Lewis Hamilton’s early impressions revealed

Mercedes racer Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver in the history of Formula 1 by grand prix victories.

Matthew Howson, a successful racing driver and Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 winner, recently shared insights into his experience as Lewis Hamilton’s first-ever teammate in single-seater racing. 

Both drivers joined forces at Manor Motorsport for the Formula Renault Winter series early in their careers, setting the stage for Hamilton’s remarkable journey to becoming a seven-time World Champion.

Appearing on the On Track GP podcast, Howson reminisced about his brief time as Hamilton’s teammate and recalled that even in those early days, it was clear to everyone that the young talent from Stevenage was destined for greatness.

“In 2001, I went to Formula Renault in the winter series with Manor Motorsport, and they were a very top team at that time,” Howson explained. 

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“I still remember the first time they told me who my teammates were going to be… someone called Lewis Hamilton. 

“It’s a bit of a joke because, even then, we all knew who Lewis was.”

Howson acknowledged that Hamilton’s karting success and his association with McLaren-Mercedes had already made him a recognisable figure in motorsport circles.

Despite Hamilton’s reputation, Howson revealed that there was nothing extraordinary about his on-track performances during those early days, dispelling rumours of excessive testing.

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 He explained, “I think the thing about Lewis was that a lot of people said at the time, ‘Oh, he’s doing loads of extra testing.’ 

“And he wasn’t, or certainly not that I ever saw.”

McLaren, under the guidance of Ron Dennis, carefully managed Hamilton’s career progression, avoiding any unfair advantages. Howson continued, “They just wanted to put him in and see how he went. 

“So I remember thinking, ‘Oh, well, I’m not sure he’s anything special,’ because certainly, of the first few tests, he was just where you’d expect him to be.”

Howson himself had prior experience in Formula Ford 1600, providing him with a slight edge in car racing experience over Hamilton. 

However, he emphasised that Hamilton’s early driving did not foreshadow the exceptional talent he would later display. 

“So nothing about his driving in the early tests we did suggested how good he was going to be,” Howson noted.

One aspect that stood out from the beginning was Hamilton’s confidence and self-assured demeanour, which was not accompanied by arrogance. 

Howson described Hamilton as “a very nice guy” who showed genuine compassion and interest in his fellow competitors.

“When it became clear in the earlier tests that I was a little bit quicker, there was then mutual respect for that,” Howson recalled. 

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He highlighted that Hamilton’s personality, characterised by calmness and self-assuredness, has been a source of strength throughout his Formula 1 career.

Howson concluded, “I think that’s a big character, it’s a sign of strength, not a weakness to be like that. 

“When you look at his career, and how he’s gone through his Formula 1 years, that kind of personality that he has, which is very calm, very self-assured, has really been to his benefit.”