Lewis Hamilton Describes ‘Traumatising’ Racist Abuse Suffered At School - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Lewis Hamilton Describes ‘Traumatising’ Racist Abuse Suffered At School

As many await the return of the Formula 1 season, Lewis Hamilton has opened up about his school days which he describes as “the most difficult part of my life.”

He might be a seven-times Formula One world champion, but Lewis Hamilton is also – like the rest of us – human. He may have a hardened resolve and the kind of relentless determination few could ever aspire to possessing, but he’s also someone who knows what it is to be bullied, to experience hardships, and to have to overcome numerous obstacles. On the track he might glide across corners and tight bends with seeming effortlessness, but those challenges in the past are what have shaped him to be the dominant driver we see today. 

For fans of F1: Drive to Survive, many will be aware of Hamilton’s personal story. At the close of season three and for much of season four, as the rivalry between Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen intensified, we heard from the Mercedes driver about the political nature of sport and why Hamilton will always be vocal about his views, particularly in light of Black Lives Matter protests. 

For Hamilton though, racism is something he’s experienced from a young age. Born and educated in Stevenage, the 38-year-old expressed how his school days were traumatic as he suffered racist abuse from classmates. “School was the most traumatising and most difficult part of my life. I was already being bullied at the age of six,” said Hamilton on the On Purpose podcast. 

“At that particular school I was one of three kids of colour and just bigger, stronger, bullying kids were throwing me around a lot of the time,” he added. 

“The constant jabs, the things that are either thrown at you, like bananas, or people that would use the N-word just so relaxed. People calling you half-caste and not knowing where you fit in. That was difficult.”

lewis hamilton

Hamilton continued: “In my [secondary] school there were six or seven black kids out of 1,200 kids and three of us were put outside the headmasters’ office all the time. The headmaster just had it out for us – and particularly me.”

“I felt the system was up against me and I was swimming against the tide. There were a lot of things I suppressed. I didn’t feel I could go home and tell my parents that these kids kept calling me the N-word or I got bullied or beaten up at school today, I didn’t want my dad to think I was not strong,” said Hamilton. 

Since establishing himself in Formula 1, Hamilton has continued to use his platform to advocate for change. He remains F1’s sole black driver, something he’s looking to change with Ignite, a joint enterprise with team Mercedes to improve diversity and inclusion in motor racing. Hamilton has also established Mission 44, which aims to enhance the lives of people from under-represented groups. 

Though his contract with Mercedes comes to an end after the 2023 season, Hamilton is expected to stay on the grid for a few more years with a new multi-year contract. Speaking about his future in the sport, Hamilton told the podcast: “It is going to be really, really hard when I stop racing. I have been doing it for 30 years. When you stop, what is going to match that?”

He added, “Nothing is going to match being in a stadium, being at a race, being at the pinnacle of the sport and being at the front of the grid or coming through the grid and that emotion that I get with that. When I do stop there will be a big hole so I am trying to focus and find things that can replace that and be just as rewarding.” 

It seems clear that Hamilton’s legacy will live on long after his retirement from the sport, but presently the Mercedes driver is only focused on the season ahead and looking to become world champion for an eighth time. He and the Mercedes team will unveil the new car at Silverstone on 15 February. The first round of the new season will commence in Bahrain on 5 March. 

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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