15 year old Lewis Hamilton’s incredible go-karting overtake hinted at future stardom

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Lewis Hamilton go karting at the Elf Masters 2000

Lewis Hamilton began his motorsport career by cutting his teeth in the highly competitive world of go-karting.

In this particular race from the year 2000 he pulls off one of the most brilliant overtakes I’ve ever seen. 

Go karts - the ultimate proving ground

Go-karting is one of the most competitive forms of motorsport in the world. The margins between karts and drivers are absolutely miniscule, meaning you can have huge grids where any one of a dozen or more drivers could win a race.

That makes for unbelievably close racing with no margin for error. With so many karts all competiting for the same small pieces of tarmac, racers have to be so sharp when planning and executing their overtakes throughout a race. It’s the ultimate way for young drivers to learn and improve their racecraft.

Elf masters 2000

Pretty much all racing drivers at the top levels of motorsport, whether in single-seaters, endurance or sports car racing, will have come up through the ranks of go-karting. And I have no doubt that they’ll all say their experience in karts is what allowed them to hone their skills from a very young age.

Hamilton's go karting career

Lewis Hamilton started out at the bottom of the motorsport ladder in go-karts when he was just 8 years old. But it didn’t take long at all for his natural talent to shine through.

At 10 years old, in 1995, Lewis became the youngest ever driver to win the British Super One Cadet championship, the most competitive karting series for youngsters in the UK.

Lewis Hamilton go karting

He went on to win the 1996 Kartmasters Grand Prix, the Super One series again in 1997 and the European Championship in 2000, to name just a few of his biggest titles.

In 1998 the McLaren Formula 1 team boss called Lewis and offered him a place in the McLaren young driver programme. The rest, as they say, is history.

Elf Masters

The Elf Masters was an indoor go-karting competition held each year from 1993 to 2001 in Paris. It gathered the most talented drivers from the world of motorsport and karting and put them in identical karts to battle for honours.

In early years of the competition the entrants included the biggest names from motorsport at the time including Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and Mario Andretti. It included some youngsters who’d go on to have massive success, such as Dario Franchitti, Fernando Alonso and one Lewis Hamilton.

Elf Masters Hamilton

The race in 2000

Lewis Hamilton was competing in the ‘Young Hopefuls’ category at the event in 2000. He was racing against a few other drivers whose names might be familiar:

  • Alexandre Premat (Formula Renault, F3, Nurburging 24h and Bathurst 1000 winner)
  • Benoît Tréluyer (3x LeMans winner, FIA World Endurance Champion)
  • Anthony Davidson (FIA World Endurance Champion, Sky F1 analyst)
  • Rami Räikkönen (Kimi’s brother)
  • Danica Patrick (NASCAR and IndyCar driver)
2000 Elf Masters Lewis Hamilton

Lewis was starting on pole position for the 10-lap race but when the lights went out he was passed by Besson who started second.

Hamilton spends the next few laps biding his timing, glued to the bumper of the kart in front, working out where to make his move. That is until the third place kart of Premat catches them on the fifth lap, and Lewis knows he needs to get the pass done.

And the move he makes is sensational. Check it out for youself in the video below at around 2:59.

Hamilton initially dives up the inside of Besson at the first right-hand hairpin, but gets squeezed to the inside and can’t complete the move. The two drivers have slowed each other down so the third place kart of Premat then gets involved.

lewis hamilton go karting

Sensing an opportunity, Premat squeezes between Hamilton and Besson on the way in to the left-hand hairpin. 

ELF Master go karting 2000

But Lewis is wise to this and sees it coming; he takes an incredibly wide line in to the turn, anticipating the other two drivers will run a little wide on their tighter lines.

Elf Masters 2000

And that’s exactly what happens. Lewis’ wide entry allows him to execute the perfect switchback and cut up the inside of both drivers on the way out of the corner, taking the lead. The timing, accuracy and anticipation of this move is out of this world. 

From there on he creates a big gap and breezes to victory.

Lewis Hamilton go karting overtake

Lewis’ talent at this stage was undeniable. And this overtake made it quite obvious that he was destined for greatness; his racecraft, anticipation and awareness even at 15 years old were all the mark of a future champ.

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Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport guides based on my own experience as a racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who want to learn more about racing.

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Join the oversteer48 F1 Insider's club

I’ll send you a weekly email with insider info on the latest F1 news and results. 
Read by over 5,000 busy F1 fans each week.