Karun Chandhok recalls when he knew Lewis Hamilton was ‘extraordinary’

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Sky Sports pundit and ex-Formula One driver Karun Chandhok has lifted the lid on the moment he realised that Lewis Hamilton was an ‘extraordinary’ talent several years before making his debut in racing’s premier class. Hamilton turned plenty of heads with his performances in karting and in lower formulas prior to gaining an F1 seat with McLaren in 2007, shortly after winning the Formula 2 championship in only his first season at that level.

It was apparent from a relatively young age that Hamilton was going to be a special driver, with former McLaren chief Ron Dennis having kept tabs on the Stevenage local for a number of years before offering him the chance to race in F1 at the age of 22. Chandhok also found out that Hamilton was a different breed while racing alongside him in Formula Three, where he quickly learned that he was simply no match for the future seven-time F1 champion.

“I followed Lewis Hamilton around the Brands Hatch GP circuit when we were racing in F3,” said Chandhok on Reddit as he answered questions from F1 fans. “It was his F3 debut and the confidence and car control he showed was just extraordinary. It was the first time I saw another driver and thought: ‘There’s no way I can do that’.”

Hamilton went on to come within a whisker of claiming the Drivers’ Championship title as an F1 rookie in 2007 before doing so at the next time of asking by edging out Felipe Massa at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in 2008. Chandhok was not the only driver to realise Hamilton’s sky-high potential years before his debut in F1, with Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher also having predicted big things for the Brit when he was merely a teenager.

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“He’s a quality driver, very strong and only 16,” said Schumacher at the time. “If he keeps this up I’m sure he will reach F1. It’s something special to see a kid of his age out on the circuit. He’s clearly got the right racing mentality.”

Former Red Bull hero Mark Webber also quickly discovered that Hamilton was a cut above the rest after watching just one test session of his back in 2007, with the Aussie telling Channel 4 three years ago: “I knew he was special immediately. I remember being in Jerez in the south of Spain and he was testing with us, a rookie obviously.

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“The fitness levels, the professionalism, the lap times and sheer speed, he was fearless. Back then they did a lot of mileage in the build-up, you could drive the car, simulators weren’t as strong then, but you immediately saw that this guy was doing special things.

“Mixed conditions, a bit cold, bit drizzly, and when you’re really low on experience you might not have quite as much bravado to go and take it on. Hamilton has never ever shied, since day one, away from anything to do with these weapons for cars.”

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