Lewis Hamilton appeared today in front of 400 or so members of the world's media, along with the members of one of the most successful teams in Formula One, to unveil the car that could well take him to his first F1 drivers' title in the most ...
Lewis Hamilton appeared today in front of 400 or so members of the world's media, along with the members of one of the most successful teams in Formula One, to unveil the car that could well take him to his first F1 drivers' title in the most glamorous motorsport series in the world.
This is quite a contrast to the humble beginnings in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
Although Stevenage itself is recorded in the Doomsday book of 1060 as Stithen?ce, the Stevenage you see today is dominated by the post-war tower blocks and the concrete pedestrianised town centre typical of the brave new vision seen in the so called 'New Towns' of the era.
It's by no means a bad place to live, the new towns were designed with large expanses of green areas such as Fairlands Valley. With its large area of parkland and lakes, it's just not the sort of place you would expect to bump into a Formula One racer.
The town is very proud of its new rising star and rightly so, the local supermarket has even given the young Hamilton his own parking space. To be fair, Hamilton, before his move to Switzerland, actually lived in Tewin Wood, which isn't really in Stevenage as such and is regarded as one of the posher areas.
His fans are important to him as well, when asked, "Was there one main thing that surprised you during your first year in Formula 1?", the Brit replied, "The response I got from the fans around the world. I was amazed at how excited and supportive they were and I hope still are."
Hamilton got into racing at a young age, first at the controls of radio-controlled cars. His father Anthony bought him one in 1991 and Hamilton finished second in the national championship the following year, beating opposition that was considerably older. His father, obviously recognizing the young lad had talent bought him his first go-kart when he was six years-old as a Christmas present.
As soon as he got behind the wheel there was no stopping the youngster, he started Karting in 1993 and the success soon came. However, it was the now famous meeting with Ron Dennis when Hamilton was ten years-old that changed the course of history.
The youngster was already a big F1 fan even at this age and when asked what was, "the day you will never forget?", he did not hesitate in his answer: "The day Ayrton Senna died - 1st May 1994. I was racing in Cadet karts at the Hoddesdon Kart Club. I remember I was having a difficult day and had not done very well in my races. My dad told me the news and I remember my heart sinking, going behind the trailer and having a bit of a cry."
The young Hamilton has set the world of Formula One alight with his rookie year for Mclaren, almost taking the drivers' championship in the process. Each race the suspicion was, "how long could this last?", but it did last and Hamilton was soon beating the best in the world. He wasn't off the podium for the first nine races and took four wins in his first year!
After his stunning debut in 2007, he outlined his aims for 2008. "My aims are to have another fantastic year enjoying my life as a Formula 1 racing driver for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, to score as many points for the team and myself as possible, and try to go one better and win the Drivers' World Championship."
Winning the title is a real possibility for Hamilton, he proved his success in F1 was no fluke by appearing on the BBC's TopGear program and recording a lap time of 1m 44.7 in the program's Suzuki Liana. Presenter Jeremy Clarkson was flabbergasted by the performance. The time was indeed impressive, especially as Clarkson himself had dumped a load of oil on the track whilst testing the new V8 Holden (Called a Vauxhall in the UK) and earlier in the day it had been raining heavily.
The Liana is used by the show for their 'star in a reasonably priced car' segment which has recently been attracting a number of F1 drivers. Hamilton was only 0.1 of a second behind the previous fastest time set by Nigel Mansell in the dry. He equaled the time Jenson Button had set on a dry track and blitzed the times set by Damon Hill and Mark Webber. Hamilton vowed to return to the show where he is expected to take the fastest time ever with dry conditions.
In addition to the exotic Dunsfold Park in Surrey home of the TopGear program, Hamilton has been able to visit a lot of exciting destinations with F1.
"I do sometimes, occasionally I will travel out early to the long haul destinations to acclimatise and try to take in some of the sights," he said when an inquiry came as to his being able to see some of the amazing places on the tour.
"I never have the time to actually plan any sightseeing as it is all about recovering from the travel, then training, making sure that I eat right and am fully prepared for the race weekend. However, next year I definitely want to try and explore more of the countries we race in," he added.
He was then asked about the changes on the F1 schedule due to the addition of Singapore and Valenica, both street circuits.
"I am [excited about the new race in Asia], I have never been to Singapore but I have heard it is a beautiful place so I am looking forward to going there, especially with it being a night race," Hamilton said. "Valencia is going to be interesting as well. I remember driving in Valencia at the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes launch last year and that was good fun, although very slippery, but of course the actual circuit we will be racing on is in a different location."
"Literally driving the Formula 1 car, the speed, the noise and the thrill - you cannot beat it! It is the best job in the world," the British racer commented on what is the best thing about being a driver in F1.
Next year Hamilton will have a good chance of proving he is the best driver in the world, the lad from Stevenage is doing well.