Formula 1 champion, style icon and soon-to-be Hollywood producer, Lewis Hamilton is leading a new fight: to end discrimination in the world of sports. He explains it to Chris Heath, between two vegan meals and an electric Smart car ride on the French Riviera. Photography Adrienne Raquel, styling Eric McNeal.
When Lewis Hamilton began his career as a Formula 1 driver, success was not long in coming. But it took him quite a while to find his place in the world of motorsports. "I felt like I wasn't accepted," he says. "You can't imagine how many guys in the paddock think a driver shouldn't behave like me, with tattoos, piercings." That didn't stop him from persevering, never giving in. And his persistence has paid off: he is now one of the most famous sportsmen in the world, and the Netflix documentary series Formula 1: Drive to Survive has won him even more fans around the world. With seven world championships under his belt, he has equaled Michael Schumacher's record, and many now see him as the best driver in F1 history.
Given his track record, one might have imagined that he would have conformed to the conventions of his sport. But this is not the case. The latest example is the controversy surrounding his jewelry. A 2005 regulation forbids drivers to wear any accessory while driving, for safety reasons. Until now, this provision was ignored, but recently it was removed and Lewis Hamilton, who wears two earrings and a nose piercing, had to remove them. "Some people love to have a little power and force others to respect it," he sighs.
"I couldn't help but let people think that I also had a ring on my genitals"
Last May, just before the Grand Prix of Miami, he decided to appear at the press conference with his hands covered with rings, several chains around his neck, three watches on his wrists: he then explains that he prefers to give up competing rather than remove them. Better still, he explains that he wears a piece of jewelry that cannot be removed, and that he cannot specify its location for unmentionable reasons. "It was for fun," he says today. "I don't have any other piercing, but I couldn't help thinking that I also had a ring on my genitals… ".
I meet Lewis Hamilton for the first time over lunch in a Moroccan restaurant. We are in Manhattan, where he has an apartment. The champion orders a vegan dish: "Before, I would never have imagined eating that," he admits. "But now it's my daily diet." A friend in New York converted him to veganism five years ago. Given the extreme physical demands of F1, doctors were then alarmed about possible protein deficiencies. And yet, Lewis Hamilton says he has never felt so fit. The proof: he won five world championships with his new eating habits.
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