Winning a championship opens a lot of doors. For celebrity driver Lewis Hamilton, winning the Formula One circuit has brought fame, fortune, and even knighthood. Still, the Mercedes driver also gained something rather unexpected: a better relationship with his father.
Hamilton’s family has always backed his driving ambitions
While Hamilton spoke the most about his father in his sitdown with Vanity Fair, both his mother and his stepmother also gave him the support he needed to build his experience on the track, opposites of many of the other adults he encountered as a young racer.
He gives a bit of grace to the teachers and other racing parents who told him he would never succeed, saying they “must have been going through a lot to have projected that onto a young kid.” Hamilton describes his mother as one of the “big, big stars” in the background of his racing career.
She didn’t attend many races in his early driving days, but he made an effort to bring her into the racing world as he traveled more. He said his reasons were twofold: he wanted to let his mother see what his world was like, but he also wanted to show his mother off to the world.
Unsurprisingly, the family mentioned in the video weren’t all the two-legged sort – Hamilton’s bulldog Roscoe also made an appearance. Roscoe is a big part of the racer’s life, sometimes tagging along to races for moral support or even a photo shoot to share with his more than 600,000 Instagram followers.
Giving it their all
Extracurriculars can get expensive. Parents can find themselves putting in a lot of time and money, and Lewis Hamilton’s father was no exception. Hamilton lived with his mother for half of his childhood but moved in with his father around age nine to further immerse himself in his driving. He recalls his father having as many as four jobs at one time and even remortgaging their home to get the money they needed to keep racing.
When equipment could be built or repaired at home, Hamilton and his father did it themselves, including some mechanic work and the design of one of Hamilton’s early helmets. Unable to afford a paint job from a professional, the pair chose colors at a local store, with Hamilton’s father introducing the yellow so he could tell from a distance if his son was safe.
Formula One wasn’t Hamilton’s first taste of victory
Hamilton points to his 2007 Montreal podium appearance with McLaren as “the day I knew we had made it,” but it was far from his first win. At age 10, Hamilton won the British karting championship, feeling very much the underdog. His memory is of being “the only Black family there … fighting against … a very, very wealthy family.”
The competitor’s wheel fell off, leaving Hamilton with the crown — and a special moment with his father. “[We] drove off singing ‘We Are the Champions,’ and that was the first time we had really bonded.” The racing track isn’t the only arena Hamilton has pioneered.
After years of dressing in the same outfit day after day for school, Hamilton was excited to make a statement with his clothing, but even in the head-turning world of fashion, he felt different. The Sun reported that Hamilton bought a table at the 2021 Met Gala for a group of young Black designers.
Discussing the evening with Vanity Fair, he said that after knowing how it felt to be the only person of color in a room, he wanted to use his platform to make opportunities for other young professionals in the same position. He was very proud to create a space for people who “wouldn’t normally have a chance to be at an event like this.”