British racing driver
Sir Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton MBE HonFREng (born 7 January 1985) is a British racing driver. He currently competes in Formula One for Mercedes, having previously driven for McLaren from 2007 to 2012. In Formula One, Hamilton has won a joint-record seven World Drivers' Championship titles (tied with Michael Schumacher), and holds the records for the most wins (103), pole positions (103), and podium finishes (182), among others.
Born and raised in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Hamilton joined the McLaren young driver programme in 1998. This led to a Formula One drive with McLaren in 2007, making Hamilton the first, and so far only, black driver to race in the series. That season, Hamilton set numerous records as he finished runner-up to Kimi Räikkönen by one point. The following season, he won his maiden title in dramatic fashion—making a crucial overtake on the last lap of the last race of the season—to become the then-youngest Formula One World Champion in history. After four more years with McLaren, Hamilton signed with Mercedes in 2013.
Changes to the regulations for 2014 mandating the use of turbo-hybrid engines saw the start of a highly successful period for Hamilton, during which he has won six further drivers' titles. Consecutive titles came in 2014 and 2015 during an intense rivalry with teammate Nico Rosberg. Following Rosberg's retirement, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel became Hamilton's closest rival in two intense championship battles, in which Hamilton twice overturned mid-season point deficits to claim consecutive titles again in 2017 and 2018. His third and fourth consecutive titles followed in 2019 and 2020 to equal Schumacher's record of seven drivers' titles.
Hamilton has been credited with furthering Formula One's global following by appealing to a broader audience outside the sport, in part due to his high-profile lifestyle, environmental and social activism, and exploits in music and fashion. He has also become a prominent advocate in support of activism to combat racism and push for increased diversity in motorsport. Hamilton was listed in the 2020 issue of Time as one of the 100 most influential people globally, and was knighted in the 2021 New Year Honours.
Hamilton was born on 7 January 1985 in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England. His father, Anthony Hamilton, is black and is of Grenadian descent, while his mother, Carmen Larbalestier, is White British, and from Birmingham, making him mixed-race; Hamilton has identified as black. Hamilton's parents separated when he was two, after which he lived with his mother and older half-sisters, Samantha and Nicola, until he was twelve. Hamilton then lived with his father, stepmother Linda, and his half-brother Nicolas, who is also a professional racing driver. Hamilton was raised a Catholic.
Hamilton's father bought him a radio-controlled car when he was five. Hamilton finished second in the national BRCA championship the following year against adult competition. Being the only black child racing at his club, Hamilton was subjected to racist abuse. Hamilton's father bought him a go-kart for Christmas when he was six and promised to support his racing career as long as he worked hard at school.To support his son, Hamilton's father took redundancy from his position as an IT manager and became a contractor, sometimes working up to four jobs at a time including employment as a double glazing salesman, dishwasher, and putting up signs for estate agents, while still attending his son's races.Hamilton's father later set up his own IT company. He continued to be Hamilton's manager until early 2010.
Hamilton was educated at The John Henry Newman School, a voluntary aided Catholic secondary school in Stevenage. At the age of five, Hamilton took up karate to defend himself as a result of bullying at school. He was also excluded from school for a period when he was mistakenly identified as having attacked a fellow student who was treated in hospital for his injuries. In addition to racing, he played association football for his school team with eventual England international, Ashley Young. Hamilton, an Arsenal fan, said that if Formula One had not worked for him, he would have been a footballer or a cricketer, having played both for his school teams. In February 2001, he began studies at Cambridge Arts and Sciences (CATS), a private sixth-form college in Cambridge.
Hamilton began karting in 1993 and quickly began winning races and cadet class championships. Two years later, he became the youngest driver to win the British cadet karting championship at the age of ten. That year, Hamilton approached McLaren Formula One team boss Ron Dennis at the Autosport Awards for an autograph and said: "Hi. I'm Lewis Hamilton. I won the British Championship and one day I want to be racing your cars." Dennis wrote in Hamilton's autograph book: "Phone me in nine years, we'll sort something out then." When Hamilton was 12, Ladbrokes took a bet, at 40/1 odds, that Hamilton would win a Formula One race before the age of 23; another predicted, at 150/1 odds, that he would win the World Drivers' Championship before he was 25. In 1998, Dennis called Hamilton following his second Super One series and British championship wins,to offer Hamilton a role in the McLaren driver development programme.The contract included an option of a future Formula One seat, which would make Hamilton the youngest driver to secure a contract that later resulted in a Formula One drive.