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Few people have known success quite like racing driver Sir Lewis Hamilton. Having made his Formula 1 debut in 2007, he’s gone on to win a joint-record seven World Drivers’ Championship titles, and holds the record for the most wins, pole positions and podium finishes in the sport.
Earlier this year, the Mercedes driver sprinted to victory once again, winning his home Silverstone race for an eighth time, despite collecting a 10-second penalty. As he soars through the 2021 season, it seems there’s simply no stopping him.
But it hasn’t been the easiest 18 months for Lewis. In December last year, he contracted COVID-19, which forced him to miss the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain. He admits that like many of us, he struggled to maintain his fitness regime during such a strange time. ‘I’ve had periods of time where it’s been great and I’m really driven, and then I’ve had dead patches where I’ve just not been able to lift a finger,’ he says.
As the global pandemic has shone a spotlight on new routines and hygiene, Lewis’s experience has inspired him to make changes at home - to protect both himself and his loved ones. He explains that cleanliness is at the heart of his home and his secret weapon - an INEOS Hygienics Sanitiser Dispenser, a touchless device that delivers hospital grade hand sanitiser – has kept him feeling safe, while adding a stylish touch to his living space.
Here, Lewis talks exclusively to Good Housekeeping about dealing with adversity, finding comfort in creativity - and why he keeps his trophy collection in storage…
Congratulations on winning the British Grand Prix earlier this year, did you always believe you could win?
I definitely always thought that I could drive. As a boy, I used to sit in the middle seat in the back of the car and watch my dad shifting gears and steering – and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I couldn’t wait until I could drive something myself. Luckily, I got to drive my first go-kart when I was five and I started racing a few years later.
How was it racing in front of a capacity crowd?
When you’re in the car, you zone in, but you’re aware that the crowd is there, and there are certain corners where you can see them out of the corner of your eye. It definitely adds to the nerves, but there’s also a huge amount of energy you get from the fans - and when it’s your home Grand Prix, you so badly want to do it for them! It’s that whole ‘it’s coming home’ vibe; you want to be the one that participates in doing that.
How do you stay positive in a difficult race like that?
I just try to stay focused. When I first started karting, I didn’t have good equipment. We got my go-kart from the local newspaper, and it was bent and bruised, but for me, it was the greatest thing ever. Having had those difficult experiences as a kid definitely helps me today. I’ve started at the back and made my way through to the front, so when I race now, I try to always believe I can get to the front - even if it looks and feels impossible.
It’s been a strange and uncertain 18 months for sport, how have you found it?
It’s been tough. My biggest fear has always been to not be able to race. I remember having that experience as a kid, when we didn't have the money, and how tough it was for my dad to tell me and how I felt. I experienced not being able to race again when I got COVID-19, and it was the worst feeling ever. Doing the training and having to stay positive when you have no real interaction with human beings - I don’t know how I got through that, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. My fans definitely helped with all their positivity, too.
How has the pandemic changed your life?
It’s been terrible in so many ways for so many people. But if I try and look at it with a glass half full attitude and see the positives, my life has slowed down and it’s given me time to breathe. Before, I was constantly on the move going from one race to another, and it’s given me more time to appreciate the most important things in life, which is time with family and loved ones. I’ve spent a lot more time on Zoom calls and FaceTime with my mum, my brother and my best friend from school, just working on better communication, which I neglected before.
You’ve had so much success in your career, what do you owe it to?
My mum, dad and stepmum. My dad and my stepmum came to the last race and whenever I see them, I think, ‘Those two are the real reason I’m here’. They’re the ones who sacrificed everything. When we were living in a one-bedroom flat in Stevenage, they put all their savings into karting in the hope of me one day getting to Formula 1. I might be the one who’s on the podium, but it’s all come from them.
How do you stay motivated?
I get a lot of motivation from people I meet who have been through tough times; seeing how strong they are reminds me to get up and do something. I also like to set myself goals at the beginning of each year - and I don’t give up until I get there. But I do still have days where I think, ‘I really don’t have the energy right now’, and in that case, I’ll go and do something creative. I love drawing, playing the guitar and writing songs. If I’m not feeling good, I find a creative outlet.
Other than Formula 1, what's your favourite sport and are you any good?
My friends find it quite annoying that I pick up things relatively quickly! When I was at school, I was in the basketball team, football team, rugby team, and I did discus, javelin and cross country running. Now I snowboard, skydive, surf and I love wakeboarding. I play tennis with my dad, too, which is the sport I’m worst at…but I still manage to beat him because I’ve got a special slice!
How important is health and fitness to you?
It’s so important, particularly for your mental wellbeing. People don’t always connect the two - that what you put in your body and how you're feeling physically affects you mentally - but I’m very conscious of it. I don’t always love the pain of a workout, but I love the feeling of progress that I have afterwards and the endorphins that it releases. You feel more positive. Going vegan four years ago made a huge difference, too - my skin cleared up, my energy levels were more consistent. It’s the best thing I ever did.
How else do you look after your mental wellbeing?
I try to make sure I listen to music every day. I also make sure I speak to someone I love and that I laugh - you've got to find something to laugh at each day. Luckily, I have my dog, Roscoe, with me most of the time and he always makes me laugh. He’s a bulldog, and he always look sad, even though he’s actually very happy!
We’ve all spent a lot more time in our homes recently, what does home mean to you?
They say home is where the heart is, so home will always be where my parents live. But I try to make my own home feel as safe and comfortable as possible. I’ve got lots of plants because I love to stay grounded to nature, and I like having incense burning around the house. Fortunately, I’ve also got someone that helps me keep my place clean, otherwise it would all pile up!
Do all your trophies have pride of place?
I don’t actually have any racing trophies at home - they’re all in storage! In fact, if you came to my house, you wouldn’t even know I was a racing driver. I have a painting of Ayrton Senna, but that’s it. My dad has a few trophies on show because he’s very proud and likes to show his friends, but for me, home is about getting away from that world. When you’re in the public eye, being able to have the most normal home is so important; it helps you stay centered.
Do you use the INEOS Hygienics sanitiser dispenser at home and what other gadgets are essential to you?
Yes, I have one outside my front door and another in my hallway. The rule is that everyone has to take their shoes off and then sanitise before they come in - I’ve always been a bit of a germophobe, even before the pandemic! Another gadget I couldn’t live without is my speakers. When I get home and play some Marvin Gaye, it takes me back to being a kid and my dad playing all the classics. I love a bit of Bob Marley, too – there’s never a bad time of day to listen to Bob.
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