Lewis Hamilton has revealed that the death of his grandfather before the Mexican Grand Prix, where he won his fifth world championship on Sunday, gave him a real appreciation of his upbringing and the crucial role in it that his father played. Having equalled Juan Manuel Fangio’s tally, the Mercedes driver offered personal reflections on how his childhood has played its part in a remarkable achievement that he said had included some “magical” drives.
Hamilton finished fourth at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, enough to beat Sebastian Vettel to the title. It was the culmination of a season in which he has been in the form of his career, driving virtually flawlessly in taking nine wins and nine pole positions. However, three days before the race Hamilton had to cope with the emotional impact of the death of his paternal grandfather, Davidson Augustine Hamilton.
“This has actually been a really difficult weekend because my grandfather died on Thursday morning,” he said. “Naturally, when someone passes away, it brings the whole family together. He was the godfather of the family. My dad and me were already quite close but it naturally brought us a little bit closer.” This is Hamilton’s 12th season in Formula One and his route from a council house in Stevenage was enabled by his father Anthony,
who supported his racing by taking multiple jobs. Hamilton began karting at the age of eight at the Rye House Circuit in Hertfordshire and was emphatic about how important his father had been. “I never will forget the things that he did in order for me to be here today and for our family to thrive,” he said. “I really do aspire to be like him, as a strong,
black man and as a father and as a human being for doing what he did in the difficult times with the little that he had. I think that’s testament to where we are. I think all that work that he put in, my grandfather would be so proud of him, so proud of us and grateful that the Hamilton name is there and established and will now go down in history, which is kind of crazy to think.”
Hamilton has matured as driver. He once again demonstrated in Mexico his exemplary control and judgment under pressure as he brought his car home for the title, despite being off the pace and struggling with his tyres. But he also emphasised the key role his father played in shaping his driving style. While karting Anthony would stand several
metres closer to the corner than where the quickest drivers were braking to indicate where his son should do so. “No other father was doing that. I would go around and try to brake at that point and I would spin off and crash and spin off and crash,” he said. “Eventually I could do it and I’ve always been known as a late-braker. Those special moments are what I fight with today and are at the core of who I am.”
The lessons learned then were key and have been carried through his career. Tellingly he has also lost none of the passion he felt when he first climbed behind the wheel. “If you could see how tough it was for us from the beginning – and even this year, still fighting with those obstacles and still coming stronger and stronger each year,” he said. “I feel like I’m still driving with that fierce fire that I had when I was eight years old which I love. So I’ll keep going until that goes.”