The triple cham­pion opens up about a phi­los­o­phy that lets him bal­ance in­tense work with the most in­cred­i­ble life­style

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS -

That fourth world ti­tle slipped through his fin­gers dur­ing a mixed-up 2016 sea­son, but Bri­tain’s most suc­cess­ful F1 su­per­star is serene as he heads to­wards his 11th sea­son in the sport. A three-point phi­los­o­phy taught by a much-missed men­tor guides Lewis along a path be­tween in­tense work and a life most of us can barely imag­ine. For­get the ti­tle blow: he’s in a great place right now – and on track, he’s still as hun­gry as he’s ever been

Lewis is in a good mood: happy and re­laxed. Nei­ther the in­ten­sity of a pun­ish­ing grand prix sched­ule, nor the fact that the world ti­tle has slipped away from him, shows on his brow. He’s able to men­tally com­part­men­talise the many as­pects of his life, and so so­cial­is­ing does not af­fect his train­ing. The late-night record­ing stu­dio ses­sions don’t im­pose upon that mo­ment he pulls down his vi­sor and nails the throt­tle out of the pit­lane. All the facets of his com­plex char­ac­ter fuse to­gether in har­mony.

The teacher who helped him fo­cus his mind was the late Dr Aki Hintsa, the for­mer McLaren doc­tor whose phi­los­o­phy has been adopted by a num­ber of F1 cham­pi­ons across the grid. Cen­tral to his teach­ings were three key ques­tions: do you know who you re­ally are? Do you know where you are go­ing? And are you in con­trol of your life? As you’ll dis­cover in this forth­right in­ter­view, the an­swer for Lewis Hamil­ton in all three cases is a deni­tive “yes”.

When he’s at a grand prix, Lewis’s pad­dock life is ruth­lessly fo­cused. Here he must per­form at the max­i­mum, on the limit. Each day is lled with meet­ings with en­gi­neers, TV crews, cor­po­rate guests, train­ers, nu­tri­tion­ists, PR ofcers and team prin­ci­pals. The hours are di­vided into min­utes and ev­ery­thing runs to the sec­ond. Bang on our al­lo­cated times­lot, Lewis marches over and of­fers his trade­mark rm hand­shake. He’s on duty, but re­laxed, wear­ing frayed grey jeans and a crisp white top – golden medal­lion cross on show.

Last year was chal­leng­ing. There was mis­for­tune with his power unit and nger trou­ble with his starts, but he still had the pace to notch up 12 poles and 10 wins and force his team­mate to ght for the ti­tle right to the nal cor­ner of the nal race. And only then did Nico Ros­berg win – by just ve points.

F1 Rac­ing: As far as the on-track per­for­mances are con­cerned, 2016 wasn’t too shabby, was it? LH: It wasn’t a spec­tac­u­lar year to be hon­est, which is kinda crazy when you see that I had so many wins. It was still a suc­cess­ful year for the team in that we won the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship again, but 2016 was not the great­est year for me with the driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship and my starts. But it has been a year of growth. I’m still ght­ing; still push­ing.

F1R: It could have been so dif­fer­ent if you hadn’t had the en­gine blow-up in Malaysia, which clearly af­fected you. And there was heart­break and frus­tra­tion when you got to Suzuka a week later. [An irate Lewis had stormed out of a me­dia brieng with jour­nal­ists on Satur­day evening, and this was fol­lowed by a poor start on race day.]

LH: Yeah, ab­so­lutely. It was a very try­ing year and one of the most chal­leng­ing years for me on a per­sonal level with things weigh­ing heavy on my heart. I think peo­ple take for granted that we’re wealthy and suc­cess­ful and make lots of money and that it’s easy, but they don’t re­alise how hard we work.

It doesn’t mat­ter how much money you make; it doesn’t mean that you don’t work hard. Our en­gi­neers work in­cred­i­bly hard and the week­ends are the most in­tense – 20 in­cred­i­ble week­ends. For­mula 1 is just so tech­ni­cal now that you need to be…

He pauses, search­ing for the right turn of phrase…

F1R: On it? LH: On it. On it. On it. On it. Men­tally and phys­i­cally, so yeah, 2016 was up and down, but I’m glad I’m strong enough to bounce back from lots of dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios and I take those strengths and those pos­i­tives from race to race. I gen­uinely leave the neg­a­tives be­hind and just take the pos­i­tives.

It’s a fa­mil­iar phrase that Lewis uses. Back in Sochi last May, F1 Rac­ing was work­ing on a story about why it’s wrong to hate Hamil­ton. We reected on the taunt­ing and abuse he gets from so-called ‘haters’ on so­cial me­dia and asked him about his re­ac­tion to the hos­til­ity he re­ceives. His an­swer? “I just see the pos­i­tives from it, not the neg­a­tive side.” It’s all about not wor­ry­ing about those things you can’t con­trol, but fo­cus­ing on what makes you stronger. What gives

you en­ergy. His faith. And, of course, his tal­ent. It’s that com­bi­na­tion of abil­ity and for­ti­tude that could en­able Lewis to be­come, sta­tis­ti­cally, the great­est F1 driver of all time.

F1R: You have this re­lent­less charge, and now you’ve eclipsed Alain Prost’s tally of 51 race wins. Is there any­thing stop­ping you from reach­ing, and beat­ing, Michael Schumacher’s haul of 91 grand prix vic­to­ries?

LH: It’s kinda crazy to think. I ar­rive at a track and for­get those things. I for­get the podi­ums or the wins that I have. It’s only when peo­ple re­mind me. Last year I was say­ing: “I can’t be­lieve I have 51 wins” [plac­ing him level with Prost] and I also can’t be­lieve Michael had 91! Fifty-one, 91 – it’s still a long, long way away. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to that. Jeez.

Last sum­mer, F1 Rac­ing had a rare chance to see Lewis out­side the connes of his work­ing zone. We joined him on a two-day visit to the Caribbean, where he spent time rac­ing a va­ri­ety of ma­chin­ery at the Bar­ba­dos Fes­ti­val of Speed. That in­cluded driv­ing a kart in the wet, some­thing he hadn’t done for years. His good friend, for­mer Bri­tish F3 champ, Marc Hynes, re­marked at the time: “I’ve never seen him so happy.” In the Caribbean, Lewis is able to be him­self. He isn’t crit­i­cised for what he wears or how he be­haves. It’s very dif­fer­ent from the con­ser­va­tive en­vi­ron­ment of an F1 pad­dock.

F1R: You were su­per-re­laxed and very happy when we saw you over in Bar­ba­dos last year… LH: [Blank look] Oh, I thought you meant car­ni­val! Yes, at the Fes­ti­val of Speed. The at­mos­phere is to­tally dif­fer­ent to a grand prix. Peo­ple for­get how big and inuen­tial the is­lands are. It’s hum­bling when I go back there, and it’s cool to rep­re­sent such a large group of peo­ple. And even if they don’t like me, they just say: “He’s from the is­lands so I’ve got to sup­port him.”

F1R: Do you nd that F1 and the pad­dock en­vi­ron­ment is too con­ser­va­tive, too es­tab­lish­ment, some­times?

LH: Yes, and un­for­tu­nately it hasn’t changed over time. Hope­fully, with the new own­ers, in the next few years they’ll bring new blood and new ideas into it. When you have a com­pany… I’ve watched movies, I’ve read about com­pa­nies, I know friends in busi­nesses and when the head of a com­pany isn’t do­ing a job – another one comes in. Or if an en­gi­neer isn’t do­ing a good job, another one comes in. It’s the same with driv­ers. But in For­mula 1 all those peo­ple at the top have been the same for the past 50 fuck­ing years! [laughs]

Who’s he re­fer­ring to? Who from the 1960s is still around to­day? Ron Dennis, Jackie Ste­wart, Bernie Ecclestone, the for­mer FIA pres­i­dent Max Mosley? The es­tab­lish­ment?

LH: The ideas and ap­proach have been the same and all of us, in our lives, we don’t wel­come change. I know my el­ders don’t. My par­ents and aun­ties are less open to change. They say: “This is how we do it and this is how we’ve al­ways done it.” I hope the new own­ers bring fresh ideas and make it more ac­ces­si­ble for fans. That will make F1 even greater.

This ques­tion of the es­tab­lish­ment also came up in a story we heard him tell in Bar­ba­dos. It was the time he and his dad rocked up at a kart track and im­me­di­ately got peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. He said it was like the scene in the 1993 movie Cool Run­nings, when the Ja­maican bob­sleigh team ap­pear with a rusty old sleigh to the shock of the elite Euro­pean run­ners, and ev­ery­one turns around to ask what they are do­ing here…

LH: I tell you, it re­ally, re­ally was like that. I laugh be­cause it was just like that. We had a Vaux­hall Cav­a­lier that my dad took so much pride in and all that pride went out the win­dow when we started rac­ing. It’s crazy. It’s like tak­ing care of a car, and then you have kids and there’s sud­denly shite and food all over the car – you care less be­cause your pri­or­i­ties have shifted. We’d turn up with a kart in the back. It was scruffy, we didn’t have any money – we pulled it out of the back and ev­ery­one was look­ing at us. I swear on my life, ev­ery­one was think­ing: “What the hell are these peo­ple do­ing here?” And who would have known that out of all of them, week in, week out, I would be the one who turned up here in For­mula 1.

God-given tal­ent aside, that’s what hard work, dis­ci­pline and train­ing bring you. And when you’ve come from noth­ing, had no money, and you’ve worked your life to achieve your goals, you can en­joy the riches of your suc­cess. And that’s what we see Lewis do­ing through the prism of so­cial me­dia: Ski-Doo rac­ing in the Colorado snow; hol­i­day­ing on the beach in Mex­ico with his dogs Roscoe and Coco; hit­ting golf balls off the top of a moun­tain in New Zealand; ying to races in his red Chal­lenger jet. Ev­ery day Lewis max­imises his life, en­joy­ing the time his faith has given him.


F1R: We see you trav­el­ling the world, record­ing mu­sic, go­ing from one event to the next. What haven’t you done yet?

LH: [His eyes light up] Loads of things! I’m sure most peo­ple would be dread­ing the end of their ca­reers, but I’m ac­tu­ally ex­cited. It’s like when you have kids, you can’t wait, but you can wait. Do you know what I mean? I’m like that ev­ery day. I can’t wait to have a fam­ily, but I can. I can’t wait for that next chap­ter in my life, but I can. I don’t want it to rush by.

I’ve had friends who passed away, and I’ve met kids who never made their sixth, tenth or 15th birth­day, and they never got to kiss a girl or go on a plane. I’ve met peo­ple from so many dif­fer­ent walks of life and I count my bless­ings ev­ery


sin­gle day that I’m so, so, for­tu­nate. I wasn’t born with any dis­abil­i­ties, I was given the op­por­tu­nity to do what I love, to travel. I make the money to do what­ever I want – and I can’t be­lieve it. I want to make sure I don’t squan­der that.

My fam­ily worked so hard; when I get in the car, I do it for them. I can never pay them back enough. Ev­ery time I get in the car I’m rep­re­sent­ing my cousins and aun­ties.

He knows who he is.

I’m try­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence as much as I can. There is so much I want to do and not enough time. That’s why I’m al­ways on my phone. I’m plan­ning all the time. Right now, my whole sched­ule for the next ten weeks is al­ready set.

He’s in con­trol of his life.

I’m trav­el­ling like crazy all the way, in dif­fer­ent coun­tries all the time. There are things I still want to do. Coun­tries I’ve not been to. I’m try­ing to learn the pi­ano, I want to learn a lan­guage – it’s on the list of things I want to do. I want to be able to speak uently to a… [in­audi­ble]

F1R: A what? LH: A woman [laughs]! I want to read more; there are so many things. There are things I can do in my time now, which I’m do­ing, and things I can’t do. I have two lists – things I can do that won’t dis­tract me in my job; and things that go on the sec­ond list for the next chap­ter.

He knows where he’s go­ing.

I love dis­cov­er­ing what those things are and I love liv­ing the life that I have. I don’t know, you don’t know, we don’t know when it’s our last day here. You hope it will be a long time off, but you could be gone like that. The most im­por­tant thing is that you’ve made as many great mem­o­ries as you can with all the peo­ple that you love.

His faith.

Alas, time pre­vents us from con­tin­u­ing. Wait­ing for their slot with Lewis at the next ta­ble is another jour­nal­ist, another TV crew, another photographer. Ahead of him are more ques­tions about the lost cham­pi­onship; his team­mate; the new tyres. But, for this brief win­dow, we have got to nd out how Lewis thinks – how he op­er­ates.

His for­ma­tive years were all about mak­ing that rst big step and get­ting into F1. And now he’s spent ten years in the sport. He knows what it is he wants to do in his life af­ter F1, but, un­like his for­mer team-mate, Nico Ros­berg, you wouldn’t ex­pect him to stop any­time soon. De­spite the es­tab­lish­ment, the pol­i­tics, the me­dia and the ‘haters’ – a force within keeps driv­ing him for­ward. He lives for that mo­ment when the ve red lights go out and he blasts away from the line – to lead the pack into the rst cor­ner. It’s win num­ber 41, 51… 91? And, per­haps, another ti­tle. These are the things that make Lewis Hamil­ton truly happy.

Lewis in his of­fice. He says he is al­ways “on it, on it, on it, on it.” But he knows there is a life beyond F1, and one he can’t wait to em­brace. But he’s not ready to step away just yet

Lewis is in a re­flec­tive mood as he con­sid­ers his faith, the past, the im­por­tance of liv­ing in the mo­ment, and the fu­ture: “I don’t know, you don’t know, we don’t know when it’s our last day here. You hope it will be a long time off, but you could be...

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Adored by his sup­port­ers, with more than 4 mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers, Lewis hopes F1’s new own­ers will make the sport even more ac­ces­si­ble to its fans

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