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Lewis Hamilton Doesn’t Care What You Think About Him

Words by Rob Chilton

Lewis Hamilton manages two very different, but equally extravagant lives in and out of a Formula One cockpit. EDGAR examines his approach to his life in the fast lane

A celebrity fashion designer, a couple of models, some clothes, and the most famous racing driver in the world: Lewis Hamilton’s appearance at a Tommy Hilfiger event in Tokyo recently was the typical razzamatazz fashion affair.

Hundreds of smartphones were thrust skywards in a frenzied attempt to get a snap of Hailey Baldwin, Winnie Harlow, plus Tommy Hilfiger and his brand ambassador, the new F1 World Champion as they posed together on stage. No big deal, right? Wrong.

Of course, this being Lewis Hamilton, gossip was never far away. The man who seems to attract more chatter than any other driver on the Formula One circuit found himself the target of a whispering campaign that suggested he was spending too much time on commercial endorsements and not enough time working on his day job.

Hamilton plugged his TommyxLewis street-inspired menswear range at events in Milan, London, Shanghai, Tokyo and New York this summer. He also appeared at an engagement for IWC in Tokyo, but insisted the travel would not affect his performance on the race track.

“I’ve always been able to arrive and switch into race mode,” he insisted. “There’s not a single moment during those two weeks that I’m not thinking about racing, not thinking about the championship, knowing that we’re coming to a difficult race, that you need to see if you can bring more. There’s not a moment that I don’t think about it.”

Like many top athletes who find themselves in the showbiz spotlight away from their sport, Hamilton is able to separate his personal life from his professional one and switch on his race face when necessary.

“I get a lot of energy from these things that I do,” Hamilton said of his fashion exploits. “I find it stimulating and I think you’ll see that my results have shown that for the past several years.” He has a point: just look at his quartet of World Championships.

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has no problem with Hamilton’s scheduling. “He was in Shanghai on the catwalk, New York a couple of days later. He came [to drive], rock and roll, and blew everybody away,” he said.

Young British driver George Russell, who recently signed to drive for Williams in 2019 has observed Hamilton at close quarters as reserve driver for Mercedes. The 20-year-old admires the motivation and focus of the F1 champion.

“He is portrayed as a guy who from the outside maybe doesn’t look as interested in F1 as he does in other aspects of life, but he is extremely motivated and really works hard to get the best out of all of his people,” said Russell, currently racing in Formula 2. “Seeing how he approaches situations and the relationships was an incredible opportunity and a great insight for me. Learning from someone like Lewis showed me that you cannot just rely on talent alone.”

It’s this strength of mind that has impressed Hamilton’s boss this season. “In the past it took him longer to dig himself out of a hole,” said Wolff. “The more experience he has, the more his personality has developed. The great thing is his ability to leave negativity behind, an important skill for a driver, or for any person.”

Intriguingly, he added, “Lewis is such a complex individual, multi-faceted like all the high performers I have met. Most of them are sensitive, they need the right environment, the right set-up to function on the highest level.”

Despite his polarising personality, many believe Formula One needs a character like Hamilton. Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft is one.

“Hamilton is a character,” Croft told EDGAR. “You want characters in sport. He’s the biggest name in F1 and the most recognisable driver on the planet, bar none.”

While he may rub some of his fellow drivers up the wrong way, Hamilton’s rapport with fans is obvious. “He engages with fans on a scale that no other driver does,” Croft adds. “He openly celebrates with fans and acknowledges their support. I’ve never had cause to have a go at Lewis or criticise him. He’s a thoroughly decent, interesting, charming guy. We shouldn’t be too hard on him.”

As for his driving skills, Croft is in no doubt we are watching a legend: “He’s a truly exceptional driver, one of the greats.”

Hamilton clinched his fifth title in Mexico and will collect the trophy in the season finale in Abu Dhabi on November 25. Hamilton overtook Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost in the all-time rankings and now sits level with Juan Manuel Fangio. Ahead of Hamilton in the all-time championship list is Michael Schumacher on seven.

After signing a two-year extension with Mercedes in the summer, reportedly worth $52m per year, Hamilton has laid the groundwork for two more title runs and said he was “very confident that Mercedes is the right place to be over the coming years.”

However, Hamilton’s relatively straightforward cruise to the top of the leaderboard has yet again raised the issue of whether F1 must be made more exciting.

Ironically, it was Hamilton who suggested a tweak to the format with a ‘super weekend’ in which the grid was reversed, forcing the fastest guys to battle through the field from the back.

“I think one of the biggest changes that needs to be made is that at the moment it is the same four days, every weekend, for 21 weekends every single year pretty much,” he said. “I think it is more exciting this year, being in these cars is the best it has ever been. But I am sure there are still dull races. It needs to be dynamic. There are some tracks where the race is so boring. I remember growing up watching [F1] and falling asleep after the start. I am sure there are people who fall asleep after the start and wake up when they set their alarms for the end. I used to do it when I was younger.”

But that’s a topic for another day because for the next few weeks Hamilton will be delighted to cruise to a memorable victory lap in the UAE. And while Hamilton is around – both in fashion and in F1 – it’s unlikely things will ever be boring.

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