Feature: When Hamilton ruled GP2 - Part 1

Feature: When Hamilton ruled GP2 - Part 1

21 May 2016 – It has been a decade since Lewis Hamilton swept to the GP2 Series crown and secured a promotion to Formula 1 with McLaren. GPUpdate.net speaks to those closest to the Briton in his year of title glory.

"Everyone wanted to talk to him, everyone was interested, he was a megastar, he was already destined for such greatness and there was an inevitability about that," says Will Buxton, recalling Hamilton's arrival at GP2's Valencia launch party.

Hamilton graduated to GP2 in place of reigning champion Nico Rosberg at ART Grand Prix. GP2 was the next stage for the McLaren-backed youngster, and the crack ART team the logical place, with Hamilton having romped to 15 Formula 3 wins for the sister ASM squad in 2005.

GP2 was set to be the final step on Hamilton's route to Formula 1 and, after long-term guidance from McLaren, despite almost being dropped in 2004, he was expected to triumph over his contemporaries.

The first couple of rounds, though, proved tricky. A Valencian podium was followed by disqualification at Imola due to a Safety Car mix up in the Feature Race, though his performance in the Sprint race captured attention.

"He fought from 24th to 10th place in a race with no pit-stops, at Imola, where you can't pass!" comments Buxton, then GP2's Director of Communications. "So that was a sign of how quick he was going to be and then the next race at the European Grand Prix he put in back-to-back wins."

That double triumph at the Nürburgring led to another podium in Spain, despite a last lap clash with team-mate Alexandre Premat, before Hamilton owned the streets of Monaco with a dominant display.

"There was something about that red and white car flashing through the chicane with the yellow helmet and you did this double take, it was very cool, and he was just in another world in Monaco, he seemed so at one with the car and the track, it was serene," Buxton says.

Frédéric Guyot was Hamilton's race engineer throughout 2006 and was left impressed by a driver who had a "really good attitude", and oozed confidence, citing the Monaco performance as one of his best.

"He was really open and knew what he wanted but didn't care so much about the set-up which was not a problem, as the comments he gave us were really good and our job was to translate it into set-up changes," Guyot explains.

"He was really open especially on data compared to his team-mate, who was a really good reference.  If you showed him Alex was quicker somewhere he was never complaining about the car but just said 'don't worry, I will push more and it will be OK.'

"It was really easy to work with him. It was my first year in GP2 and he always had a positive approach and always tried to make sure he got the maximum of each person working with him by being positive.

"He was the strongest on braking I had [ever worked with]. He could not believe he could be beaten in one corner so you could be sure the next time it was fixed."

The title remained the primary goal for Hamilton but, as would become a trait throughout his Formula 1 career, the speed was laced with entertainment, and there were two rounds at which Hamilton truly announced himself to the motorsport world.

The first came at Silverstone, where home fans were crying out for a new hero; it had been a decade since Damon Hill's title triumph, while David Coulthard and Jenson Button were lumbered with midfield machinery. Off-track, Hamilton was making an impression, as Buxton explains.

"Lewis had so much pressure on him that weekend, and every time I tried to find him I'd go to the team and say 'where's Lewis', 'oh I don't know'. Behind the GP2 paddock there was the access road, all the fans walk up and down it, and Lewis spent practically the whole weekend standing at the fence. People walked past going 'hey that's Lewis' and he signed autographs and talked to kids and fans – he was very gracious with his time, very aware people wanted to see him and talk to him, as he was at home."

On-track, it was in the Sprint Race where Hamilton stunned onlookers. Having started from eighth after triumphing in the Feature Race, he picked off rivals, before completing a double pass on Clivio Piccione and title rival Nelson Piquet Jr. into the heralded Maggotts/Becketts complex.

Silverstone erupted.

Buxton adds: "It was astonishing. We're all sitting there cheering and screaming, the crowd's going wild, [his father] Anthony Hamilton is watching it on the screens in the McLaren garage just going 'yes, yes, yes', and all the McLaren boys are watching and you can see them smiling as they're like 'this is our boy, we're going to have this kid racing for us at some point'."

Hamilton went on to take the lead of the race from Felix Porteiro before mid-distance, despite two laps behind the Safety Car, and Britain had its new star.

"That's the moment for me that he became Lewis, he became this star in front of the British public. They were there for Grand Prix Sunday and he'd put in the move that just cemented him for the fans – 'this kid is mega'."
McLaren was also watching Hamilton's progress in GP2 with a keen eye; after Silverstone it demanded all of Hamilton's media requests to be passed through the team for approval, while his distinctive afro hairstyle was gone in favour of a buzz cut. Formula 1 was on the horizon, but there was still a title to be won.

Hamilton's 21-point advantage grew to 26 across the next two rounds in France and Germany, as he and Piquet Jr. exchanged difficult weekends, but Hamilton encountered more woe in Hungary. Having spun off in practice, Hamilton lost control once more in qualifying and had to start from the back.

Guyot describes that Friday as "probably the worst day in the season", though Hamilton recovered to finish 10th in the Feature Race, going on to claim second in a wet Sprint Race. It proved his guile once more, yet Piquet Jr. had delivered the first perfect weekend in GP2 history: pole position, both race wins, both fastest laps, every point on offer.

Hamilton's championship advantage had been more than halved across the course of a single round, with two remaining.

Tomorrow: Part 2 - With Hamilton on the back foot, the championship heads to Istanbul, Turkey...


related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Tuesday 21 November 2017

  2. 15:02

    Follow us on Instagram for the best photos!

    F1
  3. '2018 will be even more difficult' - Lauda 14:40

    '2018 will be even more difficult' - Lauda

    Niki Lauda has heaped praise on Mercedes for securing both world titles for a fourth successive season, though expects to be…

    F1
  4. Video: Verstappen on Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 13:08

    Video: Verstappen on Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

    Red Bull driver Max Verstappen previews the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held at the Yas Marina Circuit, in this Mobil 1…

    F1
  5. Alonso: Abu Dhabi will be 'trickier' than Brazil 10:42

    Alonso: Abu Dhabi will be 'trickier' than Brazil

    Fernando Alonso expects this weekend's season finale in Abu Dhabi to be "trickier" for McLaren-Honda than the previous round in…

    F1
  6. Video: World's Fastest Gamer finals - Day 10 10:02

    Video: World's Fastest Gamer finals - Day 10

    On day 10 of the World's Fastest Gamer finals, McLaren's two finalists were given the incredible opportunity to use the team's…

    F1
  7. Williams denies Kubica has signed deal 09:48

    Williams denies Kubica has signed deal

    Williams has denied that a deal with Robert Kubica has already been signed, following several reports, as it takes its time over…

    F1
  8. Video: Hamilton - Champion's welcome home 09:02

    Video: Hamilton - Champion's welcome home

    Lewis Hamilton returns to the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows HQ in Brackley for the first time since becoming a four-time Formula 1…

    F1
  9. Pérez: No pressure for Force India at finale 07:22

    Pérez: No pressure for Force India at finale

    Sergio Pérez says that Force India can compete without pressure at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with fourth in the…

    F1
  10. Video: Emerson Fittipaldi on the Indy 500 05:36

    Video: Emerson Fittipaldi on the Indy 500

    Emerson Fittipaldi, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, reflects on his experiences at the Brickyard, and Fernando…

    Indy
  11. FIA hands back Manor's F1 2017 entry fee 02:47

    FIA hands back Manor's F1 2017 entry fee

    The FIA has reimbursed Manor Racing's entry fee for the 2017 Formula 1 season as a "gesture of goodwill" to aid administrators…

    F1
  12. Monday 20 November 2017

  13. Vandoorne 'more comfortable than ever' 17:24

    Vandoorne 'more comfortable than ever'

    Stoffel Vandoorne says that he feels "more comfortable than ever" at McLaren after making significant progress over the course…

    F1
  14. Video: Christian Horner on Bernie Ecclestone 15:40

    Video: Christian Horner on Bernie Ecclestone

    Red Bull team boss Christian Horner looks back on the fear and intimidation of his first interaction with Bernie Ecclestone, and…

    F1
  15. Verstappen: I don't want the season to end 13:33

    Verstappen: I don't want the season to end

    Max Verstappen says that he does not want the 2017 campaign to end, as he approaches this weekend's finale in Abu Dhabi off the…

    F1
  16. 12:09

    Overview: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix schedule

    F1
  17. Video: A conversation with Nico Rosberg 12:07

    Video: A conversation with Nico Rosberg

    Nico Rosberg talks to journalist and broadcaster James Allen about what shaped key decisions in his early career as well as his…

    F1
  18. In photos: Rise and fall of Formula V8 3.5 11:02

    In photos: Rise and fall of Formula V8 3.5

    World Series Formula V8 3.5 has closed its doors after two decades of competition, bringing down the curtain on a category that…

    World Series
  19. Video: World's Fastest Gamer finals - Day 9 09:40

    Video: World's Fastest Gamer finals - Day 9

    Sunday was a day of rest for World's Faster Gamer finalists Rudy and Freek, but the coaches were as busy as ever studying the…

    F1
  20. Merhi returns to Rapax for Formula 2 finale 09:28

    Merhi returns to Rapax for Formula 2 finale

    Roberto Merhi will return to Rapax for this weekend's Formula 2 season finale in Abu Dhabi. Merhi first appeared in F2 this…

    F2
  21. Habsburg 'still proud' amid dramatic finish 09:22

    Habsburg 'still proud' amid dramatic finish

    Carlin's Ferdinand Habsburg underlined that he was not prepared to settle for second at the Macau Grand Prix, after crashing out…

    F3
  22. Prema signs Gelael for 2018 F2 campaign 09:00

    Prema signs Gelael for 2018 F2 campaign

    Prema has confirmed that Sean Gelael will race for the team in next year's Formula 2 championship, the first driver signed up to…

    F2
  23. Runner-up Norris admits disappointment 07:02

    Runner-up Norris admits disappointment

    Lando Norris conceded he was "a little disappointed" to miss out on victory at the Macau Grand Prix, after finishing runner-up…

    F3
  24. Video: DTM 2017 season highlights reel 05:46

    Video: DTM 2017 season highlights reel

    Watch the official DTM Movie from the 2017 season, featuring exclusive footage and insights from the teams and drivers involved…

    DTM
  25. Sunday 19 November 2017

  26. Video: Ricciardo visits NASCAR paddock 16:42

    Video: Ricciardo visits NASCAR paddock

    Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo visits a NASCAR event for his first time and meets Dale Earnhardt Jr and Chase Elliott…

    F1
  27. Video: Macau Grand Prix - Sunday highlights 15:34

    Video: Macau Grand Prix - Sunday highlights

    Watch highlights from Sunday's action at the Macau Grand Prix, which featured a dramatic finale to an enthralling Formula 3…

    F3
  28. Alonso completes 113 laps in WEC rookie test 13:31

    Alonso completes 113 laps in WEC rookie test

    McLaren Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso racked up 113 laps during the World Endurance Championship's rookie test in Bahrain on…

    F1
  29. Video: Alonso in action at WEC rookie test 12:59

    Video: Alonso in action at WEC rookie test

    Watch as Fernando Alonso gets accustomed to Toyota's TS050 HYBRID as he participates in the World Endurance Championship's…

    WEC
  30. Grosjean upbeat over Haas' 2017 display 12:42

    Grosjean upbeat over Haas' 2017 display

    Romain Grosjean reckons Haas has done "super well" in its second campaign in Formula 1, believing the team has made more…

    F1
  31. Video: WEC Bahrain 6 Hours highlights 11:38

    Video: WEC Bahrain 6 Hours highlights

    Watch race highlights from the 6 Hours of Bahrain, the final round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, as several class…

    WEC
  32. 11:13

    Gallery: Alonso participates in LMP1 test

    WEC
  33. Ticktum 'couldn't believe' Macau outcome 10:55

    Ticktum 'couldn't believe' Macau outcome

    Daniel Ticktum revelled in victory at the Macau Grand Prix as he surged forwards from eighth on the grid to triumph at the…

    F3
  34. Sainz Jr. 'starting to feel at home' with Renault 10:26

    Sainz Jr. 'starting to feel at home' with Renault

    Carlos Sainz Jr. says he is beginning to become accustomed to his new surroundings at Renault, following his recent move from…

    F1
  35. Alonso gets first taste of LMP1 in Bahrain 09:45

    Alonso gets first taste of LMP1 in Bahrain

    Fernando Alonso completed his first laps in Toyota's LMP1 car during the World Endurance Championship's rookie test at the…

    LM
  36. 08:22

    Latest F3 photos: Sunday at Macau

    F3
  37. 08:20

    In full: Macau Grand Prix race results

    F3
  38. Ticktum triumphs at crazy Macau Grand Prix 08:19

    Ticktum triumphs at crazy Macau Grand Prix

    Red Bull-backed Daniel Ticktum claimed an incredible victory at the Macau Grand Prix, pulling off a double move for third…

    F3
  39. Video: World's Fastest Gamer - Day 8 05:42

    Video: World's Fastest Gamer - Day 8

    Catch up with the latest from McLaren's World's Fastest Gamer contest as the three finalists visit Carlin's simulator before the…

    F1
  40. Saturday 18 November 2017

  41. Toyota confirms Alonso LMP1 rookie test 20:57

    Toyota confirms Alonso LMP1 rookie test

    Toyota has confirmed that Fernando Alonso will participate for the team in the World Endurance Championship's rookie test at the…

    F1
  42. Video: Macau Grand Prix - Saturday highlights 15:38

    Video: Macau Grand Prix - Saturday highlights

    Watch highlights from Saturday's action at the Macau Grand Prix, which featured victory for Callum Ilott in the F3 qualification…

    Misc
  43. Ricciardo sees 'decent chance' to win finale 15:02

    Ricciardo sees 'decent chance' to win finale

    Daniel Ricciardo believes Red Bull holds a "decent chance" of taking victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he seeks to close…

    F1
  44. Video: Rosberg attends the BAMBI awards 13:15

    Video: Rosberg attends the BAMBI awards

    In his latest vlog, follow 2016 Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg as he and wife Vivian attend the annual BAMBI awards in the…

    F1
more news