It’s hard to believe now, given what he has gone on to achieve in the sport, but Lewis Hamilton’s elevation to a Formula 1 race seat was regarded as a big risk at the time.
It’s 16 years ago today (November 24) since it was announced Hamilton would partner double world champion Fernando Alonso in the McLaren team for 2007. Hamilton had certainly earned his opportunity after winning the 2006 Formula 2 championship in spectacular fashion, but promoting drivers at such a young wasn’t as common as it is nowadays.
Therefore, McLaren did plenty of agonising over whether to place the Stevenage-born racer into the car. Speaking at the time, McLaren boss Ron Dennis made no secret of his concerns, saying: “Yes, there’s concern. But I’m open about this concern.
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“Both Lewis and the team have their eyes open and we will be very supportive. We have mapped out a very detailed programme to give him a grounding in all the different aspects of F1.”
Dennis added: “Statistically, Lewis is going to find it tough in the first few races of his grand prix career.”
However, Dennis and McLaren need not have worried as Hamilton took to F1 like a duck to water with a stunning debut season which should have ended with him winning the title.
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It was also an explosive campaign as his relationship with Alonso, who had been expecting to be the team’s number one, broke down spectacularly. Alonso also fell out with Dennis and the relationship became so toxic that the Spaniard left the team after just one season and returned to Renault.
In 110 races with McLaren, Hamilton claimed one world title (in 2008), 21 wins, 26 poles and 49 podiums before making the bold – some said foolhardy – decision to join Mercedes. But it turned out to be the best call of his career as he swept to six further titles to draw level with Michael Schumacher on seven.
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