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Images from the 2020 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix
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Renaissance Man: Lewis Hamilton

Sep 212020

It was better back in the day. A cheap shot argument often thrown around in pretty much any sport you care to think of, not least in Formula One. However if you dig a little deeper - by looking at F1’s incredible evolution of speed and responsibility - and especially the example set by current reigning champion Lewis Hamilton - then you will quickly understand that progress trumps nostalgia, every-time.

Cars are faster, more powerful, but crucially safer. The incredible technology that F1 teams develop on the race track now is paving the way for better, cleaner, and more sophisticated road cars in the future. What’s more from a fans perspective the trepidation and risks of tuning-in to a Grand Prix on a Sunday and witnessing your favourite driver’s career - and life - ended by a racing accident are mercifully low. Speed, performance, safety, technology and surprisingly health are all top priorities.

Better still, the drivers who are the public faces of F1’s travelling show, are more aware than ever before that their responsibilities extend way beyond just turning the steering wheel at the weekend. It’s a two way conversation too. While the antics of golden era drivers in the 60’s and 70’s might have made for entertaining newspaper headlines, modern F1 drivers are now connected to, and interacting with, their fans in previously unimaginable ways.

“I see so many people around the world that follow me, and I feel hugely grateful,” explains Hamilton. “I’ve posted something on social media - and I’ve had people say ‘oh my god I was having such a bad day - that really helped me get through my day’. That dialogue helped me realise that we all need to help each other.

“I think people underestimated the time it takes to get to a Grand Prix fully prepared and deliver everytime,” continues Hamilton. “Fans turn on the TV and see you doing your thing for three days, and think that’s all there is to it. But it takes time, intense work and preparation and studying. Not to mention the physical and welfare effort for drivers to be in the right state to race. There’s a lot more to it than you’d first think. It’s great because now the ability to communicate directly with fans and show them behind the scenes more is helping to change that.”

 

“Being a Formula One driver gives me a voice to amplify to push for positive changes in the world - even far away from racing. Take the current work put into diversity in F1 - it’s something nobody has spoken up about before to this extent. Previously they have just accepted it, or got too comfortable with it or haven’t done any research. As I get older I realise that my purpose is to continue to do that. Racing and winning and breaking records continues to give me the chance to speak up about these things and push for real change.”

 

Hamilton’s rise through the ranks of F1, and unprecedented record-setting racing exploits are well documented. However, in contrast to many other drivers that have come before him, the 35 year old is focused on far more than having a good time and breaking records.

 

“I’ve never been a record person,” continues Hamilton. “But of course when my name is mentioned in the same context as someone I grew up watching, then it’s like ‘woah’. I have to step back for a second and realise what that actually means. I think that embarking on these records and achievements creates a platform on which to be able to speak about things that could potentially change peoples lives; for everyone's children to grow up in a better world. As I get older, and understand the world more - as well as the impact that us humans are having on the world; I’m really getting into technology that is sustainable; changing things in my life so I can have a more positive impact. Trying to think of the bigger picture - we are trying to continue to fight to end racism, and discrimination. This is a constant battle that people have been fighting for hundreds of years. It’s a constant battle now.”

Critics of Hamilton will frequently bring up the subject of retirement, and attempt to argue that his focus is being pulled in too many directions. While it is hard to dispute that the 89-time Grand Prix winner has many irons in the fire away from race circuits, there is certainly no indication that his ability in the car is affected by his weekday work. Hamilton in part puts his renewed energy down to a total lifestyle change - and adopting a plant-based-vegan diet.

 

“I really don't try to force it in people’s faces. I grew up eating the same thing as everyone else - being told the same things were healthy for you,” says Hamilton. “I was told that milk was healthy for you; I had dairy, sweets, chocolate, meat, fish, chicken; I grew up eating all of those things. Mexican Chicken Fajitas was my favourite thing. When I used to go to race in Mexico - having the tacos… oh my god, it was my favourite thing! But then I met a few people who were vegans - and they showed me things that I had completely oblivious to.

 

“I had been feeling a certain way after I had been eating things, and it led me to ask how I could be better as an athlete by changing aspects of my diet. I used to get pains in my stomach, so I saw a medical doctor, and discovered I was allergic to certain things. I had inflammation, and discovered removing certain foods had an immediate benefit. I felt better when I stopped eating meat. When I looked into things more - and understood more about the treatment of animals in the meat industry for example - its so so sad - we are over fishing the oceans for seafood.

 

“These were not things taught to me at school. I realised I’ve got to change! It was a conscious decision to do that. But what I didn't know is that I was going to feel better than ever. People say it, but it’s been a gradual process and it’s the best decision that I ever made. Apart from getting my dogs! I sleep better, I can train more, I feel better, I have more energy, and my recovery times are better. Just look at the way I’m performing now, and the way other athletes perform that have gone the same way are doing. I’m feeling healthier and fitter - so I don't see myself slowing down anytime soon.”

 

 

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