Nicolas Hamilton: ‘Lewis has never put a penny into my racing… it’s not easy being related to him’

Being the brother of Lewis Hamilton has not always been plain sailing. But now a racer and profitable public speaker, Nicolas Hamilton is carving his own route – and he tells Kieran Jackson why he’s hungry for more.

 

 

 

 

 

“I was 16 in my wheelchair and went to a check-in desk at an airport to go and watch Lewis at an F1 race.” Nicolas Hamilton – half-brother to seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis – takes a deep breath as he reflects on the turning point in his life.

 

After a childhood impacted by the debilitating movement condition cerebral palsy, the moment he stood up and never sat back down.

 

“This lady did not ask me any questions,” he recalls. “She just asked my mum whether I needed assistance or help. I had all the hormones of a teenager wanting to be a man. I was growing a beard. I wanted to talk to girls and go to the pub.

 

“But I’d become lazy and I was in a wheelchair because it was easier for me. It was hard work to walk around. Able-bodied people weren’t looking at me in the way I wanted to be perceived. That was when I got out of my wheelchair. And I haven’t been back in for 15 years.”

 

 

 

His debut in 2015, using a fully adapted car with customised pedal positions and a hand clutch, made him the first disabled athlete to compete in a series widely regarded as the pinnacle of British motorsport. Yet contrary to what many did and continue to believe, family support did not equate to financial support.

 

“Lewis has never put a penny into my motorsport,” Nic tells The Independent. Three times, in fact. “There’s people who still don’t believe me when I say that, but that is literally the situation.

 

 

“I’ve had a lot of online trolling and bullying where everyone says I’m only in BTCC because of Lewis. A lot of the criticism is unjust – I don’t deserve it. But to finally shut the critics up on 23 April was the best thing I could ever wish for. It was a load of relief and a lot of weight off my shoulders.

 

 

 

“When you’re slogging at it for so long, you feel like it’s not going to come. Every time you do something negative, you feel like you’re proving people right. So it was a telling day.”

 

 

But what emerges throughout a 40-minute conversation is not so much a chip on the shoulder as an intransient determination to shape his own way to success. Just months after that points finish, Hamilton decided to leave his outfit, Team HARD, after the summer break. He insists he “wasn’t being valued to the level I’d have liked” but no matter. No hard feelings. Onto the next challenge.

 

Such a mindset has been the cornerstone of Hamilton’s life since that day at the airport in 2008. Previous to that – and prior to his brother becoming a household name – it was a life full of difficulty. Years in school were spent isolated, the odd one out.

 

Ever since I’ve started racing, it’s been hard because people compare me to Lewis and say I’m only there because he’s a multimillionaire

 

“I didn’t have a voice or a purpose in school,” he says. “A disabled boy and only person of colour in my school… kids did not want to be my friend. I was getting pulled back in my wheelchair and wasn’t able to fend for myself.

 

“I would just internalise everything. Now, I’ve overcome my condition. Coming to terms with my relationship with my disability, now as a 31-year-old, is something I’m very proud of.”

 

 

 

Once the obvious issue of depleted leg strength – “they were like mush” – and the pain of walking to the toilet slowly departed, racing became a deep-rooted desire. Alongside his first “proper job” working on the development team of a simulation racing game called Project CARS, he found potential in the cockpit in the real world. After driving a BMW M3 for the first time, he entered his first race – the Clio Cup – at 19.

 

 

But, he insists, it was not because he was Lewis Hamilton’s brother. “Ever since I’ve started racing, it’s been hard because people compare me to Lewis and say I’m only there because he’s a multimillionaire.

 

“He’s still a massive reason why I’m as strong as I am and why I’m out of my wheelchair. I’m still his No 1 fan. Lewis and my dad [Anthony], he has been the anchor for the whole family.

 

“But it’s been really hard being related to Lewis and trying to carve my own career in motorsport.”

 

Hamilton insists he has forged his own road. Like all racers at national level, without sponsorship and backing there is no racing. Sure, the surname helps. But he was eager to add as many strings to his bow as possible and in 2013, he did an interview on stage. Impressed by what he saw as a spectator, a CEO of a speakers bureau got in touch to sign him up to its talent roster. Now, he works for nine different UK speaker agencies.

 

“I’ve always had to find something that makes me different, my USP,” he says. “Every day I learn something new about my condition and then I talk to people – I’ve always been very open on mental health.

 

 

 

“Now I stand in front of thousands to tell them my story and to inspire all sorts of people – disabled, people of colour, parents of disabled children. It’s snowballed since 2020. Regardless of whether I’m a Hamilton or not, I’ve ended up creating a story and a brand which is very strong for people worldwide to relate to.”

 

 

The world doesn’t stop and nor do the opportunities. Earlier this year, he appeared in a photoshoot for Vogue and next month will represent MGM as an ambassador at the Las Vegas Grand Prix. He is desperate to find another opening to be on the BTCC grid in 2024. And, in April, he releases a book: Now I Have Your Attention.

 

The wheelchair has not left the cupboard since his teenage years but the basis of everything remains his disability – and a way of living only disabled people themselves can twist.

 

“I want to continue spreading my voice – not around being Lewis Hamilton’s brother but around creating a legacy to help disabled people and people in a dark place,” he says. “I’ve been in dark places and I want to showcase that that is absolutely OK. Society will accept you if you accept yourself.

 

 

The highs and lows of Bernie Ecclestone

‘More teams, less races’: FIA boss outlines aspirations for future of F1

“But I do get nervous because I always feel nothing is ever enough. I have this driven personality. You can never get the perfect lap, for example.”

 

 

A line to finish that feels all too familiar.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*