How the Comet has reported the rags to riches rise of Stevenage's Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton over the years
PUBLISHED: 14:04 30 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:09 30 October 2017
Stevenage’s Lewis Hamilton sealed his fourth world title in dramatic fashion in Mexico on Sunday to become Britain’s most successful Formula One driver in history.
The 32-year-old racer from the town has achieved success beyond his wildest dreams and is flown around the world in private planes, attends glitzy Hollywood parties, has supermodels as consorts and a large number of multi-million pound deals.
It is a far cry from his humble background as a mixed-race lad from a humble council house.
And CometSport has been there every step of the way reporting on his progress.
Despite a busy schedule Lewis has always found time to return to his hometown when he can.
In 2008 he talked to the Comet about his roots 48 hours before he won the 60 lap British Grand Grand Prix at Silverston after starting from fourth position.
The motor racing ace told us at the time: “I am the same guy I was. I’m just doing a bigger job. I’ve had a great hobby all my life and now it’s turned into a job.
“We’re still the same family from Stevenage. We still love doing the normal things, going to the Leisure Park in Stevenage. Not many people know we go there.
“Nando’s, Pizza Express, I love going to those sort of things.
“I am very fortunate to have my family to keep my feet on the ground.”
Two years later we covered the racing hero made a secret pit-stop at his old school in Stevenage, delighting pupils who had no idea he was coming.
Clearly delighted to be back where he said he had spent his happiest school years, the youngest ever Formula 1 world champ walked into a packed assembly at Peartree Junior School to gasps from the children.
The-then Comet reporter Richard Young – now editor of sister-publication Herts Life magazine – penned at the time that Lewis: “Sent half an hour answering the children’s questions on everything from what it’s like to be famous: “It’s very, very strange. I go to Tesco and everyone recognises me”, to what it is like driving an F1 car: “I tried to imagine what it was like, but my imagination was nowhere near – your brain gets sucked back in your skull”.
“After hugging one of his former teachers, Elaine Holman, his “favourite teacher” at Peartree, Lewis presented the school with a signed T-shirt of the kind he and his McLaren teammates wear if they have won a grand prix.
“Mrs Holman, who Lewis knew as Miss McKeown, said he had been a good, hard-working pupil and only rarely naughty.
“The appearance of the race ace was kept top secret. The majority of teachers only found out this morning and the pupils had no idea he was coming.
“But deputy headteacher Ellie Shaw said: “We did tell staff they might want to do their hair and their clothes.”
“On what it is like to have such a successful former pupil Miss Shaw said: “When he won the world championship it was lovely to talk to the children about what they can achieve. Times are hard and things are tough in this neighbourhood at the moment. It is something to aspire to - your dreams can come true.”
In 2011 Richard also wrote about the F1 star’s visit to Stevenage Leisure Park as he treated family members to a Nando’s.
He quoted assistant manager Jonathon Davies saying: “The girls were a bit flustered. He was very polite, very well brought up.”
Fast forward five years and we reported on Sunday night Lewis speaking movingly about growing up in Stevenage.
He said to Sky Sports Rachel Brookes after clinching the title in Mexico: “The other day I was reminiscing about growing up in Stevenage and watching TV and one day dreaming of being in Formula One and here we are 25 years later as a four-time world champion – so a big thank you to all my fans.”
Lewis, as your local newspaper who’ve covered you every step of the way, we salute you.
Well done on your incredible achievements from everyone at Comet towers.