Debut Formula Renault UK season signalled inevitable rise of Hamilton
Canadian Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton’s first races in a single-seater car in the Formula Renault UK with Michelin Championship saw the karting star make a seamless transition to car racing. It took the Tewin-based sensation just nine races to record his first win as he finished a close third overall in competition with some of Britain’s best drivers.
After two top-five finishes in the four-round 2001 Formula Renault UK Winter Series, Hamilton finished third in the opening round of the 2002 campaign, followed by second place and the fastest lap in round three. In round five on Sunday, 16 th June 2002 at Hampshire’s Thruxton circuit, Hamilton claimed pole position and the fastest lap on the way to his first-ever car racing win.
Formula Renault UK Championship Manager Simon North comments: “Lewis was clearly a special driver from the moment he arrived in our series. Characteristically he dedicated himself to adapting his karting techniques to suit the driving style required in car racing. We’re very proud of his achievement and he is the latest of a string of drivers who have flourished after racing in Formula Renault UK.”
Danny Watts won the title and went on to win races in British Formula Three, with Jamie Green just five points ahead of Hamilton in second place. Green won the 2002 McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year award and the 2004 F3 Euroseries title, which Hamilton won in 2005. Green now races in the prestigious DTM (German Touring Car Championship), finishing in the points twice this season.
In 2003, Hamilton had the luxury of missing the final two rounds of the Formula Renault UK season having already done enough to secure the title. Second place went to Alex Lloyd, 48 points behind the champion. Lloyd was voted the 2003 McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year and is building a hugely successful career. Having raced for Great Britain in A1GP, Lloyd now races in the Indy Pro Series and has won the opening five rounds of the 2007 season.
Fourth overall in Hamilton’s title year was Mike Conway, currently racing in the Formula One feeder series GP2, which Hamilton won in stunning fashion last season. Conway went on to take the Formula Renault UK title in 2003 and the British Formula Three title in 2006.
Seventh overall in the 2003 Formula Renault UK Championship went to Scotland’s Paul Di Resta, who currently lies fourth in the DTM drivers’ standings.
Hamilton is the second Formula Renault UK champion from the four-year period 2000 to 2003 to reach Formula One. Kimi Raikkonen was the first champion using the current era Formula Renault 2.0 car, storming to the title in 2000 with seven race wins. He took the unprecedented and unlikely to be repeated step directly from Formula Renault UK to Formula One with Sauber F1.
In addition, ING Renault F1 Team’s Heikki Kovalainen finished fourth overall in the 2001 Formula Renault UK Championship with two race wins.