• January 7 down the years

The birth of a British superstar

What happened on January 7 in Formula One history?
Lewis Hamilton started karting at eight years old © Sutton Images

2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who is named after American sprinter Carl Lewis, was born in Tewin, Hertfordshire. His first taste of motorsport was with a remote control car his father, Anthony, bought him in 1991. He went on to become F1's youngest champion in 2008, but he nearly didn't have a racing career at all. At school he was a successful footballer playing alongside, Aston Villa and England midfielder, Ashley Young. Hamilton's paternal grandparents emigrated from Grenada to the UK in the 1950's, and his grandfather Oliver worked on the London Underground.

Red Bull, who had bought Jaguar F1 two months earlier, appointed Christian Horner as its sporting director and at the same time dispensed with the services of Jaguar team principal Tony Purnell and managing director David Pitchforth. Horner was owner of the Arden team for whom Tonio Liuzzi had won the Formula 3000 title the previous year. "The news was met with a stunned silence when a team meeting was called at the Milton Keynes factory to announce the changes, a measure of the affection for Purnell and Pitchforth," noted the Times. "They were also highly regarded in the pitlane for their quiet but efficient attempt to turn around a struggling team. Max Mosley, president of the FIA, the sport's governing body, once described Purnell as one of only two intelligent team principals in Formula One."

Driver and team manager Reg Parnell died after a routine appendix operation at the age of 52. He emerged as one of the leading British drivers of the immediate post-war period and was at the forefront of the F1 championship when it started in 1950. In 1957 he won the Grand Prix of New Zealand, and later in the year switched to management with Aston Martin before setting up his own F1 team in 1960. At the time of his death he was building an outfit which was poised to become a major player in the sport and had just signed world motorbike champion Mike Hailwood.

Mike Wilds was born in Chiswick, London. He started three grand prix, between 1974 and 1976, but failed to qualify for another five. He continues to race to this day and also makes a living as a helicopter and race instructor.

South African driver Brausch Niemann was born in Durban. A mechanic by trade, he entered his national grand prix in 1963 in a Lotus 22, but failed to qualify for the 1965 race. He later switched to enduro motorcycle racing, winning the South African championship in 1979. He retired to Pembrokeshire in Wales.

Jean Lucien Bonnet was born in Nice, France. He entered the 1959 Monaco Grand Prix in a Cooper T45, but failed to qualify. He died in an accident in a formula junior race in Sicily in 1962 aged 39.

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