We used to beat Lewis Hamilton in karting as kids but there are two reasons he made it to F1 and we didn’t

LEWIS HAMILTON is arguably the best Formula One driver of all time, but during his karting days he was given a run for his money.

Mike Spencer and Chris Rogers were two up-and-coming drivers hoping to reach the pinnacle of motorsport alongside Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton pictured karting in 1997RexThere are two main reasons he made it to F1 while his close rivals did notRex Features

The trio learned their trade at Rye House Kart Raceway in Hertfordshire, with all three earning championship titles in the British cadet karting championship.

Hamilton won the 1995 edition, before coming sixth a year later when Rogers won the title, while Spencer won his own title two-years earlier.

However, despite Rogers and Spencer’s ability to go toe-to-toe with Hamilton, they believe there are two main reasons behind his rise and them being left behind.

These being: funding and relationships.

While the early 2000s could allow a parent and child duo to make do, the modern day sees some spend as much as £250,000 a year on getting their kid through karting.

Speaking to The Times, Rogers explained: “I probably needed £150,000 a year. [But] I went in with £30,000.”

Being the same age as Hamilton, Rogers raced him more than Spencer, and Rogers also came out on top once again in 1998.

But when Hamilton was 10 he met McLaren founder Ron Dennis at the annual Autosport awards dinner after winning the 1995 championship.


From there, Dennis’ sponsorship of Hamilton allowed him to continue pursuing his dream, which would eventually yield seven F1 world titles, including McLaren’s most recent success.

Spencer, whose career ended fighting Hamilton in 2003, recalls a similar situation in Formula Renault.

His last race with Hamilton saw him record the fastest lap but come second to Hamilton, who went on to win 10 of the 15 races that season.

Spencer said: “The issue with Formula Renault is that if you’re not with the right team, you don’t win the races, and if you don’t win the races, you are forgotten quite quickly.”

He had finished eighth overall that year, having suffered too many DNF’s (did not finish classifications) to make a serious impression.

Hamilton’s ability to cultivate such relationships ended up being key to his early success too.

AFPHamilton is hoping to get back to winning ways this season[/caption]

He added: “Basically you have to be a bit of an animal out on the track and then an absolute gentleman when you’re not.

“I’m from Essex and that’s how I sound. I speak the way I speak and I am the way I am.

“I am very much black and white, up front as a person. I’ll always say what I think. Unfortunately, that’s not always the right thing.”

Kevin O’Malley, one of the co-owners of the Rye House track, detailed how the tutorship of Dennis helped Hamilton, while the lack of a mentor to Spencer hindered his ability to carry on.

He said: “There wasn’t anyone mentoring Mike. Lewis had Ron Dennis.”

Not that the opportunity never presented itself.

Two years earlier, Spencer met the likes of Keke Rosberg, Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell after winning the Cadet championship.

But he was not fortunate enough to garner any sponsorships from them, consequently showing how simple circumstance can make or break a young drivers aspirations.

Alas, Hamilton is now eyeing an eighth world title, reaffirming his desire to “fight” for his F1 future amid rumours of his retirement.