The five-time world champion driver of the storied Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team takes a moment to answer a few of our burning questions.
British-born Lewis Hamilton started karting at 8, and at 12 was accepted into the McLaren Mercedes Young Driver Programme. Now, 103 wins later, the 38-year-old has revealed himself to be a man of contrasts: he is vegan for ethical reasons and is a big proponent of self-love. But after a major win, the Monaco-based driver still likes to let loose with a little skydiving. We sat down with Hamilton to learn more about how he rolls — and soars.
It’s an unusual sport, and there are misconceptions about the training and what it’s like to actually race. I’ll tell people how I can lose 10 pounds for a race and they’ll say, “Why is that necessary, you’re just sitting in a car?” And then I’ll try to explain g-force and the clothing we wear and why it’s so hot and they’ll say, “Wait, the car doesn’t have AC? You don’t have water in there? Can’t you listen to music while you drive?” It looks glamorous when you come to a race weekend, but the stress is so high. Two thousand people have worked to give me the car I have, and the pressure I put on myself to win is immeasurable.
I wake up, brush my teeth and open the blinds. I like to see if it’s raining or dry, because it helps me get my mind in gear. And then I check my phone to stay on top of messages.
I’m 38 years old and one of the veteran drivers, so I don’t have any of those things. But when I was younger, I did. I had a lucky conker [the nut of a horse chestnut tree] that I put in my suit — but I lost it. Then I had a lucky pair of boxers that my stepmom shrunk and dyed pink. I was done [with “lucky charms”] after that. I think superstitions are things we make up in our minds; they’re blockers. Doing what I do, I can’t have those limitations.
Music is a very big part of my life. I do music production; I write songs. I work with a lot of musicians around the world and we’re bouncing around a lot of ideas. To get pumped up, I might listen to something someone suggested, or just beats or something I love. It could be Stevie Wonder, Prince, Marvin Gaye or Michael Jackson. Or reggae, hip-hop or R&B. I’ll just look at my phone and decide what the vibe is that day. That’s the great thing with music — there’s something for whatever mood you’re in. It’s really the universal language.
Not as spectacularly as you’d think. When I’m in Europe I like to get home [to Monaco] and be in my own bed, so most of the time I leave straight from the track to the airport. One of my friends recently told me that I don’t celebrate the moment enough, but I’m planning for the long-term goal — winning the World Championship.
Two thousand people have worked to give me the car I have, and the pressure I put on myself to win is immeasurable.”
Well, that’s the last race of the year, so we party. I’m usually a little hungover the next day, but I’ll head to Dubai and go skydiving. You can be a little looser and take a few more risks once the season is over.
I have a tattoo on my back that says, “Still I Rise.” My younger brother was born with cerebral palsy, and I grew up watching him struggle to walk. He would fall over, get back up and never complain. Then one day I read the Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise,” and it really resonated with me. We all stumble on a daily basis, but it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up. I really noticed that with my brother. Today he’s racing cars and doing things people told him he wouldn’t do.
Because you can’t really care about people’s opinions and you have to learn to love yourself and do what you love doing. In the society we’re in today, people are always on social media looking for validation, but you only need that from yourself. I wake up in the morning and say to myself, I love you, buddy. Well, I don’t actually say that out loud … but I tell it to myself internally. It’s super important to feel good, so I work out and do other projects and give my all.
Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, my dad … I have many mentors too. Businessmen and businesswomen who I go to for advice. I think it’s important to have mentors and role models.
When I was 6 my dad told me to never give up.
Tokyo, Bali, Hawaii and Cabo.
“Thriller” by Michael Jackson, “Wait in Vain” by Bob Marley and “Monster” by Kanye West.
The speed-demon car.
My dog Roscoe. He likes to sit on the chair.
First, I’d need a big car because I have to get a few people in: Eddie Murphy, Kevin Hart, Stevie Wonder and Will Ferrell. And I’ll add Offset so there’s a bit of swag in there too.
[Jean-Michel] Basquiat is my favorite but I like a lot of different artists. I also love Banksy and Salvador Dalí. One of the first paintings I ever bought when I first got into art was a Dalí. It’s a piece of history.
Teamwork really makes the dream work. I'm very fortunate to work with my team. I could not have won any of the races or championships in my career without every single person pulling together. I’m just one equal link in a huge chain of people. Our partners are so important. One of the best things about getting to Formula One is that you travel the world and see all these beautiful places, experience new cultures, and try different foods. When you're moving from city to city, The Ritz-Carlton really takes care of us. The real key is being able to feel like you’re moving from home to home. I think that's an important element that they've really implemented into their business frame. It’s fun going to different cities but the comforts of home are everything.
Sometimes I get to my room and there will be a card or a picture of Roscoe on the side of my bed. One of the coolest things is having your initials on your pillow or your dressing gown. I remember the first time that happened and I was like, ‘I don't even have that at home!’ My diet is plant-based and I don’t eat most things that are normally in the room, so they change everything out so that it’s vegan. All of these little details make a big difference to me.
I’ve been working on some very exciting things in the off-season. As part of my foundation’s partnership with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, we just announced three new grants that focus on increasing diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. I believe we can have a real impact on the talent coming into Formula One in the future.
We recently provided funding to AFBE-UK (Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers) to scale the organization’s work and expand its Making Engineering Hot program. Their aim is to increase the number of young minorities pursuing careers in engineering. There is a lot more work to do but I feel really positive about the future and I’m excited to have my team working alongside me.