Lewis Hamilton has won three Formula One titles, earned 47 race victories and become one of the sport’s iconic figures in his hometown of Stevenage, England.
In a race that truly passed him by, 20-year-old Jolyon Palmer grabbed a spot on the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix at the Circuit de la Sarthe by finishing 15th, five spots ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
Lucas Wilmot, a 19-year-old fan from Canada who attends the annual Drums Festival in Stevenage every year, was the first runner of the weekend, running four laps around the track. His second lap ended with him in 12th place, but that was enough to earn him a spot in the field for the race this Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton was the 57th starter, taking his spot in the pit area. At the end of the day, a fan got his lucky ticket to start the race on the first lap – and although he did not start the race on the grid, he will be part of the grandstands as Hamilton takes off into the sunset.
“It felt pretty cool – really. I mean, it was amazing,” he said of starting his first Grand Prix. “To finally get here to a F1 race and now to start the race, and be on the first lap, is a huge plus.”
Hamilton, who has been booed at F1 races in the past – like on June 29 when he returned to his home town to pick up his third world championship – was in a much better mood after Sunday’s race than on previous years.
“I’m happy that people showed that they can actually listen to me and maybe be kind of happy with what I have been doing,” Hamilton said. “I was very emotional, still quite excited. It was nice that I was heard, I guess, and in a big crowd was good.”
Having a race in his hometown is a major boost to Hamilton’s happiness level.
“You know, the whole thing is just nice. It’s been like 17 years of training and dreams come true every year, so to go and do it is nice.”
Jolyon Palmer, who trains in nearby Romford, also heard lots of cheers at the Grand Prix.
“I’m a Lewis Hamilton fan, so I got very excited and I nearly ran down the road a little bit when I heard him tell me he was starting seventh,” he said. “I jumped in the car and started practicing my start. I just jumped to second and saw I was on the grid.
“I did not get to hear him, so I can’t say I enjoyed it. I was hoping for better, but I’m really happy.”
Lewis Hamilton not only knows how to get people to cheer for him, but also how to get them excited about motorsports. Since he first emerged into the world of F1 in 2007, he has completely revitalized motorsports in Britain. But racing in his hometown is not new to Lewis Hamilton.
“It’s a special day for me. It’s something I look forward to all the time,” he said. “It’s always been in my blood, racing cars, so it’s always an incredible day.”
• (An earlier version misidentified Palmer as Lewis Bradley, and incorrectly reported his age as 18.)