No one has ever accused Lewis Hamilton of being modest to a fault, and Hamilton underscores the point in an “audio walk around Rye House Racetrack in Hoddeson” available on the Johnnie Walker website.
During the course of the recording, which is about 20 minutes in length, Hamilton revisits the karting track where he began his career, under the watchful and mentoring eye of his father, and manager, Anthony Hamilton. Listening to Lewis describe his early karting days, you realize just how instrumental the elder Hamilton was in forming Lewis’s character, if not his driving technique.
At one point during the audio tour, Hamilton points out a particular corner, and says, “The hardest corner of all is this corner right here. It’s where I learnt to be the latest braker of all and that’s where I learnt to overtake everyone like I do. I use it in Formula 1 now, that’s why I’m able to overtake like I do. It wasn’t until my dad found out where the latest of brakers were braking. So if the British champion was braking here, my dad would make me brake down here – so late that I often would go off or spin. Spin, start again, spin, start again…he stood here and said I had to brake there and if I didn’t brake there I’d be in trouble.”
Hamilton discusses discusses some of the struggles and sacrifices he and his father went through together to put Lewis on the map of motorsport. Anthony Hamilton funded Lewis’s early karting career out of pocket, and when Lewis won a title, there wasn’t enough money left over to rent a tux for Lewis for the crowning ceremonies, so they borrowed one from the previous year’s winner who, fortunately, had been Lewis’s size.
And when Lewis went through periods of doubt (although these seem rare enough), it was his father who supported him and bucked up his spirits, telling him to have faith in his own abilities. It seems that the elder Hamilton had a clear vision of Hamilton’s destiny, even if Lewis didn’t.
It’s a bootstrap story, the kind that Americans love, and at times Hamilton seems almost American in his enthusiasm for lauding his own virtues. Most champions have a belief in their own superlative abilities from an early age, and Hamilton is no different than most on that score. But not all champions seem so willing to congratulate themselves on their successes.
For example, at the very beginning of the recording, Hamilton says, referring to his early karting days, “I remember I was so confident. I knew how to outsmart people…I swear, I destroyed everyone.”
Leter on, discussing his stellar rookie year, and his ultimately foiled bit for the world title that season, he says, “I definitely didn’t blame myself for the year that I missed out. My first season in Formula 1, alongside a world champion – a double world champion – and I blew him away. I beat him. No-one’s ever come in their first year and been at the front, let alone beat a world champion, beat the mentality and the strength that he would have, and his experience in Formula 1 already up to that point.”
Ironically, towards the end of the walk, Hamilton observes, “You’ll never hear me say that I’m better than that guy, or I can kick that guy’s ass…I’ve never used those prhases. Dad’s always taught me, ‘Do your talking on the track.’ And that’s what I do. I don’t need to say whether I’m better than this guy. Doesn’t matter if you think I am or not. The fact is, I know how good I am, I know what I can do, and I know, if I work hard enough, the sky’s the limit.”
It’s a good lesson, although it’s one that Hamilton seems to have followed more in word than in deed.