March 18th 2007 is known in the world of Formula One as the day Lewis Hamilton made his F1 debut. 13 years to the day, the spotlight shines brighter than ever on the six-time F1 Champion so it is a perfect time to look back at Hamilton’s path into F1; his first race at the pinnacle of motorsport and finally reflect on the way he is regarded by many today.
Even before Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton had stepped into his McLaren MP4/22, on the grid at the Australian Grand Prix in 2007, many people already knew of the talent and potential this gifted boy from Stevenage had – and as such, expectation was high.
Also, leading up to this momentous F1 debut in Australia, the story of a nine-year old Lewis walking up to McLaren maestro Ron Dennis at an award ceremony had been back in the headlines. On that day, Hamilton asked for the autograph of the McLaren Team boss and uttered the now legendary line:
“Hi. I’m Lewis Hamilton. I won the British championship and one day I want to be racing your cars.”
Everyone remembers the story but many people forget that Lewis Hamilton only started his racing career in 1993 when he was 8 years old so to have this self-belief in such a short space of time facing a true giant in F1 - says a lot about his character. Hamilton also continues to speak a lot about visualizing goals and maintaining positive thinking and on this occasion, it certainly came true seeing how Ron Dennis did sign Lewis Hamilton to its Young Driver Development Programme when the plucky youngster was just 13 years of age.
Lewis Hamilton has spoken on many occasions as to how he has always had a target on him and that intensified when he arrived in the world of F1. Having swept away the GP2 field the previous season in 2006 with 5 race wins and a championship claimed with a 12-point lead over runner-up Nelson Piquet Jr, all eyes were on how Hamilton would perform in his F1 debut.
Two months previously, Lewis Hamilton had been showcased on stage at the MP4/22 launch with his teammate Fernando Alonso in an extravagant street festival on the streets of Valencia as told on F1.com:
‘The drivers were paraded in front of 250,000…before hitting the streets in a pair of the previous year’s MP4/21s. Couple that with some jaw-dropping circus acts and plenty of media opportunities.’
Such a dramatic launch most likely confirmed to Lewis Hamilton that he was quite literally now a part of the Formula 1 circus. Now, two months on in Australia – what could he deliver?
Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying debut in F1 the day before had placed him fourth on the grid for the race and it would not be long before a comparison with Ayrton Senna was directed towards him. Such debate made all the easier due to the yellow helmet worn by Hamilton and clearly inspired by his idol. On his debut race, Hamilton would also echo Senna’s race craft - not just his appearance.
Shortly after the lights went out in Melbourne, the 4th placed rookie found himself alongside his teammate Fernando Alonso, this no doubt was a wakeup call for the 2-time World Champion, sure enough Hamilton then found himself up in second having successfully navigated the first corner. With this maneuver came recollections of that Ayrton Senna opening lap at Donnington - and the comparisons continue to this day.
By the chequered flag, Alonso would have come back at Hamilton and the rookie would have to settle for the final step of the podium on his debut. Now though, the British public was suddenly aware of just how great Lewis Hamilton could be. For many, had controversy not embroiled McLaren – surely this gifted rookie would have claimed the F1 Drivers’ Title in his first season. However, as we know, it was not the case and so the 2007 F1 Drivers’ Championship went to Kimi Raikkonen – delighting sports fans and the tifosi the world over.
Now, in 2020, despite no current running in F1 the man to beat is still Lewis Hamilton and with six F1 Drivers’ titles to his name, the Mercedes talisman is driving better than ever. Not only this but Hamilton earned a lot of plaudits with his handling of the 2020 Australian GP debacle. Long before the event’s eventual cancellation, Hamilton had been vocal in the main press conference expressing his disbelief that the event was happening in the first place.
Certain media outlets and F1 fans have tried to label Lewis Hamilton over the years due to his association with different industries: Rapper, fashion designer, adrenaline junkie, celebrity and so on. Hamilton’s recent Instagram posts show that ‘pianist’ should also be added to any list anyone dare compose seeing how the reigning F1 champ is sharing with his followers his progress learning yet another musical instrument.
Lewis Hamilton is a multi-talented individual but first and foremost he is an F1 racer – and he is aware of that. This is why, if the rest of the F1 grid does not mount a serious challenge in 2020, the next title to be added to any list focused on Lewis Hamilton will be that of seven-time F1 Drivers’ Champion.
Happy Anniversary Champ!