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15 QUESTIONS WITH LEWIS HAMILTON

The five-time world champion driver of the storied Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team takes a pit stop 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, 75 wins later (spanning from Canada in 2007 to China this past April), the 34-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.

1. You are one of 20 Formula 1 drivers currently racing. What’s the biggest misconception people have about what you do?

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.

Hamilton in his car just before a race.
"Two thousand people have worked to give me the car I have, and the pressure I put on myself to win is immeasurable."

2. What’s the first thing you do in the morning on race day?

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.

3. Do you have any lucky charms or race-day superstitions?

I’m 34 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.

4. What song pumps you up for a big race?

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.

5. How do you celebrate a win?

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.  

Hamilton (right) and teammate Valtteri Bottas after a win.

6. OK, so how do you celebrate the World Championship?

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.

7. Do you have a personal motto?

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.

8. You also talk a lot about the importance of self-love. Why?

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.

9. Who are your role models?

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.   

"I have a tattoo on my back that says, “Still I Rise.”
The five-time world champion gives fans a thumbs up after a race.

10. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

When I was 6 my dad told me to never give up.

11. What are your favorite travel destinations?

Tokyo, Bali, Hawaii and Cabo.

12. Favorite songs to blast in the car?

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson, “Wait in Vain” by Bob Marley and “Monster” by Kanye West.

13. Favorite emoji?

The speed-demon car. 

14. Who always rides shotgun in your car?

My dogs, Roscoe and Coco. Coco is usually in the footwell and Roscoe likes to sit on the chair.

15. Last question: We know you like to sing, who would be in your carpool karaoke?  

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.