During the 2011 Formula 1 racing season, the young British driver Lewis Hamilton had a tough time and he was badly in need of words of motivation. A troubled relationship with girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger disturbed the concentration of the normally focused Hamilton and continued bad reactions to his normal aggressive but highly entertaining driving style meant that he ended up in front of race stewards on several occasions. On one occasion he even joked with reporters saying “I have a platinum members card to the stewards area.”
Hamilton clearly found his own words of motivation as at the Abu Dhabi race, the penultimate one of the 2011 season, he pulled ahead of the other drivers and stayed there to win: just another chapter in one of those short inspiring stories we all love to hear.
Lewis Hamilton was born nearly 27 years ago on 7 January 1985 to a white British mother, Carmen Larbalestier, and Anthony Hamilton whose parents had come over from Grenada in the 1950s. Lewis was named after the sprinter Carl Lewis and was looked after by his mother for ten years after 1987 when his parents spilt up.
Eventually Lewis was brought up by his father and stepmother. It was during this time his interest in racing really took off. In 1991 Anthony bought his son a radio-controlled car and Lewis came second in the BRDA national championships against adult competitors. It was at this event that Lewis first came to the attention of the BBC and he was featured on the first of several occasions by the popular Blue Peter programme.
Many sports are very expensive and motor racing is no exception. One of the inspirational messages to come out of Lewis Hamilton’s story is the fact that he is the first successful Formula 1 driver to come from relatively humble beginnings. Much of this is as a result of Anthony Hamilton’s commitment on the early days: he told his son he would support him in his ambitions just as long as Lewis worked hard at school.
Lewis did work hard at school - and at sports too. He represented his school at both football and cricket and feels he could have become a professional footballer if racing had not worked out.
During his motor racing career, Lewis Hamilton has suffered racial abuse and bullying but has survived both with a solid resolve. Interestingly his words of motivation may come from his experiences at school where he was bullied and took up karate to overcome this.
As his part of the bargain, Anthony Hamilton took redundancy from his job as an IT manager to become a contractor. At one stage he even had to work three jobs at a time to support his son’s burgeoning career. Anthony’s determination eventually led to his own IT company and indeed his ability to pass on words of motivation to Lewis helped him to become his son’s manager. He has developed this by providing inspirational messages to and becoming manager to the new up-and-coming British Formula 1 driver, Paul DiResta.
Lewis Hamilton graduated to karting at the age of eight years old and he continued his success in that arena.
During the 1995 Autosports Awards ceremony the team principle of the McLaren Formula 1 team, Ron Dennis, was signing autographs when he was approached by a small ten-year-old boy. The boy looked up at him and said “Hi. I’m Lewis Hamilton. I won the British Championship and one day I want to be racing your cars.” Dennis said nothing but instead wrote these words of motivation in the book: “Phone me in nine years, we’ll sort something out then.”
In fact, it was only three years later that, after Lewis had won his second British karting title, Ron Dennis rang him to sign Lewis on to the McLaren development programme. This included the option for the 13-year-old to drive in Formula 1 in the future.
In 2001 Lewis competed against and impressed the Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher before moving into the Formula Renault racing series. He began his climb through the racing formulae.
Lewis Hamilton finally got the drive he wanted in a Formula 1 car in 2007, getting a third place in his first race. This was the beginning of a record-breaking career. He became the youngest driver ever to lead the world championship and, in 2008, Lewis finally became the youngest Formula 1 World Champion.
Another constant supporter of his racing career and provider of inspirational messages is Lewis’ brother, Nicholas. Nicholas has cerebral palsy but has just started his own career racing in the Renault Clio Cup. He is often at Formula 1 races with his father cheering Lewis on and offering words of motivation. At the 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix, Nicholas was filmed scowling as his brother had to serve another penalty from the stewards.
Perhaps a couple of reasons for the continued appeal of Lewis Hamilton, apart from his obvious driving ability, are his humanity and his sheer determination. His partnership with another former World Champion, Jensen Button, at McLaren has shown the pair to have a great sense of humour that converts to a will to win on the track.
It would be too easy to think that Lewis Hamilton is lucky in the lifestyle he has. The reality is that both he and his father have, and still do, made considerable sacrifices and shown great perseverance to get to this position. There are many inspirational messages to be found in this story.
One last inspirational message. Lewis Hamilton has been criticized for his aggressive driving style but I recall one other driver suffering the same comments: and that was seven times World Champion Michael Schumacher.