Hamilton makes history

Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Melbourne, podium, 2007After months of hype Lewis Hamilton delivered first time out with a sensational podium finish in his first Grand Prix.

Yes, he had the benefit of a competitive McLaren Mercedes in which to make his first Grand Prix start – something the likes of Michael Schumacher and Hamilton’s own team mate Alonso never had.

But the contrasting fortune of the other driver making his debut for a front running team underlined just how good a job Hamilton did. Heikki Kovalainen looked like a frustrated rally driver more than once during the Australian Grand Prix.

Only a meagre handful of other drivers have been able to start their careers in competitive teams and translate their talent into a podium finish at the first time of asking.

You have to go back over a decade to find a driver who made as bright a start to his career as Lewis Hamilton has. Jacques Villeneuve finished second on his debut for Williams at Melbourne in 1996.

Villeneuve carried significant extra experience into his first race than Hamilton did. He had already won the Indycar championship and the Indianapolis 500 when the series was in its heydey, and undergone a massive pre-season testing programme for Williams.

Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill, Melbourne, Williams-Renault, 1996The 1996 Williams-Renault was an even more competitive proposition, relative to its rivals, than this year’s McLaren. Villeneuve and Damon Hill left the opposition for dead – although Villeneuve came desperately close to beating until until a moment on the grass damaged an oil line and later forced him to yield.

Apart from the competitors in the very first world championship Grand Prix, twelve racers managed to finish on the podium in their first race in addition to Hamilton:

F1 drivers who finished on the podium in their first race

Pos. Driver Team Race Circuit Year
1 Giancarlo Baghetti Ferrari French Grand Prix Reims 1961
2 Alberto Ascari Ferrari Monaco Grand Prix Monte-Carlo 1950
2 Dorino Serafini Ferrari Italian Grand Prix Monza 1950
2 Karl Kling Mercedes-Benz French Grand Prix Reims 1954
2 Mike Parkes Ferrari French Grand Prix Reims 1966
2 Jacques Villeneuve Williams Renault Australian Grand Prix Melbourne 1996
3 Jean Behra Gordini Swiss Grand Prix Bremgarten 1952
3 Cesare Perdisa* Maserati Monaco Grand Prix Monte-Carlo 1955
3 Masten Gregory Maserati Monaco Grand Prix Monte-Carlo 1957
3 Peter Arundell Lotus Climax Monaco Grand Prix Monte-Carlo 1964
3 Reine Wisell Lotus Cosworth United States Grand Prix Watkins Glen 1970
3 Mark Donohue McLaren Cosworth Canadian Grand Prix Mosport 1971
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes Australian Grand Prix Melbourne 2007

*Shared drive with Jean Behra

However, an exceptional performance in a rookie debut is not necessarily a portent of great things to come. Compare the diverse career results of these drivers who feature in the above table:

Alberto Ascari: 2 championships, 13 wins from 31 starts, 140.64 points
Jacques Villeneuve: 1 championship, 11 wins from 165 starts, 235 points
Reine Wisell: 22 starts, 13 points
Dorino Serafini: 1 start, 3 points

Hamilton has made an historic start. But the hard work is only just beginning. The real challenge comes as the grind of the season wears in, against a team mate known for being completely unrelenting.

For those of us privileged to be watching, it’s going to be thrilling to find out just what he’s capable of.

Related links

Tags: / / / /

Advert | Go Ad-free

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.