010, Hamilton drove Ayrton Senna’s original title winning McLaren MP4/4 as part of a tribute documentary by the BBC motoring show, Top Gear. In the documentary, Hamilton, along with fellow racing drivers, name Senna as the number one driver ever.
Hamilton is regarded as one of the best wet-weather drivers in the sport, with some of his best performances occurring in those conditions. In the 2008 British Grand Prix, Hamilton bested second-place Nick Heidfeld by over a minute, the largest margin of victory recorded since the 1995 Australian Grand Prix.
Earlier in his career, Hamilton was criticised for being hot-headed at times, as demonstrated when he was disqualified in Imola in the GP2 Series for overtaking the safety car, something he would go on to repeat four years later in Formula One at the 2010 European Grand Prix in Valencia. Later in his career, however, Hamilton demonstrated greater maturity, while maintaining his ruthlessness and aggression. He divided public and former drivers’ opinions in the final race of the 2016 season, where from the lead, he defied team-orders and deliberately slowed to back Nico Rosberg into the chasing pack at end of the race in a bid to encourage their rivals to overtake his teammate, which would have allowed him to win the World Championship.
—Bernie Ecclestone, speaking of Hamilton in 2015.
Hamilton is often considered the best driver of his generation, and widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers in the history of the sport. Often considered among the greatest British drivers in Formula One, Hamilton is the most successful, having more race victories than any other British driver in the history of Formula One and matching Jim Clark’s and Alain Prost’s five British Grand Prix victories. His jet-set lifestyle and interests outside Formula One have been criticized, however, figures in the sport such as Emerson Fittipaldi and Christian Horner have voiced their support for Hamilton’s ability to connect with fans. Bernie Ecclestone has frequently commented on his admiration of Hamilton’s ability to promote the sport through his lifestyle, noting how he is happy to engage with fans, unlike some of his peers. Since Hamilton’s rookie season in 2007, Formula One’s annual global revenue has risen by 53%, to $1.83 billion as of 31 July 2016.
—Fernando Alonso, speaking of Hamilton in 2017.
A prodigious talent as a teenager, Hamilton established himself as one of the world’s best drivers following his record-breaking rookie year. After his first world title a year later, many people considered Hamilton the best driver of his generation. Following Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel’s four-year dominance of the sport, Hamilton’s resolve was tested both professionally and personally as he did not finish higher than fourth in the Drivers’ Championship from 2009 to 2013, leading some to question his status as the best driver in the sport. In spite of this, Hamilton’s less successful years with McLaren have also been cited as a demonstration of driving ability as Hamilton has won at least one race in twelve consecutive seasons, attracting high praise from experts and fellow drivers for extracting race-winning performances from cars that were not dominant.
After Hamilton clinched his second and third World Championship titles with Mercedes in 2014 and 2015, David Coulthard declared Hamilton the best driver of his generation, calling him “the Ayrton Senna of his era”, an opinion which was more widely accepted amongst the public, experts, and fellow and former drivers. As Hamilton became more widely considered the best driver of his era, public and expert debate moved from his status in modern Formula One to his status amongst the greatest drivers in history. The next few seasons saw Hamilton eclipse a number of records, including achieving the most all-time pole positions ahead of Michael Schumacher, leading him to be regarded by some as the greatest qualifier in history. After winning his fourth and fifth world titles, Hamilton’s place among the greats of the sport became firmly established in the opinions of experts, rivals and teammates alike, with some journalists and pundits considering the possibility of Hamilton being the greatest Formula One driver of all time.
Rivalry with Nico Rosberg
When Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013, he was paired alongside old karting teammate and friend Nico Rosberg. Over their four seasons as teammates, a period of Mercedes dominance Formula One, the pair’s relationship became strained and, at times, led to volatile confrontations on and off the track. Hamilton and Rosberg were first teammates in 2000, when they were in karting. They raced for Mercedes Benz McLaren in Formula A, where Hamilton became European champion, with Rosberg not far behind. Robert Kubica, who raced with them before Formula One, recalled how they were competitive both on and off the track, saying “they would even have races to eat pizza, always eating two at a time”. Sports journalist Paul Weaver contrasts their upbringings: Rosberg, an only child, was born in Germany but brought up in Monaco and was the son of the wealthy former Formula One world champion, Keke Rosberg, whereas Hamilton was born on a council estate in Stevenage, and his father had to work multiple jobs to fund his son’s junior racing.
Pundit and commentator Will Buxton compared the character and driving styles of the pair, labelling Hamilton as the faster driver with more natural ability while labelling Rosberg, while not as quick, as the more intelligent driver. Their old karting boss, Dino Chiesa, admitted Hamilton was the faster driver whereas Rosberg, who once said to Chiesa “everything relates to physics and maths”, was always more analytical. This led some to believe that Rosberg would achieve greater success in Formula One, the highest level of open wheel racing, due to the intellectual capacity required to manage brakes, energy harvesting, tyre management and moderate fuel usage. However, Hamilton’s tyre management has frequently allowed him to push on for longer, often enabling optimum race strategies, and his fuel usage has regularly been better than almost anyone on the grid. Sky Sport’s Mark Hughes, commented “Rosberg has a more scientific methodology, looks to fine-tune more specifically than Hamilton who typically tends just to find a balance he can work with, then adapt his driving around it”.
In their time together as teammates, Hamilton and Rosberg won 54 of 78 races over four seasons. Hamilton had 32 victories, 55 podium finishes and qualified ahead of Rosberg 42 times. Rosberg had 22 victories, 50 podium finishes and qualified ahead of Hamilton 36 times. During this period, Hamilton won two World Championship titles to Rosberg’s one, and scored more points in three out of their four seasons together.
Lewis Hamilton and Nicole Scherzinger
Hamilton announced his intention to live in Switzerland in 2007, stating that this was because he wished to get away from the media scrutiny that he experienced living in the UK. He said on the television show Parkinson that taxation was also a reason. He settled in Luins in Vaud canton on Lake Geneva. In 2010, Hamilton joined many Formula One drivers past and present when he moved to Monaco, purchasing a house worth a reported £10 million, where he still resides as of 2018. Hamilton also owns a flat in New York, and an estate in Colorado where he has suggested he would like to settle after his retirement.
Hamilton has reportedly had romantic interests throughout his career with a number of high-profile women. In November 2007, Hamilton started dating Nicole Scherzinger, the lead singer of the American girl band Pussycat Dolls. Although it was announced in January 2010 that they split up to focus on their respective careers, they were seen together at that year’s Turkish and Canadian Grands Prix. The couple split up and reunited numerous times between 2011 and 2015, before finally splitting up in February 2015.
In 2017, Hamilton told the BBC that he had become vegan because, “[a]s the human race, what we are doing to the world… the pollution [in terms of emissions of global-warming gases] coming from the amount of cows that are being produced is incredible. The cruelty is horrible and I don’t necessarily want to support that and I want to live a healthier life.”In 2018, Hamilton said in an interview that he gave up drinking “a while ago”.
In 2015, Hamilton was ranked as the richest British sportsperson, with an estimated personal fortune of £88 million. In 2018, it was reported that Hamilton had a net-worth of £159 million Hamilton owns a red and black Bombardier Challenger 605 private jet, registeredG-LCDH, standing for his full name’s initials, which he bought in 2013. Hamilton owns two unrestored 1967 AC Cobras, one black and one red, and in February 2015, it was reported that Hamilton had purchased a Ferrari LaFerrari from “his rivals in Maranello.”
Hamilton also has interests in music, saying “[m]usic has been a huge passion of mine since I was really young. I started playing guitar when I was 13. In here, I can be me, I can be vulnerable. I can show a side of me that people don’t get to see”. He reportedly features on Christina Aguilera’s song Pipe under the pseudonym ‘XNDA’ although Hamilton has not confirmed this is true. Hamilton is a fan of art, and has said that one of his favourite artists is Andy Warhol. Prior to the 2014 United States Grand Prix, Hamilton wore a gold-framed version of Warhol’s Cars, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupe painting hanging from a chain around his neck.
In 2018 Hamilton launched a clothing line, TOMMYXLEWIS, during New York Fashion Week with American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger alongside models Winnie Harlow and Hailey Baldwin. Hamilton stated “[g]rowing up, I remember seeing the iconic Tommy Hilfiger flag” and Hilfiger commented on Hamilton, saying “Lewis is bold in everything he does … He’s not afraid to take risks. And he has a cool and sophisticated style that really speaks to the new generation of Tommy fans”.
Hamilton was one of several figures whose tax arrangements were singled out for criticism in a report by the social-justice charity Christian Aid in 2008. The same year, Hamilton received public criticism from UK members of parliament for avoiding UK taxes. Following the leak of the confidential Paradise Papers in November 2017, it was reported that Hamilton had avoided paying £3.3 million of value added tax (VAT) on his Challenger 605 private jet worth £16.5 million. According to BBC Panorama, the leasing deal set up by his advisers appeared to be artificial and not to comply with an EU and UK ban on VAT refunds for private use. The BBC also said that Hamilton’s social media accounts provide evidence that he has used his jet for holidays and other personal trips.
On 18 December 2007, Hamilton was suspended from driving in France for a month after being caught speeding at 196 km/h (122 mph) on a French motorway. His Mercedes-Benz CLK was also impounded. Two days before the 2010 Australian Grand Prix, Victoria Police witnessed Hamilton “deliberately losing traction” in his silver Mercedes-AMG C63, and impounded the car for 48 hours. Hamilton immediately released a statement of apology for “driving in an over-exuberant manner”. After being charged with intentionally losing control of a vehicle, Hamilton was eventually fined A$500 (£288), being described as a “hoon” [boy racer] by the magistrate.
In December 2017, Hamilton courted controversy after sharing a video on Instagram of his nephew wearing a princess dress in which he commented “Why did you ask for a princess dress for Christmas, boys don’t wear princess dresses”. He was condemned on social media and by LGBT charities for his comments. He subsequently deleted the video before later deleting all content from his social media channels, though he returned to actively using his social media accounts on 17 January 2018. Hamilton apologised for his comments, and later appeared at Disneyland Paris with his nephew, who wore a princess dress for the trip, as well as featuring on the front cover of GQ wearing a rainbow tartan kilt he designed with Tommy Hilfiger, saying “I’ve done something and then realised the effect I’ve had … I want to make amends. I accept it, realise it and I’m glad that I’m accountable for it”.
In December 2018, Stevenage-born Hamilton caused controversy at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards where he said on live television, “It really was a dream for us all as a family to do something different. For us to get out of the slums” before immediately correcting himself, saying, “Well, not the slums, but to get out of somewhere and do something. We all set our goals very, very high but we did it as a team”. While Hamilton immediately sought to correct his remarks, the leader of Stevenage Borough Councildescribed the comments as “disappointing” and noted that people felt “very offended”. Hamilton posted a video on Instagram in which he apologised for his comments, saying “I’m super proud of where I come from and I hope you know that I represent in the best way I can always. […] Particularly when you are up in front of a crowd, trying to find the right words to express the long journey you’ve had in life, I chose the wrong words.”; the town mayor subsequently accepted his “gracious apology”.
From a young age, Hamilton’s helmet was made yellow so that his father could tell which kart his son was driving. Hamilton chose the colours blue, green and red and they were originally in a ribbon design; however before entering Formula One, Hamilton 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. From 2011 onwards Hamilton’s helmet was changed so it no longer resembled Senna’s helmet so much. The green and blue ribbons were changed to the diagonal style of the red patch, with a single red stripe behind the helmet with the letters “Hamilton” printed within it. In 2014, Hamilton changed his primary helmet colour for the first time since his karting days, using a white helmet with red stripes in the shape of his 2011 design.
In 2017, Hamilton announced that he was running a competition for his fans to design his helmet. The contest winner was Brazilian designer Rai Caldato and the helmet featured white and yellow base colour with red and orange details. Three stars representing Hamilton’s Formula One championships featured on either side of the design. During the 2017 season, the design would often change between a yellow or white base colour with the same red and orange accents. The three stars were also modified to have underlying green, yellow, and blue accent colours. After winning his fourth world championship title in 2017, Hamilton changed the design to include two stars on either side of the helmet to represent each of his four titles. Hamilton updated this design a year later to have five stars on either side to celebrate winning his fifth world title in 2018.
During the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton had an altered helmet design with the addition of a roulette wheel image on the top. Hamilton 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”.For the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton wore a special helmet that was a fusion of his post-2011 helmet, and that of Ayrton Senna. The helmet was auctioned after the race in aid of the Ayrton Senna Foundation.
Hamilton has sported gold coloured helmets on two occasions in his career. After winning his fourth title in Mexico, he raced in the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a gold helmet with four stars adorning the top of the helmet with the words “World Champion”. Hamilton wore a gold helmet in the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after sealing his fifth world title, toward which he made reference with five stars on either side of the design.
At the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton, like fellow driver Sebastian Vettel, wore a special helmet to pay tribute to Niki Lauda, who passed away at the start of the week. The helmet was painted red and white, Lauda’s classic colours, and had his name printed on the back. After the race, Hamilton reflected on Lauda’s career, saying “Ultimately, as a driver, my goal one day is to hopefully be as respected as he was … He’s definitely someone who led by a great example, left a great example, and was a real hero to so many.”
- Hamilton was the first reigning world champion to decline to run the number 1, deciding to stay with his old karting number 44 from 2014. He briefly ran the number 1 on the front of his car in practice for the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after winning his fifth World Championship, but was still officially entered under the number 44 and that figure still appeared on the engine cover.
- Coulthard, David (26 October 2015). “Lewis Hamilton has proved himself to be the best F1 driver of his generation”. The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
- “Hamilton megastar of generation – Brundle”. gpupdate.net. 6 March 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
- Horton, Phillip. “Hamilton is comfortably the best Formula 1 driver in the current era”. motorsportweek.com. Motorsport Week. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
- Benson, Andrew (22 May 2012). “Formula One’s Greatest Drivers”. BBC Sport. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
- “Formula 1’s Greatest Drivers – Lewis Hamilton”. Autosport. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
- “Top 15 All Time Drivers”. F1-Grand Prix. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
- Gregory, Sean (20 December 2016). “The fastest man on wheels”. Time Magazine. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
- Brown, Oliver (27 November 2016). “Nico Rosberg: Taking title from Lewis Hamilton is a phenomenal feeling”. The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- “Lewis Hamilton is in Formula 1’s top five, says Fernando Alonso”. BBC. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
- Maltby, Matt. “Hamilton x5: The stats that prove his greatness”. formula1.com. Formula One World Championship Limited. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
- Nicholls, Jack. “Lewis Hamilton is comfortably one of the greatest racing drivers the world has ever seen”. bbc.co.uk/sport. BBC Sport. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
- Rose, Gary (29 October 2017). “Lewis Hamilton: Four world titles and Ayrton Senna’s speed – Michael Schumacher’s record next?”. BBC Sport. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
- “Most grand slam in a season”. formula1.com. Formula One Administration. 17 July 2017. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
- “Statistics Drivers – Points – By number”. statsf1.com. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- “Wins at different circuits”. Stats F1. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
- “Grenadian roots of first black F1 driver”. BBC. 27 November 2006. Retrieved 12 December 2006.
The first black driver named to race in Formula One
- Garside, Kevin; Britten, Nick (13 September 2006). “Formula One’s first black driver to take his place on grid”. The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 26 June 2008.
- Smith, Adam (12 April 2007). “Lewis Hamilton: The Tiger Woods of Racing?”. Time. Retrieved 26 June 2008.
- “Grenadian roots of first black F1 driver”. BBC. 27 November 2006. Retrieved 12 December 2006.
- Excluding those in the first ever World Championship round.