While Negative Camber has discussed the ‘Race of the Century’ here, and compared it to some great battles from recent F1 history (and not so recent depending on the age of the reader), what Sunday’s race brought to my mind was a much younger Lewis Hamilton. In the UK in 1996 – 98 we were fortunate in that a number of the ITV regional TV companies decided to televise the McLaren Mercedes sponsored Champions of the Future karting series. This was for three classes of karting (Cadets, Junior Yamaha and JICA). One driver really stood out in that series, and it was at the Autosport awards ceremony at the end of the year that the winner of the Cadet series first met Ron Dennis.
As the series was televised, there are videos available showing Lewis Hamilton’s racecraft as it was when he was only eleven years old. As the man himself remarked in the post-race interview, he used some skills on Sunday that he hadn’t really had to use since karting. I hope these videos will show not only why he impressed at the time, but also why karting is such a good category for young racers to learn about racecraft.
From the first round of the series at Buckmore Park, we see Lewis Hamilton having to work his way forward after losing places early in the race, needing to pass three people on the final lap. It is a perfect example of opportunist racing.
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This is from the second round at PF International, Lewis Hamilton showing some of the opportunist re-passing that he used to great effect on Nico Rosberg.
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A couple of years later and after winning Junior Yamaha in 1997 Hamilton moved up to JICA in 1998. Here he was racing against some more experienced opposition who had been racing in the category for a year or two. Still, as this footage from Buckmore Park shows, he could not only overtake (he starts at the back after a kart failure in the heats), but also defend from increasing pressure at the front.
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It is a shame that the equivalent series are no longer televised, as they gave a real insight into who to watch as the young drivers progressed into single seaters, with a few making it all the way to F1. I would encourage all F1B readers to find their local kart track and pay it a visit, the racing is usually close and there is no DRS, high degradation tyres or fuel flow sensors to worry about. Who knows, you may spot a rising F1 star of the future, if you do be sure to let the rest of us know who to keep an eye on.