Lewis Hamilton (1985- )

Lewis Hamilton at the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix, October 1, 2016
Courtesy Morio (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Formula 1 race car driver Lewis Hamilton was born January 7, 1985, in Stevenage, Herefordshire, England, to parents Carmen Larbalestier and Anthony Hamilton. His parents divorced when he was two, and as a result he lived with his mother and half-sisters. He studied at the John Henry Newman School and then at Cambridge Arts and Sciences. He was often bullied on account of his mixed race (his mother was white, and his father, black), and because of this he learned karate at age five to defend himself.

Hamilton began racing go-karts at the age of eight, and by age ten, he was the youngest ever to win the British Cadet Kart Championship. It was there that Hamilton met his future boss, Ron Dennis (CEO of McLaren Technology), and informed him that he was going to drive one of his F1 cars some day. Hamilton continued to race and won numerous karting races, and his father often had to work several jobs at once to support Lewis’s racing career. This changed when Ron Dennis signed him on to the McLaren’s Young Driver Program at age thirteen, effectively sponsoring his career until he began racing professionally.

In 2002 at the age of seventeen, Hamilton stepped onto the stage of formula racing when he was signed on my Manor Motorsports to race in the highly competitive British Renault 2000 UK series. He finished third place his debut year, and then went on to win the championship the following year with a record breaking ten wins. That same year, Hamilton also raced in the F3 series finale and signed on to the McLaren team to race F3 until 2005, where he won a total of fifteen round out of twenty.

In 2006 twenty-one-year-old Hamilton spent a year racing in the GP2 series with team ART Grand Prix. He won the GP2 championship and then went back to race on the McLaren on November 24, 2006, this time as a Formula 1 racer. His first race as an F1 driver was in 2007 at the Australian Grand Prix, where he finished in fourth place, an impressive feat considering it was his first year driving at that caliber of racing. Hamilton went on to win four Grand Prix races that year, but a mixture of bad luck and crashes stopped him from winning the world championship. But the following year, Hamilton won the world championship by one point, making him, at age twenty-three, the youngest ever racer.

His title defense in 2009 proved less fortunate as Hamilton had a woefully underperforming car and was disqualified at the Australian Grand Prix for intentionally misleading race stewards. Despite this, he still finished fifth place overall. A series of uncharacteristic strategic errors and outpaced cars, coupled with an increasingly difficult relationship with the media plagued his racing career from 2010 to 2012. This rut ended in 2013 when he signed a three-year contract with Mercedes-Benz. He won his second world championship in 2014, and then his third the next year. This made him a three-time world champ, and the first Briton to win back to back titles.

Hamilton has a half sister, Samantha Lockhart, and a brother, Nicolas Hamilton, who also races competitively despite being diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Late in 2020 Hamilton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.  He is only the sixth British race car driver knighted by the Queen and is now known as Sir Lewis Hamilton.  He currently lives in Monaco.