How the end of Nigel Mansell’s F1 career led to the start of Lewis Hamilton’s

Nigel Mansell fans would probably like to forget the embarrassing end to his career in 1995 with McLaren.

After sponsors Marlboro encouraged Ron Dennis to sign the star, Mansell missed the first two races because he couldn’t fit in the car. Once that was sorted he only appeared for the team twice before refusing to drive the uncompetitive MP4/10 any more.

Although that partnership proved fruitless it may have led to McLaren nurturing and eventually signing its current megastar driver – Lewis Hamilton.

Writing for Autocar, Alan Henry relates an interview with ZipKart boss Martin Hines who helped Lewis Hamilton develop his karting career. Henry reports Hines saying:

Around the time that McLaren were going through their short-lived relationship with Nigel Mansell and was trying to persuade Ron [Dennis] that really ought to give some consideration into putting all McLaren’s resources into backing a young kartist, even if it was a ten year programme.

So he asked me for my advice as to whom I might think was the best youngster and I told him Lewis. He thought it all through and eventually took my advice. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Assuming this was in late 1994 or early 1995, does the timing stack up with what we know of Lewis Hamilton’s career?

In 1995 Hamilton won the cadet karting championship for junior drivers. It was at the end of that season tha Hamilton made his famous approach to Ron Dennis at the Autosport Awards, declaring he wanted to drive for McLaren in the future.

Hines and Dennis had launched the Champions of the Future karting series in 1994 and Hamilton won the competition in 1996, collecting his trophy from David Coulthard. During the season Dennis had taken a helicopter out to a race at Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire.

The following year he created the McLaren Driver Development scheme and took Hamilton on board, and we all know how the story goes from there.

How appropriate that the end of Mansell’s F1 career should intersect with Hamilton’s just as it was beginning.

It’s also a reminder of how British drivers benefit from the extent of motor sport activity in the country. One of Hamilton’s biggest rivals from his junior career to today, Robert Kubica, had to leave his native Poland to hone his race craft in Italy.

Read more about Lewis Hamilton: Lewis Hamilton biography
Read more about Nigel Mansell: Nigel Mansell biography

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11 comments on How the end of Nigel Mansell’s F1 career led to the start of Lewis Hamilton’s

  1. Dougie said on 13th August 2008, 14:34

    I think the quote is more plausable if you insert “I” before “was trying to persuade”… especially if you start it with “It was…”

    “[It was] around the time that McLaren were going through their short-lived relationship with Nigel Mansell and [I] was trying to persuade Ron [Dennis] that he really ought to give some consideration into putting all McLaren’s resources into backing a young kartist, even if it was a ten year programme.

    So he asked me for my advice as to whom I might think was the best youngster and I told him Lewis. He thought it all through and eventually took my advice. And the rest, as they say, is history.”

    Being the ZipKart boss I feel it is more likely that Martin was doing the persuading and Ron Dennis was following that up with would then be an obvious question.

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th August 2008, 14:57

    I had thought about that at first and then dismissed it. But now I look at it again and the original quote I think you’re definitely right.

    My first thought was to pull this article entirely (which I’ve never done before) but I thought by deleting it I thought it would just look like I was saving myself embarrassment. So instead I’ve changed the heading and edited the text slightly to make it more accurate.

    For the benefit of new readers of this article – the original slant of it was that Mansell, not Hines, had urged Dennis to set up his driver development scheme. But on reflection I jumped to that conclusion a bit hastily and got it wrong. Lesson learned.

  3. I would have expected that Martin Hines would have been pushing one of his own “Zip Young Guns” like Luke Hines or Gary Paffett (who were established in the Junior series at the time) rather than a Cadet like Lewis, even though he *was* mightily impressive.
    .
    Did I mention that I once helped Anthony Hamilton lift Lewis’ kart off the stand & onto the dummy grid at Kimbolton?

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th August 2008, 15:27

    Ade – cool! Did you meet little Lewis?

    Ben Evans, who writes for this site occasionally, met Hamilton at a Formula Renault race a few years ago – if I remember correctly they were both queueing for ice cream…

  5. I never actually met him, although I always saw him around at the meetings at Kimbolton and Rye House (along with little Ant Davidson, Gary Paffett, Dan Wheldon and Jenson Button [once] and a few others whose names I’ve forgotten).
    .
    It makes me feel really old seeing these little lads all grown up and splashing their millions about :-D

  6. Polak said on 13th August 2008, 22:19

    When I was looking at photos of Kubica’s karting career, it was interesting to see current F1 stars on the podium. Little Kubie and Lewis were trading off the top of the podium. I think I saw Rosberg on one photo and maybe others. I didn’t know who to look for so they were just guesses.

  7. what the heading should say is ‘another excuse to blab on about lewis hamilton and how everything in the world has to relate back to lord lewis’. Does everything that happens in F1 these days have to somehow impact little lewy becaus eit bloody seems to!

  8. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th August 2008, 23:14

    Amy I’ve acknowledged above that, in retrospect, I don’t think this is was sound an idea for a post as I thought it would. And I’ve explained my reaons for not deleting it. But all the same this is the first post solely about Hamilton I’ve written in ten days (here’s the last one). Since then I’ve written individual posts about other drivers including Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Nick Heidfeld. Not to mention a series covering (so far) 90 of the 100 different drivers to have won a Grand Prix. I don’t think you can seriously accuse me of giving Hamilton a disproportionate amount of coverage compared to the (enormous) level of public interest in him. Yes, some people don’t like him and I recognise that (see here for example). But that would be a pathetic reason for me to never write about him.

  9. Keith, I understand what you are saying and I am not having a personal attack at you or your post (although it may seem like it I’m sorry). What I should really have said is that I have read so many pointless articles over the past few days relating absolutely anything to Hamilton. I mean stuff like saying Heikki’s first win is good for hamilton, Hamilton should like F1’s rule changes next year, new street circuits would be cool for hamilton etc, and it just seems insane to me.
    Again, I am sorry if you felt it was a dig at you and your articles because it wasn’t it was about how insane this hamilton-mania has got.

  10. Paige said on 14th August 2008, 2:05

    Amy,

    you may like some videos that a guy named Mondabiff did last year.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjjrmrknrUY

    And my favorite:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_miIscC-KA

    I’m a McLaren and Hamilton fan, but I found these videos to be absolutely hilarious! And I do admit that Hamilton is quite a bit overexposed, and to his detriment I fear.

  11. thanks, these are soo funny!

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