Former F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton began his racing career the same way that many of today’s stars did: by racing go-karts. Starting at age eight, Hamilton quickly showed his prowess behind the wheel, and at age 10 told McLaren team boss Ron Dennis, “I want to race for you one day.”

The rest is history, as Hamilton signed with McLaren just three years later, at age 13. In the years since, Hamilton has racked up various formula-car titles, culminating with his F1 world championship in 2008.

Hamilton, in Australia for this weekend’s Quantas Australian Grand Prix, once again took to the kart track in a promotion for Vodafone, caught by the Herald Sun video below. Judging from the speed Hamilton carried into corners, the McLaren-Mercedes star has lost none of his ability in the off-season.

When asked about the prospects for the team this year, Hamilton was upbeat, saying the foundation of this year’s MP4-27 car is “a lot better.” Last year’s MP4-26 was quick due to exhaust changes made by the team, but lacked a solid foundation to challenge the dominant Red Bull Renaults of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

We’ll know soon enough if the new McLaren MP4-27 will deliver the consistency that Hamilton asserts it will. For a closer look at the 2012 Formula 1 season opener, see our Australian Grand Prix preview.