Lewis Hamilton. His name is Lewis Hamilton. And there’s a million things he’s done. But when the world sings for him, will they know what he overcame? Will they know he rewrote the game? The world of Formula One will never be the same.
As Lewis has grown up, he’s invested his time and dedication not just to maintain his superiority on the circuit but to advocate for causes away from his sport. The Greatest British Sportsman of all time celebrates his 36th birthday on 7 January ahead of what could well prove to be the most momentous 12 months of his life to date as he goes in search of an unprecedented eighth world title. So we take a look at the man - and his machine - in his milestone years as we wish Sir Lewis Hamilton a very happy birthday.
First Amateur Win (1995 - Aged 10)
It was in 1990 that Lewis first got behind the wheel of a go-kart while on a family holiday. "You could say from five I already knew that I wanted to be a Formula 1 driver, basically," he later explained. A year later, Dad Anthony bought him his first go-kart for £100, and by 1993 Lewis, with father by his side, began competitive go-kart racing. "When we arrived on the go-kart track, we were the only black family there,” he later reflected, “We've always been the only black family there."
But it was in 1995 that he won the British Cadet Kart Championship. And not only did it begin his success on the track, but it also led to an introduction with Ron Dennis at an awards ceremony. Lewis boldly told the McLaren boss, “I am going to race for you one day.” Three years later, remembering the young upstart, Dennis got back in touch to sign Hamilton, then 13, to McLaren's development programme and from that moment on history was destined to be made.
First F1 World Title (2008 - Aged 23)
The 30th Formula 1 world champion was also the youngest ever at the time, but also the first - and still so far only - black champion. And what a way to do it. After a blistering debut year with McLaren Mercedes in which the rookie was agonisingly pipped to the World Championship by a single point, Hamilton didn’t hit the brakes, instead taking his first title in the most dramatic fashion on the last corner of the last lap of the last race of one of the best F1 seasons in recent memory.
Hamilton had taken the role of team leader in 2008 and eventually raced to five victories and a further six podiums, taking it down to the wire at Interlagos in the final Grand Prix. Overtaking Timo Glock with around 300 metres to go, he snatched the fifth place he needed to steal the title from Felipe Massa, and Lewis Hamilton, aged 23 years and 300 days, became the youngest world champion. A legend was born.
First Year With Mercedes (2013 - Aged 28)
After six successful seasons with McLaren Mercedes, Lewis sought a new challenge - joining the works Mercedes team for the 2013 season. Lewis secured his first podium in a Mercedes Formula One car in only his second race with the team, at the Malaysian Grand Prix. A maiden victory followed eight races later in Hungary, helping Lewis to finish the season fourth overall in the drivers’ standings, as Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel dominated for a fourth successive year.
But Hamilton’s sophomore season with the Silver Arrows was to be different as he collected the first of six titles driving the dominant Mercedes.
First Breakthrough In Activism (2018 - Aged 33)
The Black Lives Matter movement gained significant traction in 2020 with the world of sport finally waking up to issues of injustice and prejudice. In F1, it was Hamilton taking the knee, front and centre, sporting a BLM shirt. He even attended a peaceful protest in Hyde Park, London, and would say that the movement drove him towards his seventh world title.
But a significant turning point arose back in 2018 when Hamilton went vegan after watching the documentary ‘What the Health’. Since then, the Formula One champion has become an advocate for animal rights, encouraging his supporters to adopt a healthier and more environmentally-conscious lifestyle. In one particularly significant post Hamilton stated, “We all have a voice, I have this platform and so to not use it correctly would be wrong [of] me. Nobody is perfect, I certainly am not.”
First To Eight Title Wins...? (2021 - Aged 36)
Hamilton made history when he clinched the 2020 F1 Championship with his victory at the Turkish Grand Prix, tying racing legend Michael Schumacher for the most championships ever, with seven total.
And it’s no more ‘Lewis’ by the way. As the year came to an end, it was announced that he was to be awarded a knighthood in the new year honours list, becoming the fourth F1 driver to be knighted after two fellow Britons, Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart, and Australia’s Sir Jack Brabham. He would also be anointed the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the second time he had collected the accolade. But 2021 could prove to be even greater - the record-smashing eighth is on the horizon. It would be a feat that would certify him as the greatest Formula One driver in history. Who would bet against it?