UK-born Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton knows a thing or two about tires. With a career in motorsports racing that started before his ninth birthday, the F1 superstar can look at a tire and tell you the space between the tread grooves with one glance. That is why, when it comes to racing for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, he is more than a stickler for having the best, high-performance tires. It is also the reason he believes a move from 13-inch to 18-inch tires could lead to safer, more exciting races.
Lewis Hamilton’s rise to greatness
Lewis Hamilton’s interest in cars began at an early age, initially with radio-controlled cars. At age 8, he became a master at go-kart racing. In 2001, at the age of 16, Hamilton was at the peak of his cart racing career when the legendary Michael Schumacher stepped away from his Formula One career to take on Hamilton and other leading cart racers. Even though Hamilton finished seventh, Schumacher had nothing but praise for the young racer.
“He’s a quality driver, very strong and only 16. If he keeps this up, I’m sure he will reach F1,” Schumacher told reporters in 2001. “He’s clearly got the right racing mentality.”
From 2001 through 2005, after trying unicycle, karate, and kart racing, Hamilton competed in Formula Renault and Formula Three, both feeder circuits for F1. In 2006, the young Brit raced in GP2 for ASM Racing, winning the championship ahead of Giorgio Pantano. That victory coincided with an opening with the McLaren-Mercedes Racing, which had been Hamilton’s dream since he began competitive racing.
“I have grown up with McLaren and Mercedes and wouldn’t be where I am today without their support and guidance,” he told The Independent. “I’m aware that this will be a challenge, and I know there will be a lot of attention on me. But … I’ll work hard to get results.”
A record second to none
Lewis Hamilton, now at age 35, sits atop the leaderboard for the pandemic-impacted 2020 F1 season. He has five wins this year, including top finishes at Styrian Grand Prix in Austria and the Hungarian, Spanish, British, and Belgian Grand Prix’s.
Beginning with the 2007 season, Hamilton has 89 victories, including the initial Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, in 2016. Another highlight was his winning the 2008 World F1 championship, becoming the first Black driver to accomplish that feat.
Hamilton is not done breaking records. In qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix on Sept. 6, he set a record for the fastest F1 lap in history at 164.267 miles per hour, with a lap time of 1:18.887 seconds.
Lewis Hamilton says with better tires, fans will see better races
Despite being at the top of the heap of F1 racing, Hamilton’s love of the sport compels him to make things better for fans and safer for his fellow racers. His mission: better and safer tires.
“Right now, we’re [doing] a serious amount of [tire] management. And I don’t think that’s what the fans want,” Hamilton recently said in an interview with Autosport.
Hamilton has been active in representing fellow F1 racers in working with Pirelli Tires — the exclusive tire manufacturer/supplier to Formula One.
Representing F1 drivers, Hamilton met with Pirelli Tires to discuss new specs, which he believes will improve F1 races. Pirelli rejected Hamilton’s suggestions, including the move he supported going from 13-inch to 18-inch, low-profile tires for 2020. The change was scheduled to take effect for the 2021 racing season but has now been put off until 2022.
“Moving forward, they’re probably not going to be able to do it for next year,” Hamilton told Autosport, “but for 2022, we need a better tire, we need a tire that gives us more grip, better safety, and enables us to drive closer to cars and give you guys and the fans better racing.”