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This is Lewis Hamilton’s 12th season in Formula One. That’s 12 long years of physical exertion, mental strain, pressure and politics that come with being the biggest name in the F1 circus. No wonder, then, that Hamilton, 33, says retirement is on his mind.
"There’s a saying: you stay as long as you can. I’m not quite sure about that exactly but there is a lot of life left beyond it [Formula One]. Things that I’ve missed in life. I was talking to my best friend the other day about things I envy or look forward to, like living in one place, a routine, my family. Each year I stay in the sport, I delay those things.”
Being part of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team has given Hamilton an incredible life of course, and massive personal wealth estimated to be in the region of £130 million. Hamilton admitted it’ll be tough to hang up his racing suit. “You can’t come back to F1. Whatever happens, you are gonna miss it. If it’s next year, if it’s five years from now, you’re gonna miss it when you finish.”
As the four-time world champion inks a deal to front Tommy Hilfiger menswear, Hamilton spoke about his admiration for those working in the fashion business, his personal style, and what has kept him going season after season for almost 12 years.
What was it that made you say yes to forging a partnership with the Tommy Hilfiger brand?
It’s an iconic American brand that was impossible to miss as a kid, whether you were into fashion or not. Fashion is a growing love for me, and having attended the Tommy Now runway event for several seasons, I’m always amazed at how the brand is able to reinvent itself. That takes a lot of creativity.
What do you admire about Tommy Hilfiger as a man?
I’ve always admired how he never gave up on his dreams of building a global lifestyle brand, even when times were tough. I believe that when you get knocked down, it’s not how you fall that matters, but how you get back up, and Tommy and I both take life lessons away from these moments. You have to always believe in yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve your goals.
What is your first memory of Tommy Hilfiger when you were a kid?
Growing up I remember seeing the iconic Tommy Hilfiger flag on clothes that celebrities wore, like hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg and Aaliyah.
How was the photo shoot with Gigi Hadid you did for Tommy Hilfiger?
We had a laugh! Gigi was great behind the wheel even though she was quite nervous. It’s always fun sitting in the passenger seat and letting someone else roll with it.
Where do you think your love of fashion comes from?
Growing up, all my family’s money went into racing, buying tires and fuel, so fashion is something I was quite oblivious to. I started exploring fashion in my early 20s, and I’ve grown to feel more confident about experimenting with different styles, and just being myself. I’m fortunate to have friends who work in the fashion industry, and I’m constantly fascinated by their creativity.
Do you think there’s a connection between sport and fashion?
Fashion is like racing, it never sleeps. In Formula One, fashion is not something teams and racing drivers necessarily focus on, but I’m obsessed with style. I always make sure I look classy in my race suit.
Give us your top menswear items.
Everyone should have a well tailored suit, worn with a freshly pressed shirt and a great watch – you can’t go wrong. A pair of well-fitted jeans is always a wardrobe essential. When I’m at home, I’m very casual and love to relax in tracksuits. I don’t like to dress like everyone else so I pick bright colours and patterns, adding my personal twist to the outfit.
How would you describe your style?
It’s always evolving, that’s what’s great about fashion. I’m always seeing new designs that push the boundaries, and I think, ‘I’d love to wear that.’ I don’t like wearing the same clothes as everyone else, and I love mixing street-styles with high-end luxury brands.
Do you have fashion advice for men?
Why wear the same as everyone else? Fashion is about experimenting. Men should be confident about trying out new things. Do whatever suits your personality and your emotions, and take the time to find your style. Don’t try to be someone else. That’s all that matters. Whatever you chose to wear, do it with confidence.
Did you make fashion mistakes as a younger man?
When I go through photos of me growing up, I sometimes wonder, ‘What was I thinking?’ I can’t believe I used to wear baggy jeans.
Are you interested in fashion?
I’m amazed by the creativity in the fashion industry. I want to understand how these incredible designers produce collections.
What inspired you to become a Formula One driver?
I used to watch the Grand Prix races with my dad growing up, and I wanted to be Ayrton Senna. Everyone should dream big, and I’ve never stopped pursuing my dreams since then.
What keeps you motivated to succeed in racing?
As a kid, I always dreamt of being a Formula One racing driver. I never lost sight of that dream, even when people said it would be impossible. I’ve now won my fourth World Championship. My family and I are proof that if you follow your dreams with everything you have, they really do come true. I’ve been driving for 25 years, so it takes time and hard work. I would never have made it to where I am today without my family and more than 1,500 team mates.
What was your first driving experience?
Growing up, one of our neighbours owned a radio-controlled car and he let me have a go when I was about four or five. It was super fast, and my dad couldn’t believe how good I was at driving. I then began to participate in radio-controlled car races hosted in a farm in the countryside. I was at least 10 years younger than everyone else.
What was your first driving lesson like?
My instructor had to tell me several times to slow down at the road bends and stop revving the engine so much!
Did you pass your test first time?
I only took six hours of driving lessons before passing at the first attempt.
What goes through your head in the seconds before the race starts?
I always remain focused on the job at hand, to win the race – everything else is just noise. Thanks to years of experience, I’m able to compartmentalise what’s not important at that moment, and concentrate on getting myself and the team standing on the podium at the end of the race. Formula One racing is truly a team sport. Mental power is everything.
Who inspires you?
My father is my hero. Growing up, he spent all his savings and worked four jobs to support my racing career. His unwavering support and belief in my dream brought me to where I am today.
Anybody else outside of your family?
I’ve always admired and been inspired by Nelson Mandela. I’m fortunate to have met him at his 90th birthday party. He told me that even at his age, he is always learning, so I still have a long way to go.
How important is family time?
Time is the most precious commodity and using it in the best way is very important to me. I love to spend time with my family, my friends and my godson.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
My day generally starts quite early. I’m someone who doesn’t need a lot of sleep, so I go to bed late, wake up early, and go for a workout, which I do twice a day. When I’m not working, I love to spend time playing with my two dogs, Roscoe and Coco, or get creative in a music studio.
Music is a passion of yours, right?
Music has been a huge passion of mine since I was a young kid, and I started playing the guitar when I was 13. Today, when I’m not training for a race, I’m generally in the studio making music. It’s become more than just a hobby.
Let’s talk about your favourite things. First up, music...
Michael Jackson is my favourite artist. He had such an amazing voice and talent. I once dedicated one of my helmets to him by having his face painted on it.
Book or a movie?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a novel I can read over and over again. And I’ve probably watched Cool Runnings a thousand times.
Last question. Do you have a life motto?
I truly believe we are all destined for greatness. We should all take it upon ourselves to try and shine as bright as possible. It will inspire the person next to you to do the same.
END OF INTERVIEW