Britain’s Lewis Hamilton at just 22, was confirmed as McLaren-Mercedes’ second driver alongside double World Champion Fernando Alonso. Hamilton earned his chance in an amazing 2006 when he won the GP2 title in the last race of the season in September at Monza, dramatically beating Nelson Angelo Piquet and his more experienced team mate Alexandre Prémat.
McLaren-Mercedes chief Ron Dennis, who has a long term contract with Hamilton, decided that he had shown such skill and talent during the year that he deserved his opportunity.
Hamilton, whose grandfather came from Grenada to Britain in the 1950s, joined the ART team in the GP2 Series as a replacement for the previous year's champion Nico Rosberg. His performance in the GP2 Series has been impressive. At the European GP2 event he won both races, becoming only the second driver after Rosberg to do so, and he won at Monaco from pole. He repeated his double win at Silverstone - following a breathtaking three-abreast passing move at Becketts - becoming the first GP2 driver to win both heats at two races.
Although he failed to record another win, and faced stiff opposition from a resurgent Piquet, consistent podium finishes saw Hamilton eventually win the title by 12 points over the Brazilian. Although all drivers in GP2 have access to the same machinery, Hamilton proved capable of regularly racing at over a second per lap faster than his rivals.
Ron Dennis signed Hamilton up to the McLaren development programme in 1998 when he was just 13. His rise since then has been inexorable. He won the British Formula Renault series in 2003 and the Formula 3 Euroseries in 2005 before moving up to GP2.