Born and raised in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Hamilton's interest in racing started when his father bought him a radio-controlled car when he was six. He was signed to McLaren's young driver support programme in 1998, after he approached McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at an awards ceremony three years earlier and said "one day I want to be racing your cars". After winning the British Formula Renault, Formula Three Euroseries, and GP2 championships on his way up the racing career ladder, he made his Formula One debut twelve years after his initial encounter with Dennis, driving for McLaren in 2007. Coming from a mixed background, with a black father and white mother, Hamilton is the first and only black driver to race in Formula One.
In his first season in Formula One, Hamilton set numerous records as he finished runner-up in the 2007 Formula One Championship to Kimi Räikkönen, by just one point. He set records for the most consecutive podium finishes from debut (9), the joint most wins in a debut season (4) and the most points in a debut season (109). The following season, he won his first World Championship in dramatic fashion; on the last corner of the last lap in the last race of the season, becoming the then-youngest Formula One World Champion in history. After four more years with McLaren without finishing higher than fourth in the drivers' standings, Hamilton signed with Mercedes AMG Petronas for the 2013 season, reuniting with his childhood karting-teammate, Nico Rosberg. In his first season, he finished 4th once again, the third time in five years.
Two successful seasons followed as Hamilton won his second and third titles. Hamilton won 11 races in 2014, in a closely fought championship battle with Nico Rosberg, decided in the final race of the season, where Hamilton secured his second World Championship title by winning the race. The next season saw Hamilton seal his third World Championship title with 3 races remaining, in a season where he won 10 races and finished on the podium a record-tying 17 times and matched his hero, Ayrton Senna's, three World Championships. In 2016, Hamilton set the record for the most wins in a season without winning the World Championship, winning 10 times as he finished runner-up to Nico Rosberg by 5 points. His 60 Grand Prix victories is the second highest of all-time, behind only Michael Schumacher at 91.
Hamilton was born on 7 January 1985 in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England. Although widely reported as being named after American sprinter Carl Lewis, Hamilton states that this is not the case. Hamilton's mother, Carmen (Larbalestier), is white British, while his father, Anthony Hamilton, is black British, making him mixed-race; Anthony's parents moved to the UK from Grenada in the 1950s. Lewis's parents separated when he was two; as a result of this, he lived with his mother and half-sisters Nicola and Samantha until he was twelve, when he started living with his father, stepmother Linda and half-brother Nicolas, also a professional racing driver, who has cerebral palsy. In early 2011, Nicolas signed with Total Control Racing to start a racing career in the 2011 Renault Clio Cup. Hamilton was raised a Roman Catholic.
Hamilton's father bought him a radio-controlled car in 1991, which gave him his first taste of racing competition. Hamilton finished second in the national BRCA championship the following year. He said of the time: "I was racing these remote-controlled cars and winning club championships against adults". As a result of this his father bought him his first go-kart as a Christmas present at the age of six. His father told him that he would support his racing career as long as he worked hard at school. Supporting his son became problematic, which caused him to take redundancy from his position as an IT Manager and become a contractor. He was sometimes employed in up to three jobs at a time, while still managing to find enough time to attend all Hamilton's races. He later set up his own computer company as well as working as a full-time manager for Hamilton. Hamilton ended his working relationship with his father in early 2010 and subsequently signed a management deal in March 2011 with Simon Fuller's firm XIX Entertainment. In November 2014, Hamilton announced that he would not be renewing his management contract with Fuller.
Hamilton was educated at The John Henry Newman School, a voluntary aided Catholic secondary school in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. Alongside his interest for racing, he played association football for his school team with England international midfielder Ashley Young. Hamilton said that if Formula One had not worked for him he would have been a footballer, being a big fan of Arsenal F.C. or a cricketer, having played both for his school teams as a youngster. He subsequently attended, in February 2001, Cambridge Arts and Sciences (CATS), a private sixth-form college in Cambridge. At the age of five Hamilton took up karate to defend himself as a result of bullying at school. At around 12, he learned to ride a unicycle, as part of his karting rivalry with future F1 Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, who could already ride one.
Hamilton began karting in 1993 at the age of eight, at the Rye House Kart Circuit and quickly began winning races and Cadet class championships. At the age of ten, he approached McLaren F1 team boss Ron Dennis for an autograph, and told him, "Hi. I'm Lewis Hamilton. I won the British Championship and one day I want to be racing your cars." Dennis wrote in his autograph book, "Phone me in nine years, we'll sort something out then." Hamilton drove for Martin Hines's Zip Young Guns Karting Team. By the age of 12, his driving skill was high enough that Ladbrokes took a bet, at 40/1 odds, that Hamilton would win a Formula 1 Grand Prix race before the age of 23; another predicted, at 150/1 odds, that he would win the World Drivers' Championship before the age of 25. From the Cadet ranks, he progressed through to Junior Yamaha (1997) and Ron Dennis actually called him in 1998 after Hamilton won an additional Super One series and his second British championship. Dennis delivered on his promise and signed Hamilton to the McLaren driver development program. This contract included an option of a future F1 seat, which would eventually make Hamilton the youngest ever driver to secure a contract which later resulted in an F1 drive.
Hamilton continued his progress in the Intercontinental A (1999), Formula A (2000) and Formula Super A (2001) ranks, and became European Champion in 2000 with maximum points. In Formula A and Formula Super A, racing for TeamMBM.com, his teammate was Nico Rosberg who would later drive for the Williams and Mercedes teams in Formula One; they would later team up again for Mercedes in 2013. Following his karting successes the British Racing Drivers' Club made him a "Rising Star" Member in 2000.
In 2001, Michael Schumacher made a one-off return to karts and competed against Hamilton along with other future F1 drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton ended the final in seventh, four places behind Schumacher. Although the two saw little of each other on the track Schumacher praised the young Briton (see quote box).
Hamilton began his car racing career in the 2001 British Formula Renault Winter Series. Despite crashing on his third lap in the car in testing, he finished fifth overall in the winter series. This led to a full 2002 Formula Renault UK campaign with Manor Motorsport. Hamilton finished third overall with three wins and three pole positions. He remained with Manor for another year and won the championship with ten wins and 419 points to the two wins and 377 points of his nearest rival, Alex Lloyd. Having clinched the championship, Hamilton missed the last two races of the season to make his debut in the season finale of the British Formula 3 Championship. Here he was less successful: in the first race he was forced out with a puncture, and in the second he crashed out and was taken to hospital after a collision with his teammate Tor Graves. He did show his speed at both the Macau Grand Prix and Korea Super Prix, in the latter he qualified on pole position in his first visit to the track and in only his fourth F3 race. Asked in 2002 about the prospect of becoming one of the youngest ever Formula One drivers, Hamilton replied that his goal was "not to be the youngest in F1 ...[but] to be experienced and then show what I can do in F1".
Later in 2004, Williams would announce that they had come close to signing him but were refused the opportunity due to BMW, their engine supplier at the time, refusing to fund Hamilton's career. Hamilton eventually re-signed with McLaren, and made his debut with Manor in the 2004 Formula 3 Euro Series. They won one race and Hamilton ended the year fifth in the championship. He also won the Bahrain F3 Superprix and raced one of the Macau F3 Grand Prix. Hamilton first tested for McLaren in late 2004 at Silverstone.
Hamilton moved to the reigning Euro Series champions ASM for the 2005 season and dominated the championship, winning 15 of the 20 rounds. This would have been 16 but for being disqualified from one win at Spa-Francorchamps on a technical infringement that caught out several other drivers. He also won the Marlboro Masters of Formula 3 at Zandvoort. After the season British magazine Autosport featured him in their "Top 50 Drivers of 2005" issue, ranking Hamilton 24th.
Due to his success in Formula Three, he moved to ASM's sister GP2 team ART Grand Prix for 2006. Just like their sister team in F3, ART were the leaders of the field and reigning champions having taken the 2005 GP2 crown with Nico Rosberg. Hamilton won the GP2 championship at his first attempt, beating Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Timo Glock.
His performances included a dominant win at the Nürburgring, despite serving a penalty for speeding in the pit lane. At his home race at Silverstone, supporting the British Grand Prix, Hamilton overtook two rivals at Becketts, a series of high-speed (up to 150 mph in a GP2 car) bends where overtaking is rare. In Istanbul he recovered from a spin that left him in eighteenth place to take second position in the final corners. He won the title in unusual circumstances, inheriting the final point he needed after Giorgio Pantano was stripped of fastest lap in the Monza feature race. In the sprint race, though he finished second with Piquet sixth, he finished twelve points clear of his rival.
His 2006 GP2 championship coincided with a vacancy at McLaren following the departure of Juan Pablo Montoya to NASCAR and Kimi Räikkönen to Ferrari. After months of speculation on whether Hamilton, Pedro de la Rosa or Gary Paffett would be paired with defending champion Fernando Alonso for 2007, Hamilton was confirmed as the team's second driver. He was told of McLaren's decision on 30 September, but the news was not made public until 24 November, for fear that it would be overshadowed by Michael Schumacher's retirement announcement.
It was announced prior to the start of the season that Hamilton would be partnering defending double World Champion Fernando Alonso who had joined McLaren after leaving Renault. On his debut at the Australian Grand Prix, he finished third in the race, becoming the thirteenth driver to finish on the podium in his first F1 career race (excluding those in the first ever World Championship round). In Bahrain and Barcelona, Hamilton finished second behind Felipe Massa to take the lead in the drivers championship. This meant that Hamilton broke Bruce McLaren's record of being the youngest driver to ever lead the world championship.
Hamilton finished second behind Alonso at Monaco and afterwards he suggested he was prevented from racing his teammate. The FIA cleared McLaren following an investigation. Hamilton had both his first pole position and first victory of his F1 career in the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. A week later Hamilton won the United States Grand Prix, becoming the first Briton since John Watson in 1983 to win an F1 race in the US, and only the second person, after Jacques Villeneuve, to win more than one race in his rookie Formula One season since the first year of the Championship.
By finishing third at Magny-Cours behind Ferrari drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa, Hamilton extended his lead in the Driver's Championship to 14 points. In Hamilton's first home Grand Prix at Silverstone he finished third. Having secured this podium finish meant he equalled Jim Clark's 1963 record of 9 consecutive podium finishes for a British driver.
During qualifying for the European Grand Prix, Hamilton crashed at the Schumacher chicane after a problem with the wheel nut caused by the wheel gun used on his car. He was taken to the circuit's medical centre on a stretcher with an oxygen mask and drip, but was conscious throughout. He was unable to complete qualifying and his existing laptime was surpassed by all other competitors during Q3, thus he qualified in tenth position. After a final medical check on Sunday morning, Hamilton was cleared to race. During a heavy rainstorm which caused the race to be red-flagged Hamilton slid off into a gravel trap, however as he kept his engine running he was lifted back on to the circuit and able to rejoin the race after the restart. His ninth-place finish in this race was his first non-podium and non-points finish. Controversially, Hamilton became the first and only driver to have his car recovered by a crane and put back on the track during a Formula One race. This led some to the conclusion Hamilton was getting preferential treatment by the FIA as all other drivers who went off into the gravel were not craned back onto the track. The FIA subsequently banned the use of mechanical assistance to move a car back on track afterwards.
Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix from pole position following a controversial qualifying session. Alonso had set the fastest time, but was relegated five places down the grid to sixth for preventing Hamilton from leaving the pit lane in time to complete his final qualifying lap. After the race Hamilton declared that he had restored his relationship with Alonso. At the Turkish Grand Prix Hamilton suffered a puncture which saw him finish in fifth place. Alonso beat Hamilton in the Italian and Belgian Grands Prix, leaving Hamilton with a two-point lead in the title race. However he extended his lead to 12 points after winning the Japanese Grand Prix in heavy rain after Alonso crashed. Following the race Hamilton was investigated by the race stewards over his involvement in an incident behind the safety car, which saw both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber crash out of the race while following him. The trio were cleared on the Friday of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend. At the Chinese Grand Prix, Hamilton started from pole, but failed to finish after McLaren left him out for too long on worn tyres (despite advice from Bridgestone), and he slid into a gravel trap as he came into the pit lane. Hamilton thus went into the final race of the season four and seven points ahead of Alonso and Räikkönen respectively.
In the Brazilian Grand Prix Hamilton finished in seventh place and Räikkönen won, which meant that Hamilton came second in the championship by one point. On the first lap Hamilton was passed by several cars and dropped to eighth place. On the ninth lap of the race Hamilton could not select a gear and ending up coasting for 40 seconds. He recovered to seventh place but Ferrari switched their two drivers allowing the championship to go to Räikkönen. Hamilton took the record of Youngest World Drivers' Championship runner-up, at 22 years and 288 days, previously held by Kimi Räikkönen at 23 years and 360 days (since beaten by Sebastian Vettel in 2009).
On 21 October 2007 it was announced that the FIA were investigating BMW Sauber and Williams for fuel irregularities, the BMW drivers had finished in fifth and sixth place, and if they were to be excluded Hamilton would be promoted to fifth and would win the 2007 Drivers World Championship by one point over Räikkönen. Ultimately no penalty whatsoever was given to any team as there was "sufficient doubt as to render it inappropriate to impose a penalty", though McLaren officially appealed this decision. Hamilton subsequently told the BBC he did not want to win an F1 title through the disqualifications of other drivers.
Hamilton's relationship with McLaren team boss Ron Dennis dates back to 1995, with the first indication that Hamilton was unhappy with his team appearing after he finished second at Monaco in 2007. After post-race comments made by Hamilton which suggested he had been forced into a supporting role, the FIA initiated an inquiry to determine whether McLaren had broken rules by enforcing team orders. McLaren denied favouring double world champion Fernando Alonso, and the FIA subsequently vindicated the team, stating that: "McLaren were able to pursue an optimum team strategy because they had a substantial advantage over all other cars. They did nothing which could be described as interfering with the race result".
The tensions within the team surfaced again at the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix. During the final qualifying session for the race Hamilton was delayed in the pits by Alonso and thus unable to set a final lap time before the end of the session. McLaren pointed out that Hamilton had disobeyed an earlier instruction to let Alonso pass in qualifying, for fear of losing his own position. Alonso was relegated to sixth place on the starting grid, thus elevating Hamilton (who had originally qualified second) to first, while McLaren were docked constructors championship points. Hamilton said he thought Alonso's penalty was "quite light if anything" and only regretted the loss of constructors' points. Hamilton was reported to have sworn at Dennis on the team radio following the incident. British motorsport journal Autosport claimed that this "[led] Dennis to throw his headphones on the pit wall in disgust (a gesture that was misinterpreted by many to be in reaction to Alonso's pole)". However McLaren later issued a statement on behalf of Hamilton which denied the use of any profanity. As a result of these events, the relationship between Hamilton and Alonso temporarily collapsed, with the pair not on speaking terms for a short period. In the aftermath it was reported that Hamilton had been targeted by Luca di Montezemolo regarding a Ferrari drive for 2008.
Following the stewards' investigation into the incident at the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix, Alonso stated: "I'm not thinking of this championship any more, it's been decided off the track. The drivers' briefing has no purpose. You go there to hear what Charlie Whiting and the other officials say. Twenty one drivers have an opinion, Charlie and the officials another, and so it's like talking to a wall".
The rivalry between Hamilton and teammate Alonso led to speculation that one of the pair would leave McLaren at the end of the 2007 season and Alonso and McLaren subsequently terminated their contract by mutual consent on 2 November 2007.
On 14 December 2007, it was confirmed that Heikki Kovalainen who drove for Renault in 2007 would drive the second car for McLaren-Mercedes for the 2008 Formula One season alongside Hamilton. In January 2008, Hamilton signed a new five-year multimillion-pound contract to stay with McLaren-Mercedes until the end of the 2012 season.
Hamilton won the first race of the 2008 season, the Australian Grand Prix, having qualified on pole position. In Malaysia, he finished fifth after he had started from ninth on the grid, serving a penalty for impeding Nick Heidfeld's qualifying lap. He was back on the podium in Spain finishing third. Hamilton finished second in Turkey, and won the Monaco Grand Prix, putting him in the lead of the championship. In Montreal, Hamilton crashed into the back of Räikkönen during the race, after failing to see that the Finn was waiting at a red light at the end of the pit lane as the whole field went past under the guide of the safety car. Both cars were forced to retire and Hamilton was given a 10 position grid penalty for the next race, the French Grand Prix. Despite an error in qualifying that saw him start fourth on the grid, Hamilton went on to win the British Grand Prix in difficult, wet conditions. His performance was stated as being one of his best drives to date. Hamilton himself said in the post race press conference that it was his most difficult and most meaningful win. In the next race at Hockenheim, Hamilton won the race despite a tactical blunder by the team.
Hamilton won the Belgian Grand Prix, however he was later judged to have gained an unfair advantage by cutting a chicane when he used a tarmac run off area to avoid hitting Kimi Räikkönen. McLaren said that their telemetry showed Hamilton backed off to let Räikkönen past but Hamilton was given a 25-second penalty, thereby dropping him to third. As a result, his main title rival Massa inherited the win. Hamilton's lead in the Drivers' Championship was cut to two points, and a subsequent appeal by McLaren to the FIA World Motor Sport Council was rejected on the grounds that the case was inadmissible.
The Italian Grand Prix saw Hamilton finish in seventh place. This result cut Hamilton's lead in the Championship to one point. Hamilton finished third at the next race in Singapore, while Massa failed to score any points, allowing Hamilton to increase his championship lead to seven points. At Fuji, Hamilton was given a drive-through penalty for forcing other cars off the track when he made an error on the first lap. Before he could serve the penalty Hamilton attempted to pass Massa who hit him after the Ferraris driver made a mistake. Massa was later given a drive-through penalty for this move. Hamilton could only finish in 12th position, however Massa finished seventh after being given an extra point after a penalty was given to Toro Rosso's Sébastien Bourdais. This meant that with just two races to go Hamilton led the World Championship by five points from Massa. At the Chinese Grand Prix, Hamilton won the race from Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen, taking a 7-point lead in the World Championship into the last race of the season. Speaking afterwards, Hamilton said "All weekend we have had God on our side as always, and the team did a phenomenal job in preparing the car, which has been a dream to drive."
At the Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton needed to finish at least in fifth position if Massa won the race to secure the World Championship. In mixed conditions, Hamilton became the youngest Formula One World Champion as he snatched the championship on the very last corner. Just before the race began a rain shower hit and Hamilton ran in fourth place before dropping down to sixth to put on dry weather tyres. Hamilton moved back to fourth place after passing Fisichella and overtaking the three stopping Vettel. Hamilton held Vettel off and after they pitted for wet weather tyres as another shower he was fifth. But with two laps to go Vettel overtook Hamilton and the Brit could not get back past, but on the final lap he and Vettel made up an eighteen-second gap on Glock who had stayed out on dry tyres and Hamilton overtook him for fifth place and the championship by one point in the very last corner as Massa won the race. This meant that Hamilton had clinched the 2008 Formula One World Championship, becoming the youngest driver to win the title, as well as the first black driver. He is also the first British driver to win the World Championship since Damon Hill triumphed in 1996.
On 4 February 2008, Hamilton was verbally heckled and otherwise abused during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Catalonia by several Spanish spectators who wore black face paint and black wigs, as well as shirts bearing the words "Hamilton's familly [sic]". Hamilton became widely unpopular in Spain because of his rivalry with Spanish former teammate Fernando Alonso. The FIA have warned Spanish authorities about the repetition of such behaviour. In reaction to this behaviour, the FIA announced on 13 February 2008 that it will launch a "Race Against Racism" campaign.
Shortly before the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, a website owned by the Spanish branch of the New York–based advertising agency TBWA and named "pinchalaruedadeHamilton" ("burst Hamilton's tyre") was featured in the British media. The website contained an animated image of Interlagos that allowed users to leave nails and porcupines on the track for Hamilton's car to run over. Among thousands of comments left since 2007, some included racial insults. His rival Fernando Alonso condemned the racist supporters.
Hamilton started the 2009 season-opening Australian Grand Prix from 18th place on the grid after the McLaren team incurred a penalty for changing his gearbox during qualifying. Hamilton benefited from a late crash between Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica to move into fourth place by the end of the race. He was then promoted to third after Jarno Trulli was penalised for overtaking him under safety-car conditions. During a post-race stewards' hearing, Hamilton and McLaren officials told stewards they had not purposely let Trulli pass, but it was revealed by release of the McLaren race radio communication that this was not true. Hamilton was then disqualified from the race for providing "misleading evidence" during the stewards' hearing. He later privately apologised to FIA race director Charlie Whiting for having lied to the stewards. He went on to describe the incident as the hardest week of his life, and considered quitting Formula One.
Hamilton scored minor points at the Malaysian, Chinese and Bahrain Grands Prix. Hamilton's fortunes were reversed at the Hungaroring, the tenth round of the season where he won the race, 11.529 seconds clear of Räikkönen to take his 10th career win and the first for a KERS-equipped car. McLaren's return to form continued in Valencia, where Hamilton finished second. In Singapore Grand Prix, Hamilton took his second win of the season. He finished third at the Japanese and Brazilian Grands Prix. In the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton led the race, but retired on lap 20 due to a rear brake problem, his first technical-related retirement in Formula One.
For the new season Hamilton would drive alongside Jenson Button, after Heikki Kovalainen moved to Lotus Racing.
Hamilton finished third in Bahrain, In Australia, Hamilton ended the race in sixth place, after a late-race collision with Mark Webber. In Malaysia a misjudgement on the weather by his team in qualifying, left him on tyres that were unfavourable for the wet conditions. This restricted him to 20th on the grid for the race, but he made his way through the field to finish in sixth place. Hamilton was given a warning during the race, after he weaved four times on a straight as he tried to break the tow that Vitaly Petrov was receiving and was not intending to block him. After the race the rules were clarified by stewards to only allow a driver to make one move during an overtaking manoeuvre.
Hamilton achieved a second-place finish in China behind Jenson Button. This completed McLaren's first 1–2 finish since the 2007 Italian Grand Prix. Hamilton was involved in a pit lane incident with Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, for which both later received a reprimand from race stewards. In Monaco Hamilton qualified and finished fiftth. In the Turkish Grand Prix Grand Prix, Hamilton claimed his first victory of the 2010 season as he and Button completed a 1–2. Hamilton qualified on pole for the Canadian Grand Prix, continuing a 100% pole record at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. After setting his pole lap, Hamilton received instructions from his team to stop on circuit due to a lack of fuel in the car which would not be equivalent to the level necessary for a sample to be taken by the FIA. Hamilton was reprimanded after failing to complete his in-lap in a sufficient time, while his team received a $10,000 fine. But Hamilton went on to win the race and take the lead in the Drivers' Championship after McLaren's third 1–2 of the season. In Valencia Alonso complained on his radio that Hamilton had gained an advantage by not following the safety car which led to the stewards giving Hamilton a drive through penalty. However Alonso and the Ferrari were furious as the length of time to make a decision meant that the penalty did not alter the result of the race as Hamilton finished second. This led to Hamilton to accuse Alonso of "sour grapes", although the pair reconciled before the next race.
He finished second at his home race at Silverstone, and followed it up with fourth at the German Grand Prix. Despite running into the gravel at Spa-Francorchamps, Hamilton won his third race of the season and reclaimed the championship lead. However, successive crashes at the Italian and Singapore Grands Prix dropped him to 3rd in the championship. At the Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton finished fifth. In South Korea, Hamilton finished second and finished fourth at the Brazilian Grand Prix. In the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi Hamilton finished second to Vettel in the race, who broke Hamilton's record for being the youngest ever Formula One World Champion.
At the start of the 2011 season Hamilton dismissed Red Bull Racing as "just a drinks company". Hamilton began the season qualifying and finishing second in the Australian Grand Prix, despite having to deal with a damaged floor on his McLaren. In the Malaysian Grand Prix, he qualified second and finished seventh on-the-road, struggling partly due to tyre wear and being tagged by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in the closing stages. Hamilton received a 20-second time penalty post-race for weaving whilst defending and unsuitable driving, which dropped Hamilton to eighth place. Hamilton took his first win of the season in China. He then finished fourth in Turkey, and second in Spain.
In Monaco, he qualified tenth after Q3 was red-flagged before he could set a competitive time due to a heavy crash from Sergio Pérez. During the race Hamilton received a drive through penalty after he bumped into Massa at the Hotel Harpin. Later on, Alguersuari crashed into Hamilton, breaking his rear wing; the race was red-flagged as Petrov crashed at the same time allowing his team to fix the car. On the restart he had a collision with Maldonado at Sainte Devote, which later he was given a 20-second time penalty for but it did not affect his finishing position. In an interview with the BBC Hamilton, said that he had been to the stewards five races out of six thus far in the season and felt victimised. When prompted why he had been to the stewards so much Hamilton replied "Maybe it's because I'm black. That's what Ali G says." He later returned to the stewards and explained the joke and escaped further punishment.
At the Canadian Grand Prix, Hamilton collided with Webber at the first corner before rejoining behind his teammate. A few laps later Hamilton tried to capitalise on a mistake attempted to pass teammate Button who pushed the former into the pitwall causing Hamilton to retire with a broken driveshaft, both agreed that it was one of those things. In Valencia and Silverstone Hamilton finished fourth after holding off Massa whilst managing high tyre wear in the former and conserve fuel in the later. In Germany, Hamilton took his second victory of 2011 as he held off Webber and Alonso. In Hungary Hamilton had five pitstops and a drive-through penalty for sending Paul di Resta onto the grass as he finished fourth. He finished fourth at Monza after a race long battle with Michael Schumacher, who he refused to blame the German after his aggressive tactics.
In Singapore Grand Prix, Hamilton caused an accident with Felipe Massa which left Hamilton needing a new front wing and a drive through penalty. Hamilton was accused by Massa of being "incapable of using his brain," during a post race interview. Whilst the pair conducted interviews, Massa grabbed Hamilton's shoulder saying "Good job, man, well done" which Hamilton responded by telling the Brazilian to leave him alone. Before the Japanese Grand Prix Hamilton insisted that he had not done anything wrong during the season. During the race Hamilton suffered a puncture before once again tangling with Massa; despite Ferrari pushing for Hamilton to be punished, Hamilton escaped a reprimand as he finished fifth. Hamilton later told Massa to "grow up", after admitting that his Formula One career had driven over a cliff.
In Korea, Hamilton qualified on pole position, ending a run of 16 consecutive pole positions for Red Bull. He led only until turn four on lap 1, where World Champion Sebastian Vettel overtook him and went on to win the race as Hamilton finished second. At the inaugural race in India, Hamilton recorded the second-fastest time in qualifying, but was penalised three places on the starting grid, after a yellow flag infraction in Friday practice. Hamilton finished seventh after yet another incident with Massa which left the Brazilian facing the penalty as Hamilton had to replace the front wing. In Abu Dhabi, Hamilton qualified second and won the race. In Brazil Hamilton and Massa ended their feud as he retired from the race and finish fifth overall in the championship.
Hamilton remained at McLaren alongside Button for the 2012 season. Hamilton qualified in pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, but finished third after being passed by Button at the start, and by Vettel after pitting before a safety car. Hamilton again qualified on pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix, but in the race was passed early on by Fernando Alonso and Sergio Pérez, finishing third. Hamilton took his third consecutive third-place finish in China, with Nico Rosberg and Button ahead. Hamilton qualified in second place in Bahrain, but during the race, a series of poor pitstops put him out of contention, and he finished eighth. Hamilton was also involved in a controversial racing incident with Rosberg, with Rosberg appearing to push Hamilton off track while he attempted to overtake. Hamilton qualified on pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix, but had to stop the car on track in order for a reputable fuel sample to be given post-qualifying. The stewards decided he had breached qualifying rules introduced after a similar incident involving Hamilton at the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix. Race stewards excluded him from the qualifying results, and demoted him to the back of the grid; but despite this, Hamilton finished eighth, ahead of Button, who had started in tenth.
Hamilton achieved his first victory of the season at the Canadian Grand Prix – winning the race for the third time – after overtaking Fernando Alonso in the closing stages.
Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix on 29 July 2012 to claim his second win of the season. Hamilton, along with championship leader Fernando Alonso, retired from the Belgian Grand Prix after being involved in a multiple car accident on the first corner of the race. Romain Grosjean was deemed responsible for causing the accident and was given a one-race ban. Hamilton bounced back with pole position for the Italian Grand Prix, and led for the majority of the race to claim his third victory of the season and keep his hopes of winning the Drivers' Championship alive. Hamilton again qualified on pole at the Singapore Grand Prix, but suffered a gearbox failure whilst leading the race. He also retired from the lead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, before he won the United States Grand Prix in Austin. Hamilton's season ended with another pole position and retirement in the Brazilian GP, when he was involved in a collision with Nico Hülkenberg while leading in the late stages.
On 28 September 2012, it was announced after much speculation that Hamilton would be leaving McLaren after the 2012 season to join the Mercedes-Benz works team for the 2013 season onwards, partnering Nico Rosberg after signing a three-year contract with the team.
In his first race weekend for Mercedes, the Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton qualified in third and ended the race in fifth place. Hamilton finished third in Malaysia to take his first podium for the team, although Nico Rosberg was prevented from attempting to overtake him by team orders. At the following race in China, Hamilton secured his first pole position for Mercedes.
At Monaco after being out-qualified by his teammate Rosberg for the third successive race, Hamilton admitted that he was struggling to control the car under braking. Prior to the race, both Red Bull and Ferrari had lodged formal complaints against Mercedes for taking part in what was determined to be an illegal 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) tyre test. Neither Mercedes drivers received any punishment for the breach of rules, and Mercedes was given a reprimand.
At the Hungarian Grand Prix, Hamilton secured his first race win as a Mercedes driver, the first British driver to win a Formula One race in a Mercedes works car since Stirling Moss did so at the 1955 British Grand Prix, at Silverstone. He won the race from an unexpected pole position, eventually crossing the line nearly 11 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Kimi Räikkönen. By winning the Hungarian Grand Prix, Hamilton continued his personal record of winning at least one race prior to the mid-season break, and went into the summer break in the fourth place in the Drivers' Championship. At the Belgian Grand Prix he secured his fifth and last pole position of the season and finished the race third. Although he did not score any podiums for the rest of the season, a string of point finishes helped him end the season in fourth place.
A new rule for the 2014 season allowed the drivers to pick a unique car number that they will use for their entire career. Hamilton picked No. 44, the same number he used during his karting days.
During pre-season testing in Jerez, Hamilton along with Mercedes teammate Rosberg showed themselves as the team to beat. This was realised at the Australian Grand Prix where Hamilton took pole. He was forced to retire, but Rosberg dominated to win by over 20 seconds. In Malaysia, Hamilton's potential was realised when he won from pole in a Mercedes one-two, the first since 1955. In Bahrain, Mercedes were unstoppable with Rosberg claiming pole in a Mercedes front-row lock-out. Hamilton got a better start but still battled hard with Rosberg through the early part of the race. Mercedes chose split strategies for their drivers, and Hamilton opened up a gap on the faster option tyres. But the safety car was called out after Esteban Gutiérrez rolled his Sauber. Hamilton was forced to battle Rosberg in a gripping race to the finish with tight wheel-to-wheel racing. In the end Hamilton won, taking consecutive victories for the first time since the 2010 season, when he won in Turkey and Canada.
Mercedes's dominance was further confirmed in China where Hamilton took pole and then led every lap of the race while his teammate finished in second place. This completed a hat-trick of wins, the first of Hamilton's career. Mercedes continued to dominate in Spain where Hamilton once again set pole position and went on to win the race – his fourth successive win – despite close competition from teammate Nico Rosberg who finished in second place. At Monaco, Hamilton qualified 2nd behind Rosberg. Rosberg was investigated by the stewards after he went down the escape road at the Mirabeau corner. The resulting yellow flags forced Hamilton to back off in the final moments of the session, which could have cost Hamilton a chance at pole position. Rosberg was cleared of any wrongdoing in that incident. Rosberg won the race with Hamilton finishing 2nd. During qualifying for the German Grand Prix, Hamilton had a brake failure and started 20th but managed to finish 3rd. An engine fire in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix meant he would start from the pit lane from where he again managed to climb to third ahead of Rosberg, despite being ordered by his race engineer to let his teammate past.
At the first race after the summer break in Belgium, Hamilton took the lead from Rosberg at the start but a collision between them on lap two punctured his rear tyre and he later retired from the race. He then won the Italian, and Singapore Grands Prix each from pole to take the lead in the Drivers' Championship. This was followed by victories at the Japanese Grand Prix – which was stopped due to heavy rain – the Russian and United States Grands Prix to achieve five consecutive victories for the first time in his career. His tenth victory of the season was also his 32nd career victory, the most of any British driver. Hamilton became the World Champion after winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, beating teammate Rosberg by 67 points, after Rosberg's car encountered mechanical trouble during the race. Hamilton said in the podium interview "This is the greatest day of my life". At the end of the year, Hamilton was awarded with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.
Hamilton enjoyed a continuation of Mercedes's dominance heading into the 2015 season, as the new W06 Hybrid completed more laps in pre-season testing than any rival car, and did so using just one power unit. At the opening race in Australia, Hamilton qualified in pole position, 0.594 seconds quicker than teammate Rosberg and 1.391 seconds clear of Felipe Massa's Williams in third. Hamilton then won the race ahead of Rosberg in second, with Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari in third, 34 seconds back. In Monaco he lost first position to his teammate Rosberg after leading the race for 65 laps due to a pit-stop error made by his team, eventually finishing third.
Ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, Mercedes announced they had extended the contract with Hamilton for three additional years, keeping him at the squad until the end of the 2018 season. This followed months of widely publicised contract talks between the driver, who chose to negotiate on his own behalf, and the team. The deal is reportedly worth more than 100 million pounds over the full three years, making Hamilton one of the best paid drivers in Formula One. It was also reported that the extension contract granted Hamilton the right to maintain his own image rights, which is considered unusual in the sport, and keep his championship winning cars as well as the trophies he collects.
After a win-less start to the European round, Hamilton went on to win the British Grand Prix for the second time in a row and third overall, also surpassing Jackie Stewart's 45-year-old record of laps led in eighteen consecutive Grands Prix. He finished 6th in an eventful Hungarian Grand Prix, ending his run of 16 consecutive podium finishes, the second-longest in F1 history. Hamilton won the next two races at Spa and Monza and extended his championship lead over Nico Rosberg, who was forced to retire in the latter race due to engine failure, to 53 points. At the Singapore Grand Prix, Hamilton was only able qualify in 5th ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg, and had moved up to 4th in the race before he was forced to retire due to a power unit issue. By winning the United States Grand Prix, Hamilton secured his third Drivers' Championship with three races left to run.
At the season opening Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton qualified on pole. He made a poor start to the race, however, but recovered to finish second behind his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. In the second race of the season, the Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton again qualified on pole. On the first lap however there was a collision between him and Bottas, for which Bottas was handed a drive-through penalty. Hamilton recovered to finish the race in third behind Rosberg and Räikkönen. In the next race, the Chinese Grand Prix, Hamilton did not set a time in qualifying and started at the back of the grid. He got as high up fifth but was overtaken by Räikkönen and Ricciardo near the end of the race to finish seventh. In the fourth race of the season, the Russian Grand Prix, Hamilton did not set a time in the third part of qualifying, meaning he started from tenth position on the grid. He finished second behind Rosberg, despite having zero water pressure for the last 16 laps.
In the next race in Spain, Hamilton claimed pole position, ahead of Rosberg. Both drivers made a good start, but Rosberg passed Hamilton around the outside of Turn 1. In the next few corners, Rosberg's car entered an incorrect engine mode due to an error the German had made on the formation lap. That meant he was slower than Hamilton coming out of Turn 3, and Hamilton went to overtake for the lead. Rosberg closed the door and forced Hamilton on to the grass where he lost control, eventually spinning into Rosberg and taking both drivers out of the race. The stewards deemed it a racing incident and decided Hamilton had been justified in his attempt as he was 17 km/h quicker than Rosberg coming out of Turn 3. On the opening lap a collision between Hamilton and Rosberg meant that both Mercedes cars retired instantly. The stewards decided that the collision was a racing incident.
Hamilton, now 43 points behind Rosberg, began to close the gap by winning in Monaco and Canada ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel respectively, however a crash in qualifying at the next race in Baku and an engine mode setting problem meant that he was only able to finish 5th. On 3 July 2016, Hamilton went on to win the Austrian Grand Prix despite having a last lap collision with Rosberg. On 10 July 2016, Hamilton completed a hat-trick of home wins by triumphing in the British Grand Prix to cut his Mercedes teammate's championship lead to just one point. He took the lead in the championship in the following race in Hungary, and extended the gap to 19 points after winning in Germany, where Rosberg finished fourth.
After the summer break, however, Hamilton's season unraveled. With Mercedes opting to take a series of grid penalties to build up a stockpile of components, Hamilton was forced to start in Belgium from 21st position. He took advantage of first-lap contact between Vettel, Räikkönen, and Verstappen to work his way through the field before a heavy accident involving Kevin Magnussen at Eau Rouge forced the race to be temporarily stopped. When the race resumed, Nico Rosberg led the race until the chequered flag, while Hamilton ultimately finished third after being unable to catch Daniel Ricciardo. Rosberg reduced Hamilton's championship lead to two points at the next round in Italy, taking advantage of a slow start from pole position by Hamilton to establish an early lead that went unchallenged through the race. Hamilton dropped as low as fifth at the start, recovering to fourth in the opening laps and using strategy to get ahead of the Ferraris of Vettel and Räikkönen.
Rosberg reclaimed the championship lead in Singapore, qualifying on pole while Hamilton was forced to settle for third after struggling with mechanical issues and driving errors. Hamilton looked set to regain the lead after comfortably leading the Malaysian Grand Prix, however he retired sixteen laps from the end of the race with engine failure, leaving Daniel Ricciardo in control of the race, whilst Rosberg finished in third position, extending his championship lead to twenty-three points.
Rosberg further extended his championship lead to thirty-three points in Japan, starting the race from pole and finishing in first. Meanwhile, Hamilton made another poor start, slipping from second on the grid to eighth by the end of the first lap. He recovered with an alternate pit strategy to reclaim third place going into the final phase of the race but was unable to pass Max Verstappen, and finished in third, meaning that his deficit to Rosberg was now 33 points and that the Championship was no longer in his hands. The result secured Mercedes's third consecutive World Constructors' Championship title. Hamilton began to reduce Rosberg's lead, fronting a Mercedes 1–2 finish in the United States. Hamilton led another Mercedes 1–2 in Mexico and in Brazil, he dominated a heavily wet race to complete another hat-trick of wins. However with Rosberg again finishing in second it meant that to win the championship, he would have to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Rosberg finishing fourth or lower.
In Abu Dhabi, Hamilton took pole position ahead of Rosberg, and led him for most of the race. In the final laps of the race, Hamilton defied team-orders, first from his race engineer and then by the team's technical director, and deliberately slowed to back Nico Rosberg into the chasing pack at end of the race in a bid to encourage rivals Vettel and Verstappen to overtake his team mate, which would have allowed him to win the world championship. However, Rosberg was able hold his position to take second place, enough to win the title with 385 points to Hamilton's 380. Pressed on whether Hamilton could face sanction or even suspension, Toto Wolff replied: “Everything is possible", although no punishment was publicly announced. Others have supported him, on the principle that "drivers are free to race". After the race, Hamilton denied that he had been guilty of any wrongdoing, saying “I don’t think I did anything dangerous", “I was in the lead, so I control the pace. Those are the rules.”
On 2 December 2016, just five days after winning the World Driver's Championship, Rosberg announced his shock retirement from the sport. On 16 January 2017, Williams driver Valtteri Bottas was announced as Rosberg's replacement at Mercedes, thus becoming Hamilton's new teammate. At the season opener in Australia, Hamilton took pole ahead of Sebastian Vettel and his teammate Valtteri Bottas. During the race, he made an early pit stop, coming out behind the Red Bull car of Max Verstappen. Although he was very close to the Red Bull, he failed to pass him for four laps which ultimately led to Vettel being able to take the win, with Hamilton only able to take second. This race signalled an end to the Mercedes dominance of the past two seasons.
In the second race of the season in China, Hamilton again started from pole. Hamilton defended his pole immediately with a rapid and clean start, remaining unchallenged for the remainder of the race. As well as taking his 54th career win, Hamilton led every lap and set the fastest lap to give the Mercedes driver his third career Grand Slam. Hamilton also equalled Jim Clark's career record of 11 "hat-tricks" – races won from pole while setting the fastest lap – placing him equal second on the all-time list.
In Bahrain, the third race of 2017, Hamilton was beaten to pole by his teammate Bottas. He was passed by Vettel off the start and then incurred a five-second penalty for driving too slow in the pit lane, but recovered to finish second behind Championship rival Vettel. After the race he made a public apology to his team for the penalty he received, but also raised concerns over the pace of his car. At the next race in Sochi, Russia, Hamilton struggled for pace all weekend and qualified in fourth. In the race he finished fourth, while his teammate Bottas took his first ever Grand Prix victory.
Mercedes brought a series of upgrades to their car for the Spanish Grand Prix, and qualifying saw Hamilton take pole ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. Vettel overtook Hamilton going into the first turn, who was unable to pass until Vettel pitted 14 laps later. Hamilton stayed out before pitting under the Virtual Safety Car, gaining time on Vettel who pitted a lap later. Vettel emerged from the pitlane alongside Hamilton, and the pair touched wheels as Hamilton was forced off the track and fell behind Vettel. Hamilton passed Vettel for the lead on lap 44 and held on to win the race, reducing Vettel's lead in the championship to 6 points and increasing Mercedes's lead in the Constructors' Championship to 8 points over Ferrari.
Two weeks later in Monaco, while Ferrari locked out the front row, Hamilton qualified in 14th as he struggled to warm his tyres as well as his final flying lap being impeded by an accident involving Stoffel Vandoorne. Hamilton recovered to finish the race in 7th position, while Vettel passed Räikkönen through the pit-stop phase to win the race and extend his championship lead to 25 points over Hamilton.
After a disappointing result in Monaco, Hamilton took an emphatic pole position in Canada to equal his hero Ayrton Senna with the 65th of his career. After the session, Hamilton was presented with one of Senna's old helmets, a gift from the late Brazilian's family for equalling his record. Upon receiving the gift, Hamilton was speechless for a moment, before saying "I'm shaking. Ayrton, I know for many of you was your favourite driver and he was for me. He inspired me to be where I am today so to receive this is the greatest honour". The race was won by Hamilton who, as well as taking pole position, led every lap of the race and set the fastest lap for his second Grand Slam of the season.
Hamilton secured his fifth pole position of the season at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as he looked to reduce the deficit to championship leader Vettel. Hamilton made a good start, while Vettel moved up to second after Bottas and Räikkönen collided in the first sector. The race was full of incident, with three Safety Cars and a red flag. Just before the second Safety Car period was coming to an end, Vettel collided into the rear of race leader Hamilton, accusing his title rival of brake testing him, though FIA telemetry data showed that Hamilton had not used his brakes. Moments later, Vettel pulled alongside and swerved into Hamilton's Mercedes as they prepared for a restart, for which he received a ten-second stop-go penalty. However, with Hamilton being forced to pit for a loose headrest a couple of laps earlier, Vettel emerged in front and held off Hamilton to move 14 points clear in the standings. The FIA would investigate the incident further, but Vettel received no further punishment, although took full responsibility, issuing a public apology to Hamilton and committing to devote personal time over the next 12 months to educational activities across a variety of FIA championships and events.
In Austria, Hamilton qualified 3rd behind Vettel, while his team-mate Bottas took pole. He received a five place grid penalty after his car required an unscheduled gearbox change, and so started the race in 8th position. Hamilton finished the race in fourth place, while Bottas took his second ever grand prix victory. Vettel finished in second to extend his championship lead to 20 points over Hamilton.
At the British Grand Prix, Hamilton qualified on pole, with a time over half a second quicker than second-placed Räikkönen. The race was won by Hamilton, who achieved a record-equalling third grand slam of the season, starting from pole position, leading every lap of the race, setting fastest lap, and winning with a 14-second lead over Mercedes teammate Bottas. With his fifth British Grand Prix win, he equalled the records of Alain Prost and Jim Clark, who also won the race five times each. In contrast, his championship rival Sebastian Vettel suffered a tyre failure with two laps to go, and subsequently finished seventh. As a result, his lead over Hamilton in the Drivers' standings was reduced to one point.
Hamilton is regarded as one of the most complete drivers on the grid. The all-time record holder for most pole positions, Hamilton is considered one of the fastest qualifiers in the sport. Also a tenacious racer, he excels across a wide range of areas. He has been described as having an aggressive driving style, which at times results in a tendency to lock up the front wheels. Hamilton explained how his driving style was influenced by watching his hero, Ayrton Senna, saying "I think it’s partly because I watched Ayrton Senna when I was young and I thought 'this is how I want to drive when I get the opportunity' and I went out there and tried it on the kart track. My whole approach the racing has developed from there". Hamilton has received praise for his ability to adapt to variances in the car set-up and changing track conditions and throughout his career, he has typically used less fuel than his team-mates as a result of his ability to carry momentum through corners despite instability in the car. Hamilton has received praise for his ability to produce fast laps at crucial moments, particularly in qualifying and has been compared to his hero, Ayrton Senna, in raw speed.
Throughout his career, Hamilton has frequently cited triple-world champion Ayrton Senna as his hero, and talked about the impression Senna made on him when he was growing up, saying "A lot of the way I drive today is inspired by the way I saw him drive". In 2010, Hamilton drove Ayrton Senna's original title winning McLaren MP4/4 as part of a tribute documentary by the BBC motoring show, Top Gear. In the documentary, Hamilton, along with fellow racing drivers, name Senna as the number one driver ever.
Hamilton is regarded as one of the best wet-weather drivers in the sport, with some of his best performances occurring in such conditions. Perhaps most notable of these performances was the 2008 British Grand Prix where he won by over a minute from second placed Rubens Barrichello, the largest margin of victory recorded since the 1995 Australian Grand Prix.
Earlier in his career, Hamilton received criticism for being hot-headed at times, as demonstrated when he was disqualified in Imola in the GP2 Series for overtaking the safety car, something he would go on to repeat four years later in Formula One at the 2010 European Grand Prix in Valencia. Later in his career, however, Hamilton showed greater maturity, while maintaining his ruthlessness and aggression. He divided public and former drivers' opinions in the final race of the 2016 season, where from the lead, he defied team-orders and deliberately slowed to back Nico Rosberg into the chasing pack at end of the race in a bid to encourage their rivals to overtake his team mate, which would have allowed him to win the world championship.
Hamilton is often considered the best driver of his generation, and widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers in the history of the sport. Often considered the greatest ever British driver in formula one, Hamilton is the most successful, having more race victories than any other British driver in the history of Formula One and matching Jim Clark and Alain Prost's five British Grand Prix victories. Hamilton has received criticism for his jet-set lifestyle and interests outside Formula One, however, many figures in the sport have voiced their support for Hamilton's ability to connect with fans. Bernie Ecclestone has frequently commented on his admiration of Hamilton’s ability to promote the sport through his lifestyle, noting how he is happy to engage with fans, unlike some of his peers. Since Hamilton’s rookie season in 2007, Formula One’s annual global revenue has risen by 53%, to $1.83 billion as of July 31, 2016.
A prodigious talent as a teenager, Hamilton established himself as one of the world's best drivers following his record-breaking rookie year where he matched his teammate, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and finished runner-up in the championship by a solitary point. After his first world title in 2008, many people considered Hamilton the best driver of his generation. Following Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel's four year dominance of the sport over the next four years, Hamilton's resolve was tested both professionally and personally as he did not yield a finish higher than fourth in the drivers' championship, leading some to question his status as the best driver in the sport. Three years later, after clinching his second and third world championship titles with Mercedes in dominant fashion over long-time friend and teammate Nico Rosberg, David Coulthard declared Hamilton the best driver of his generation, calling him "the Ayrton Senna of his era". This opinion gradually gained greater acceptance amongst the public, experts and fellow and former drivers. As Hamilton's success continued, achieving the second most race victories and pole positions, public and expert debate moved from his status in modern Formula One to his status amongst the greatest drivers in history.
When Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013, he was paired alongside old karting teammate and friend Nico Rosberg. Over their four seasons as teammates, a period of Mercedes dominance Formula One, the pair's relationship became strained and, at times, led to volatile confrontations on and off the track. Hamilton and Rosberg were first team-mates in 2000, when they were in karting. They raced for Mercedes Benz McLaren in Formula A, where Hamilton became European champion, with Rosberg not far behind. Robert Kubica, who raced with them before Formula One, recalled how they were competitive both on and off the track, saying “they would even have races to eat pizza, always eating two at a time". Many pundits have contrasted the upbringing of the two. Rosberg, an only child, was born in Germany but brought up in Monaco and was the son of the wealthy former Formula One world champion, Keke Rosberg, whereas Hamilton was born on a council estate in Stevenage, and his father had to work multiple jobs to fund his junior racing.
Some choose to compare the character and driving styles of the pair, labelling Hamilton as the faster driver, with more natural ability while labelling Rosberg, while not as quick, as the more intelligent driver. Their old karting boss, Dino Chiesa, admitted Hamilton was the faster driver whereas Rosberg, who once said to Chiesa “everything relates to physics and maths”, was always more serious and analytical. This led several to believe that Rosberg would achieve greater success in Formula One, the highest level of open wheel racing, due to the intillectual capacity required to manage brakes, energy harvesting, tyre management and moderate his fuel usage. However, Hamilton's tyre management has frequently allowed him to push for longer, often enabling optimum race strategies, and his fuel usage has regularly been better than almost anyone on the grid. Sky Sport's Mark Hughes, commented "Rosberg has a more scientific methodology, looks to fine-tune more specifically than Hamilton who typically tends just to find a balance he can work with, then adapt his driving around it".
Hamilton has won three World Championship titles to Rosberg's one, and scored more points in three out of their four seasons as teammates. During their time as teammates, the pair won 54 of the 78 races over four seasons. In qualifying, Hamilton was superior to Rosberg, finishing ahead of his teammate on 42 occasions. In terms of Grand Prix results, Hamilton had the upper hand over this period also, with 32 victories to Rosberg's 22 as well as securing 55 podium finishes, five more than Rosberg.
The first sign of tensions between the pair was at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix, where Mercedes implemented team orders, telling the quicker Rosberg to hold station behind Hamilton in fourth place to which Rosberg reluctantly obliged. Hamilton questioned the radio call and after the race admitted Rosberg had deserved the final spot on the podium. The incident, drowned out in the subsequent days by the "Multi-21" saga at Red Bull, passed by without further controversy as the two friends moved on.
At the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix, both the Mercedes drivers engaged in a wheel-to-wheel duel for the win. A late safety car had seemingly swung the favour to second-place Rosberg, who had the benefit of being on a better tyre, but after the restart Hamilton held firm in a close wheel-to-wheel encounter which passed without the Mercedes cars making contact. In parc ferme after the race the pair engaged in a mock fight. Mercedes was praised in the aftermath for allowing its drivers to race. However, it later emerged Rosberg had used engine modes banned by Mercedes to give himself a power advantage over Hamilton in the closing laps.
Hamilton arrived at the Spanish Grand Prix with three consecutive victories behind him and the opportunity to move ahead of Rosberg in the championship with win number four. Hamilton held off a charging Rosberg late in the race, crossing the line just 0.6s ahead of the German. On a track with more overtaking opportunities, Rosberg may have been able to pass and after the race said an extra lap would have been enough. It was revealed after the race that Hamilton had used the same engine mode to defend position that Rosberg had used in Bahrain.
Two weeks later, at the Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton was faster than his teammate in all three practice sessions and again in Q2 ahead of the top-ten shootout. In the closing stages of Q3, both Mercedes drivers started a lap; Rosberg first, Hamilton second. Rosberg, on provisional pole, ran deep at Mirabeau and drove into a sliproad, prompting yellow flags and forcing Hamilton to abort his final qualifying lap. Several pundits made suggestions of foul play and drew comparisons with Michael Schumacher's deliberate crash at La Rascasse in 2006, but the stewards cleared Rosberg of any wrongdoing. Hamilton made clear that he felt Rosberg had ruined his lap on purpose and, after starting and finishing the race second, announced that he and Rosberg were no longer friends.
In Hungary, Hamilton was forced to start from the back of the grid when a fuel leak set his car alight in the first session of qualifying. Hamilton began to fight through the field before a mid-race safety car shuffled the order, putting Rosberg behind Hamilton but on a different strategy. When Rosberg, on fresher tires, closed the gap to Hamilton, Mercedes asked the British driver to move over, knowing the German would have to pit again before the end of the race. Hamilton refused, reasoning that he had battled through from last position and that he was not prepared to slow down to let Rosberg, his title rival who had started from pole position, through. Hamilton's decision meant he held on to third, keeping Rosberg at bay in the final stages after his pit stop. Mercedes chairman, Niki Lauda spoke in support of Hamilton after the race, saying "From my point of view Lewis was right".
The two made contact at the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, where Rosberg was widely criticised for hitting Hamilton at Les Combes, breaking his front wing and giving his teammate a puncture and effectively putting him out of the race. Rosberg would recover to finish second behind Daniel Ricciardo but it later emerged the German had left the nose of his car in to "prove a point" to his British teammate by not backing out. After being booed on the podium, Rosberg was forced to apologise and "suitable disciplinary measures" were taken against him.
The next season Hamilton came to the 2015 United States Grand Prix knowing he could win the title with three races to spare if he claimed victory. After Hamilton very aggressively forced Rosberg wide at Turn 1 to claim the lead, a thrilling race unfolded where the advantage continuously swung between both Mercedes drivers and the chasing Red Bulls. A fired-up Rosberg led in the closing stages but made a mistake at Turn 12, running deep and letting his teammate through a handful of laps from the flag. Hamilton never relinquished the lead and claimed his third championship. Rosberg was furious after the race, saying his teammate's Turn 1 move had been "one step too far". He infamously threw a Mercedes cap at Hamilton as they waited to take the podium.
After Austin, Nico Rosberg went on a seven-race winning streak, which included the first four races of 2016. Coming to Spain he led Hamilton by 43 points following a number of issues for Hamilton, who then claimed pole position ahead of Rosberg. After a good start for both men, Rosberg passed Hamilton around the outside of Turn 1. Coming through the next few corners, Rosberg's car entered an incorrect engine mode due to an error the German had made on the formation lap. That meant he was slower than Hamilton coming out of Turn 3, and Hamilton went for the lead. Rosberg closed the door and forced Hamilton on to the grass where he lost control, eventually spinning into Rosberg and taking both drivers out of the race. The stewards deemed it a racing incident and decided Hamilton had been justified in his attempt as he was 17 km/h quicker than Rosberg coming out of Turn 3. Afterwards, Hamilton insisted the incident did not harm his relationship with Rosberg, which he later admitted had mellowed since 2014.
In Austria, Rosberg, struggling with a brake issue, looked on course to record the best win of his career. But in the final laps Hamilton closed in and a mistake from Rosberg at Turn 1 on the last lap gave him better drive on the long run to Turn 2. Hamilton picked the outside, moving alongside Rosberg as they approached the corner. As Hamilton turned in to make the corner, Rosberg went straight on, causing a collision and damaging the German's front wing. Hamilton would pass to win the race, while Rosberg would drop to fourth in the final corners. Both drivers blamed the other, while furious team boss Toto Wolff threatened team orders in future races. The stewards blamed Rosberg for the incident, issuing him two penalty points for failing to allow "racing room" and causing a collision.
In the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg entered the round with a twelve-point lead over teammate Hamilton in the World Drivers' Championship. In the final laps of the race, Hamilton defied team-orders, first from his race engineer and then by the team's technical director, and deliberately slowed to back Nico Rosberg into the chasing pack at end of the race in a bid to encourage rivals Vettel and Verstappen to overtake his team mate, which would have allowed him to win the world championship. Pressed on whether Hamilton could face sanction or even suspension, Toto Wolff replied: “Everything is possible", although no punishment was publicly announced. Others have supported him, on the principle that "drivers are free to race". After the race, Hamilton denied that he had been guilty of any wrongdoing, saying “I don’t think I did anything dangerous", “I was in the lead, so I control the pace. Those are the rules.”
Just five later, after winning his first World Driver's Championship, Rosberg announced his shock retirement from the sport. Hamilton said he wasn't surprised by the announcement, and despite their strained relationship, was still saddened to see his longtime rival leave. “The sport will miss him, but I wish him all the best," Hamilton said. "This is the first time he's won in 18 years, hence why it was not a surprise that he decided to stop. But he's also got a family to focus on and probably wants to have more children. Formula 1 takes up so much of your time." He also lamented the end of the rivalry between the two, saying "In terms of missing the rivalry, of course because we started karting when we were 13 and we would always talk about being champions. When I joined this team, Nico was there, which was something we spoke about when we were kids. So it's going to be very, very strange, and, for sure, it will be sad to not have him in the team next year."
In October 2007, Hamilton announced his intention to live in Switzerland, stating that this was because he wished to get away from the media scrutiny that he experienced living in the United Kingdom. Hamilton admitted under questioning on the television show Parkinson, which was broadcast on 10 November 2007, that taxation was partly responsible for his decision, in addition to wanting more privacy. Hamilton received public criticism from UK MPs including Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell for avoiding UK taxes. He settled in Luins in Vaud canton on Lake Geneva; other Formula One drivers, including world champions Michael Schumacher, Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso, also live in Switzerland. Hamilton was one of several super-rich figures whose tax arrangements were singled out for criticism in a report by the charity Christian Aid in 2008. At the start of 2012, he moved his personal residence from Switzerland to Monaco, which is also a tax haven. In 2012, Hamilton featured in the cartoon Tooned, alongside Jenson Button and comedian Alexander Armstrong.
In November 2007, Hamilton started dating Nicole Scherzinger, the lead singer of the American girl band Pussycat Dolls; it was announced in January 2010 that they split up to focus on their respective careers. However, they were seen together at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix and at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, on 13 June 2010. The couple split up and reunited numerous times between 2011 and 2013, but appeared to have got back together in November 2013. They split up again in February 2015.
On 18 December 2007, Hamilton was suspended from driving in France for a month after being caught speeding at 196 km/h (122 mph) on a French motorway. His Mercedes-Benz CLK was also impounded.
Two days before the 2010 Australian Grand Prix, Victoria Police witnessed Hamilton "deliberately losing traction" in his silver Mercedes-AMG C63, and impounded the car for 48 hours. Hamilton immediately released a statement of apology for "driving in an over-exuberant manner". After being charged with intentionally losing control of a vehicle, Hamilton was eventually fined A$500 (£288), being described as a "hoon" [boy racer] by the magistrate.
At the start of 2013, Hamilton took delivery of a metallic red and black Bombardier Challenger 600 series private jet, tail plate number G-LCDH. Hamilton is a fan of art; one of his favourite artists is Andy Warhol. Prior to the 2014 United States Grand Prix, Hamilton wore a gold-framed version of Warhol's Cars, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupe painting hanging from a chain around his neck. One of Hamilton's favourite cars is the AC Cobra. He owns two unrestored 1967 models, one black and one red. In February 2015, it was reported that Hamilton had purchased a Ferrari LaFerrari from "his rivals in Maranello." As of 2015, Hamilton was ranked as the richest British sportsperson, with an estimated personal fortune of £88m.
Hamilton's helmet was made yellow so that his father could tell which kart his son was driving back in his karting days. Hamilton chose the colours blue, green and red and they were originally in a ribbon design; however before entering F1, Hamilton felt that the design was "a bit old hat" so it was changed. In later years a white ring was added and the ribbons moved forward to make room for adverts and logos.
During the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton had an altered helmet design with the addition of a roulette wheel image on the top. Hamilton had said, "I'll also be wearing a specially-painted helmet for the occasion. When you see it, you'll know why I'll be hoping for it to swing the odds in my favour."
Hamilton's helmet underwent one major change during his F1 career. From his debut in 2007 until 2010 his helmet was yellow with a metallic green ribbon on the upper visor and a metallic blue ribbon on the lower visor (these being visually near identical to the helmet of Ayrton Senna, apart from the fact that their designs did not loop all around the back of the helmet, but were cut off either side of the helmet.) It furthermore featured a bright red diagonal patch where these stripes bordered the visor. The yellow however was not a rich, sunburst yellow like Senna's helmet but was a whiter, pastel yellow.
From 2011 onwards Hamilton's helmet was changed so it no longer resembled Senna's helmet as much as it had. The green and blue ribbons were changed to the diagonal style of the red patch, with a single red stripe behind the helmet with the letters "Hamilton" printed within it.
For the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton wore a special helmet that was a fusion of his post 2011 helmet, and that of Ayrton Senna. The helmet was auctioned after the race in aid of the Ayrton Senna Foundation. He has also worn special helmets in honour of Bob Marley (India 2011) and Michael Jackson (USA 2013).
In 2014, Hamilton changed his helmet colour for the first time since his karting days, using a white helmet with red stripes in the shape of his 2011 design. In 2015, Hamilton added two stars to his helmet to celebrate his two world championships (2008, 2014), adding a third star after the 2015 US Grand Prix to celebrate winning his third championship in 2015.
On 25 January 2017, Hamilton announced that he was running a competition for his fans to design his 2017 helmet.
* Season still in progress.
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)
* Season still in progress.Mercedes
Formula One World Constructors' Championship: 2014, 2015, 2016
Formula One World Drivers' Championship: 2008, 2014, 2015
DHL Fastest Lap Award: 2014, 2015
FIA Pole Trophy: 2015, 2016
GP2 Series Championship: 2006
Formula 3 Euro Series Championship: 2005
Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship: 2003
Laureus World Sports Award for Breakthrough of the Year: 2008
Lorenzo Bandini Trophy: 2009
Hawthorn Memorial Trophy: 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015
BBC Sports Personality of the Year: 2014
Best Driver ESPY Award: 2017
Autosport International Racing Driver Award: 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015
Autosport British Competition Driver of the Year: 2007, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Autosport British Club Driver of the Year: 2003
Autosport Rookie of the Year: 2006, 2007
PAP European Sportsperson of the Year: 2014
GQ Sportsman of the Year: 2014, 2015
Member of the Order of the British Empire
† Did not finish, but was classified as he had completed more than 90% of the race distance.
‡ Half points awarded as less than 75% of race distance was completed.