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The McLaren years: Remembering start of Hamilton's legendary F1 career on milestone day

The McLaren years: Remembering start of Hamilton's legendary F1 career on milestone day

F1 News

The McLaren years: Remembering start of Hamilton's legendary F1 career on milestone day

The McLaren years: Remembering start of Hamilton's legendary F1 career on milestone day

Lewis Hamilton's career in motorsports started in 1993 when he began karting – but it really kicked off when he joined McLaren.

It's 25 years to the day since one of the all-time greats of the sport was snapped up by the Woking-based team.

Over the next two decades, the Briton would rise to the pantheon of the very greatest from every era and every type of motorsport.

On a milestone day, here are some of his key moments, memories and achievements from that very important period at the beginning of his epic F1 journey...

Legendary beginning to a legendary career...

Armed with his natural talent, Hamilton quickly emerged as a winner in the karting arena after starting at the age of eight, taking home several cadet class championships. Two years later, at the tender age of ten, he became the youngest driver to win the British cadet karting championship.

It was at the Autosport Awards that same year that Hamilton caught the attention of McLaren Group boss Ron Dennis. Approaching him for an autograph, Hamilton introduced himself and boldly declared: "Hi, I'm Lewis Hamilton. I won the British Championship, and one day I want to be racing your cars."

Impressed by Hamilton's confidence, Dennis wrote a prophetic message in Hamilton's autograph book.

It read: "Phone me in nine years, we'll sort something out then."

In 1998, Ron Dennis made a life-changing call to Hamilton after witnessing his impressive wins in the Super One series and British championship, offering him a coveted spot in the highly regarded McLaren driver development programme.

What's more, the contract included a tantalising option of a future Formula 1 seat, which would cement Hamilton's status as the youngest driver to ever secure such a deal that led to a Formula 1 drive.

Debut season for the ages (2007)

Hamilton became the first black driver in the sport's history

In 2007, Hamilton made his Formula One debut for McLaren alongside reigning world champion Fernando Alonso. The young driver immediately showed his potential, finishing on the podium in his first race in Australia.

He then went on to achieve four consecutive podium finishes, including his first win in Canada. Hamilton continued to impress throughout the season, winning four more races and finishing on the podium a total of 12 times. He narrowly missed out on the championship in his debut season, finishing just one point behind winner Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton's success in his debut season made him an instant fan favourite and marked him out as a future world champion. It was clear that Hamilton had the talent and the drive to become one of the greatest drivers in Formula 1 history.

First world championship (2008)

Hamilton won his first title in dramatic fashion

The following season in 2008, Hamilton was a force to be reckoned with. He finished on the podium in 10 out of the 18 races, including five victories. His consistency and strong performances earned him the nickname "The Hammer" and made him a favourite for the championship.

However, the title fight was a nail-biter until the very end, with Hamilton facing stiff competition from both Felipe Massa of Ferrari and his own team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen. In the final race of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton started in fourth place while Massa took pole position.

Hamilton had to finish fifth or higher to clinch the championship, but he struggled in the early stages of the race and fell back to sixth place. However, a series of events in the final laps saw Hamilton rise up the ranks and overtake Toyota's Timo Glock for fifth place, which was enough to secure him the championship by a single point.

Hamilton's 2008 championship victory made him the youngest-ever F1 world champion at the time and cemented his status as a superstar in the sport. It also marked the first title for a British driver since Damon Hill in 1996 and the first for McLaren since Mika Hakkinen in 1999.

Final season with McLaren (2012)

Hamilton's final McLaren season was an up and down year

At the 2012 Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton became the first driver in history to achieve 23 pole positions before the age of 28.

2012 was also Hamilton's final season with McLaren and it was a mixed bag. He secured seven pole positions and four wins but suffered a number of mechanical failures and collisions which ultimately cost him a shot at the championship. Despite this, he finished the season in fourth place in the championship and announced his move to Mercedes, replacing the retiring Michael Schumacher for the 2013 season.

During his time with McLaren, Hamilton achieved a total of 21 wins, 49 podiums, and one world championship. He also set numerous records and became one of the most successful drivers in the history of the team.

Although his status is now cemented with Mercedes, his legacy at McLaren will always be remembered in the fondest of terms.

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