Remembering Lewis Hamilton’s F1 debut, 10 years ago today

Getty Images
2 Comments

A friendly warning before you read this piece: prepare to feel old.

As we begin to get ready for the start of the new Formula 1 season in Australia next Sunday, the preseason favorite is Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

With three world titles to his name and more than 50 race wins chalked up, Hamilton is one of F1’s modern-day superstars. As well as showcasing devastating speed on-track, he has developed a burgeoning celebrity reputation off it, gracing red carpets all over the world.

There can be little doubt that Hamilton is one of the most famous and talented drivers in F1’s history, but there was a time when things were very different.

Ten years ago today, a young kid from the rather unremarkable town of Stevenage, England made his grand prix debut in Australia. There were no piercings; no tattoos; no celebrities on his arm. Only his father and mentor, Anthony, was there to cheer him on in the garage. But the on-track display that was delivered made the world stand up and take notice of Lewis Hamilton.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 18: Lewis Hamilton (L) of Great Britain and McLaren Mercedes pictured with his father Anthony Hamilton after the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 18, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Hamilton had been under McLaren’s wing for the bulk of his junior racing career. Having first met McLaren F1 boss Ron Dennis at the age of nine at an awards ceremony, Hamilton told him there and then he wanted to race for his team one day. On March 18, 2007, it became a reality.

Hamilton had been lighting up GP2 through 2006, enjoying a title fight against fellow up-and-comer Nelson Piquet Jr. Hamilton’s season was defined by a charge from 18th to second in Turkey, and the title was wrapped up in Monza.

McLaren had already announced at the end of 2005 that two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso would be joining in 2007, with Kimi Raikkonen bound for Ferrari as Michael Schumacher’s replacement. However, Alonso’s teammate was still a big question mark through the summer of 2006. Juan Pablo Montoya had sensationally walked away from F1 midway through the year, leaving Pedro de la Rosa to take his seat for the remainder of the season. The Spaniard was a definite contender to continue in 2007.

But Hamilton was able to put a spoke in the works. McLaren did look at parachuting him into a team down the grid for 2007 to give him some racing experience, but after an impressive three-day test in September at Silverstone, Dennis’ mind was made up: Hamilton had to be in F1 next year. He would be the man to partner Alonso.

Hamilton once again displayed a rapid pace through preseason, but few expected him to enjoy the debut he did in Australia. Even if he was F1’s latest golden talent, the occasion would surely prove too great for him. It was his first race, after all.

Oh how wrong such an assertion proved to be.

Hamilton took the weekend in his stride. Following a wet first practice, he finished third in both FP2 and FP3, establishing himself as one of the main contenders for pole in qualifying. He finished a narrow second in Q1 behind Raikkonen and eased into the top-10 shootout. Raikkonen was able to turn up the wick and score pole for his Ferrari debut, while Alonso secured second. Nick Heidfeld took a respectable third for BMW Sauber, beating Hamilton, who would start P4.

“I’m overwhelmed to be on the second row for my first grand prix,” Hamilton said. “This weekend is what I have been preparing myself for during the past 13 years and I’m enjoying every moment.”

Despite being one of the leading drivers all weekend long, Hamilton’s goals for the race remained casual: “I want to get a good start and then work hard to score as many points for the team and myself. I’m not going to make any predictions because anything can happen but so far so good.”

Hamilton’s initial getaway from the grid wasn’t great. His silver and red McLaren was slow to get moving, allowing BMW’s Robert Kubica to swarm him. But no matter; Hamilton thought fast and dived from the inside to the outside, and proceeded to pull off one of the most iconic overtakes of his career.

In the sister McLaren, Alonso was committed to the inside of the corner and had to slow right down, also proceeding to back Kubica up. Now on the outside, Hamilton was able to float around and follow Heidfeld past Alonso.

McLaren’s star man had been usurped by his rookie teammate at the first very corner. It would set the tone for a frosty year to come.

As Raikkonen peeled away up front, Heidfeld was able to keep Hamilton at an arm’s length, but his low fuel load that had given him such good pace in Q3 forced the German into an early stop, lifting Hamilton to second. With Alonso in tow, Hamilton made it through the first round of stops without any incidents, now running second behind the leading Ferrari.

After giving Alonso first service in the pits earlier in the race, McLaren opted to bring Hamilton in first the second time around. Alonso was able to go far longer on his second stint before coming in, emerging with a healthy buffer to Hamilton.

Come the checkered flag, Hamilton was unable to bridge the gap to Alonso in second, but he remained an easy third, 20 seconds clear of Heidfeld. Race one: podium finish. Not bad for starters.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 18: Fernando Alonso (L) of Spain and McLaren Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain celebrate their podium positions after the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 18, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. Alonso finished second and Hamilton third in his debut race. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

“I’m absolutely ecstatic – today’s result is more than I ever dreamed of achieving on my grand prix debut,” Hamilton said.

“A big thank you to the team who have worked so hard during the winter to make sure I was as prepared as I possibly could be.

“The race was intense, and I was working very hard. I made a few mistakes but nothing major and really enjoyed myself.”

As stunning as Hamilton’s debut display was, it was merely the start. He would be a permanent fixture on the podium for the first nine races of the year, including wins in Montreal and Indianapolis, and launched a remarkable fight for the title. And this was all against the backdrop of a bitter rivalry with Alonso that forced the latter out of the team after just a single season.

While Hamilton would fall a point short of the title in his debut season (Raikkonen won with 110 points; Alonso and Hamilton both finished on 109), his breakthrough crown would arrive the following year. A mixed period with McLaren followed before he moved to Mercedes for 2013, starting the most dominant stint of his career that included title wins in 2014 and 2015.

Hamilton is now statistically one of the greatest drivers in F1 history, having more wins than any driver except Michael Schumacher and more poles than all bar Schumacher and Ayrton Senna.

And it all started 10 years ago today.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

0 Comments

After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage