Feature: Reflecting on Hamilton's F1 bow

Feature: Reflecting on Hamilton's F1 bow

18 March 2017 – Lewis Hamilton has emerged as one of the most successful F1 drivers in history, with 53 wins, 61 pole positions and three titles to his name from 188 starts. He made his very first appearance 10 years ago today (Saturday), when he lined up for McLaren at the Australian Grand Prix. GPUpdate.net reflects on his debut.

Hamilton had been under McLaren's wing for several years and his stunning title-winning GP2 campaign in 2006, allied with the fact McLaren had a vacancy alongside incoming double World Champion Fernando Alonso, meant he was installed as favourite to join the roster for 2007.

Hamilton, who learned of his promotion in September 2006, two months before the news was made public, racked up mileage across the winter, ensuring he arrived in F1 as a well-prepared rookie.

Naturally, there was substantial focus on Hamilton, touted as the next young talent, racing for a team which had not taken on a rookie in over a decade, alongside the reigning champion. 

McLaren, too, had been preparing for the arrival of Alonso, whose signing was announced in December 2005, ensuring that it would be in a position deliver the Spaniard a third straight title.

As a result, McLaren and Ferrari soon emerged as the leading contenders, with reigning World Champion team Renault regressing amid the switch to Bridgestone tyres and the loss of Alonso. 

Hamilton, upon his first visit to Albert Park, quickly adapted to the tricky street circuit in his sleek chrome-and-red MP4-22, which had retained the distinctive 'horns' adopted by its predecessors.

Hamilton was fourth quickest in the opening damp practice session before claiming third across the next two sessions, setting him up for the three-part qualifying shootout.

He was a contender in all three segments but ultimately wound up fourth, with Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen on pole, Alonso second, and Nick Heidfeld third for BMW. Hamilton was nonetheless lifted by his performance, describing a second-row grid spot as "overwhelming".

The field lined up in near-perfect conditions beneath the late summer sun in Australia but Hamilton's initial getaway was so-so, allowing fifth-placed starter Robert Kubica to jump ahead, as the top three pulled clear.

Kubica forced Hamilton towards the inside of the circuit, boxing the McLaren driver in as the leading pack prepared to brake for the right-hander at Turn 1.

Räikkönen held on to the lead, but Heidfeld and Alonso duelled for second position, with the Spaniard having to back off on the inside line.

Hamilton, meanwhile, had instinctively swept to the outside, dared to be later on the brakes than Kubica and in the process negotiated his way around the compromised Alonso.

Just 10 seconds into his first race, Hamilton had already made an impression.

The start was to be the high point of a fairly tame curtain-raiser to the 2007 season; Räikkönen and Ferrari's superiority was such that he cruised clear, and had a 15-second lead before the first round of stops even took place, the win effectively already in the bag.

Heidfeld's BMW eventually slipped away from contention, courtesy of running the softer tyres during a short first stint, leaving the McLaren pair to contend for second position.

Räikkönen's earlier stop enabled Hamilton to lead the Grand Prix, a rare feat for a debutant, and in being fuelled heavier than Alonso, he was able to run a lap longer.

Consequently, Hamilton re-emerged from his stop a second ahead of Alonso, continuing the trend of the first stint, when the champion had shadowed the young upstart around the sun-kissed Melbourne track, the glistening MP4-22s lapping line astern. 

Hamilton and Alonso continued metres apart for the next stint until the next round of stops, when it was Hamilton's turn to be called in first. His prospects were hurt as he got stuck behind the lapped Super Aguri of Takuma Sato through the final sector and into the pit lane.

Alonso managed to stay out for an additional two laps on low fuel, aided by a clear circuit, while his stop was 1.7 seconds quicker than Hamilton's service.

As Alonso exited the pit lane, Hamilton was rounding the final corner – Alonso duly moved up to second, Hamilton down to third. 

The three-second gap gradually grew across the remainder of the stint but Hamilton was nonetheless able to claim a podium on his debut, the first driver to achieve the feat since Jacques Villeneuve in 1996.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic – the result is more than I ever dreamed of achieving on my Grand Prix debut," said Hamilton after the race.

"I made a good start but the BMWs were quick off the line and Kubica managed to get past. There was no room on the inside so I got on the left and managed to out-brake both Kubica and Fernando coming into the first corner to take third.

"The race was intense, and I was working very hard. I made a few mistakes but nothing major and really enjoyed myself. It was great to lead the race for a few laps, but I knew it was only a temporary thing.

"Fernando got past me at the second pit-stop as he was able to stay out a bit longer and I lost some time behind backmarkers."

It was the first of 104 podiums – and counting – as Hamilton began life in Formula 1 at the sharp-end of the pack, where he would remain for the following decade. Next weekend, at the same circuit, he will begin his quest for a fourth world crown.

Written by: Phillip Horton

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Wednesday 18 October 2017

  2. SPM confirms multi-year Hinchcliffe deal 13:08

    SPM confirms multi-year Hinchcliffe deal

    Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has confirmed that James Hinchcliffe has signed a multi-year extension to partner debutant Robert…

    Indy
  3. Video: Salazar demonstrates FE car in Chile 13:02

    Video: Salazar demonstrates FE car in Chile

    Ahead of the 2018 Santiago ePrix, former Formula 1 driver Eliseo Salazar demonstrates a Formula E car around the streets of the…

    FE
  4. MotoGP reduces pre-season testing for 2019 12:45

    MotoGP reduces pre-season testing for 2019

    MotoGP officials have outlined the regulations over testing, with the number of pre-season sessions set to be reduced for…

    MotoGP
  5. Mallya sure SFI can remain fourth fastest 11:37

    Mallya sure SFI can remain fourth fastest

    Force India boss Vijay Mallya has expressed confidence that his team can remain fourth fastest across the remainder of the…

    F1
  6. Wickens joins SPM for 2018 campaign 10:28

    Wickens joins SPM for 2018 campaign

    Robert Wickens will make his IndyCar debut in 2018 after signing a deal to race for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Wickens has…

    Indy
  7. Video: US Grand Prix's 'Hardest Braking Point' 10:06

    Video: US Grand Prix's 'Hardest Braking Point'

    Take a look at the forces required for the 'Hardest Braking Point' at the Circuit of the Americas, home to the United States…

    F1
  8. Leclerc: Recovery drives helped show speed 08:58

    Leclerc: Recovery drives helped show speed

    Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc believes his recovery drives in his title-winning Formula 2 campaign have been "very…

    F2
  9. Video: Red Bull drivers on race preparation 05:18

    Video: Red Bull drivers on race preparation

    Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen provide an insight into driver fitness, training and the work that goes…

    F1
  10. Tuesday 17 October 2017

  11. 23:29

    Follow us on Instagram for the best photos!

    F1
  12. Saudi Arabia set to host Race of Champions 23:27

    Saudi Arabia set to host Race of Champions

    Race of Champions organisers have announced plans to bring the annual end-of-season motor racing showcase to the Kingdom of…

    Misc
  13. Kubica completes another 'productive' test 16:09

    Kubica completes another 'productive' test

    Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica completed "another productive day" of running with the team at the Hungaroring on…

    F1
  14. Pierre Gasly's GPU column: My F1 debut 16:00

    Pierre Gasly's GPU column: My F1 debut

    It has been an eventful period for GPUpdate.net columnist Pierre Gasly, having made his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso…

    F1
  15. Wolff: Hamilton on 'another level' since break 14:44

    Wolff: Hamilton on 'another level' since break

    Lewis Hamilton has been "on another level" since Formula 1's summer break, according to his Mercedes boss Toto…

    F1
  16. Video: Kvyat's 'Wild West' Austin preview 13:26

    Video: Kvyat's 'Wild West' Austin preview

    Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat looks ahead to the United States Grand Prix with a 'Wild West' themed guide to the challenging Circuit…

    F1
  17. Renault: Error-free Austin weekend 'essential' 12:02

    Renault: Error-free Austin weekend 'essential'

    Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul has stressed that an "error-free" weekend at the United States Grand Prix is "essential" in the…

    F1
  18. Video: Adelaide's 'Race To The City' demo run 11:42

    Video: Adelaide's 'Race To The City' demo run

    Watch as historic Formula 1 machinery hits the streets of Adelaide in this promotional film for the city's 2017 Motorsport…

    F1
  19. Bolt to launch formation lap at US Grand Prix 11:09

    Bolt to launch formation lap at US Grand Prix

    Eight-time Olympic Gold-medallist Usain Bolt will signal the start of the formation lap at this weekend's United States Grand…

    F1
  20. Tech 3 hopes Nozane gets another chance 10:56

    Tech 3 hopes Nozane gets another chance

    Tech 3 chief Hervé Poncharal says he hopes the outfit can give Kohta Nozane a chance to demonstrate his "full potential" after…

    MotoGP
  21. Leading F1 teams split on Mexico tyre choices 09:51

    Leading F1 teams split on Mexico tyre choices

    Leading Formula 1 teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have taken different stances regarding tyre compounds for next weekend's…

    F1
  22. Video: Rookie Rast clinches 2017 DTM title 09:42

    Video: Rookie Rast clinches 2017 DTM title

    Watch as Audi rookie René Rast clinches the 2017 DTM championship at Hockenheim, after finishing in second position in the…

    DTM
  23. Alonso optimistic of points return in Austin 08:54

    Alonso optimistic of points return in Austin

    Fernando Alonso is confident that he can return to the points-paying positions at the United States Grand Prix, off the back of…

    F1
  24. Video: British Superbike finale highlights 05:42

    Video: British Superbike finale highlights

    Watch race highlights from the British Superbikes championship showdown at Brands Hatch, which featured a terrifying crash for…

    Misc
  25. Monday 16 October 2017

  26. Espargaró left perplexed by race struggles 16:28

    Espargaró left perplexed by race struggles

    Aleix Espargaró conceded he had "big problems" during the Japanese Grand Prix and was left perplexed by his lack of pace…

    MotoGP
  27. Mercedes: Recent swings aiding progress 15:17

    Mercedes: Recent swings aiding progress

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the team has gained "a lot more understanding" about its performance swings at recent Grands…

    F1
  28. GPUpdate readers expect Mexico decider 14:43

    GPUpdate readers expect Mexico decider

    GPUpdate.net readers expect the 2017 Formula 1 title to be settled at next weekend's Mexican Grand Prix, with two rounds to…

    F1
  29. Video: Force India for Breast Cancer Care 14:02

    Video: Force India for Breast Cancer Care

    This October, as part of its association with Breast Cancer Care, Force India is printing the names of two inspiring women, Emma…

    F1
  30. Pirelli's Ultra Softs to be pink for Austin 13:38

    Pirelli's Ultra Softs to be pink for Austin

    Pirelli's Ultra Soft tyre will be coloured with pink sidewalls for this weekend's United States Grand Prix, as part of Formula…

    F1
  31. MP Motorsport to replace DAMS in GP3 13:10

    MP Motorsport to replace DAMS in GP3

    MP Motorsport will join the GP3 Series in 2018, championship officials have announced, taking the entry currently held by…

    GP3
  32. Suzuki pair hail 'best weekend' of 2017 12:48

    Suzuki pair hail 'best weekend' of 2017

    Suzuki riders Andrea Iannone and Álex Rins hailed the progress made by the team after the pair secured top five finishes on the…

    MotoGP
  33. Video: Verstappen previews US Grand Prix 11:08

    Video: Verstappen previews US Grand Prix

    Red Bull driver Max Verstappen looks ahead to this weekend's United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Mobil 1…

    F1
  34. Hartley to race with number 39 on F1 debut 10:32

    Hartley to race with number 39 on F1 debut

    Brendon Hartley will race with #39 on his Formula 1 debut at the United States Grand Prix, taking up one of Toro Rosso's…

    F1
  35. Haas to bring final 2017 upgrade to COTA 10:15

    Haas to bring final 2017 upgrade to COTA

    Haas will apply its final upgrade package of the season for its home race, the United States Grand Prix, team boss Guenther…

    F1
  36. Parkes to replace Folger at Australian GP 09:02

    Parkes to replace Folger at Australian GP

    Broc Parkes will fill in for the recovering Jonas Folger on home soil at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, Tech 3 Yamaha has…

    MotoGP
  37. Lorenzo: Rear grip woes ruined prospects 08:12

    Lorenzo: Rear grip woes ruined prospects

    Jorge Lorenzo says it was "impossible" for him to set a quicker pace in the Japanese Grand Prix, after struggling for rear grip…

    MotoGP
  38. Video: Carpentier tests Formula E car 05:24

    Video: Carpentier tests Formula E car

    Watch as former Champ Car and NASCAR racer Patrick Carpentier samples the Formula E test car during a recent run at Valencia's…

    FE
  39. Sunday 15 October 2017

  40. In photos: New Zealand's Formula 1 racers 16:34

    In photos: New Zealand's Formula 1 racers

    Brendon Hartley will become the ninth New Zealander to compete in Formula 1 when he links up with Toro Rosso at the Circuit of…

    F1
  41. Video: WEC Fuji 6 Hours race highlights 13:10

    Video: WEC Fuji 6 Hours race highlights

    Watch race highlights from the rain-affected, truncated round of the World Endurance Championship at the Fuji Speedway.

    WEC
  42. Sainz Jr. aims to 'hit the ground running' 12:48

    Sainz Jr. aims to 'hit the ground running'

    Carlos Sainz Jr. says he aims to "hit the ground running" with Renault as he prepares to make his first start for the…

    F1
  43. 11:21

    Final 2017 European Formula 3 standings

    F3
  44. 11:20

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Motegi

    MotoGP
more news