Nicolas Hamilton: My brother, Lewis
Nicolas Hamilton knows his sibling better than anybody, he spoke to Robert Ladbrook
“We spent Christmas together as a family, out in the US – it’s the first time we’ve been able to have a full break as a family for a while now. And it’s just as well, because 2019 is going to be a massive year for the Hamiltons.”
It certainly will be. Lewis will be chasing a historic sixth F1 World Championship with Mercedes. And his younger brother, Nicolas, will be embarking on his first full campaign in the British Touring Car Championship.
Nicolas is no stranger to racing himself, and was inspired to get behind the wheel – defying his cerebral palsy – by watching his older brother. Earlier in his career, Lewis spoke often about the inspiration he too drew from having Nic beside him at races. When Nic jumped in at the deep end in the 2011 Renault UK Clio Cup, the boot was on the other foot.
“I always wanted to race, but wasn’t sure if I could due to my condition,” says Nic. “But Dad [Anthony] took the plunge and helped me through my first two years of Clios, but after that I’ve been racing on my own, doing deals and working hard. My parents don’t fund it, and neither does Lewis. I’m very much my own man when it comes to motor sport.
“It’s funny though, because when you’re the brother of a five-time world champion who has loads of money people make assumptions. There’s also a lot of pressure and expectation from being a Hamilton. It can be a hindrance. If one of my rivals goes off, most people won’t bat an eyelid. But if I go off every TV camera finds me. I remember being in the wall at one round and the fans were gathering at the fence to take a picture of themselves with my crashed car. It’s pretty surreal. But I’ve learned to just drive the car for myself and to use all of that to my advantage.”
Lewis attended a few of his brother’s early races, but Nic reckons they came as bit of a shock. “Deep down I reckon Lewis would prefer me not to be racing – purely from a safety perspective,” he says. “He’s been racing since he was eight, and to see me in a car I think is a bit nerve-wracking for him. He’s protective of me, but so are my parents. But if racing is what I want to do, it’s what I want to do. I know Lewis is proud of what I’m achieving. Lewis came to Brands Hatch and Thruxton in 2011. There was no hiding and he was in the paddock like a normal guy, except he had to have a bodyguard with him.”
“Lewis wears his heart on his sleeve; if he’s upset, the whole world sees it”
Has the stellar rise of his brother come as a shock to Nicolas?
“I cannot believe how talented Lewis is,” he says. “The more you try to be a racer, the more you appreciate exactly how much natural talent Lewis has. He has nothing to learn from me in terms of racing, so I observe a lot about him – how he carries himself and how he prepares – and he’s there if I ever need to ask a question, but he’s on a new level now.
“I’d say he’s matured so much in recent years. He wears his heart on his sleeve, so if Lewis is upset the whole world will see him upset – whether that’s making silly comments in the media or just having a bad race. The 2011 season was terrible for him. He made mistakes on and off track and that changed a few people’s perceptions of him. Then everybody said his move to Mercedes was a backwards step. But he stuck to his guns and said this was his challenge. I think him going to a team that wasn’t winning and helping to transform them into the best really helped him to mature and become the athlete he is.
“It’s all culminated into this amazing second chapter of his career where he’s almost untouchable. I thought he’d be in his prime in his 20s, but he’s now 34 and is stronger than ever. He gets a lot of criticism for what he does – jumping on a jet and flying around the world, dating celebrities etc. People make snap judgments, usually not knowing the full story, but you learn to deal with it and not engage. But I’m super proud of him and the fact he doesn’t let it affect him. It’s his job and he does it exceptionally well. I hope he keeps the drive and the motivation to keep going – because 21 races takes a lot out of you when you have to be on the top of your game constantly – he could break so many more records.
“Right now, Lewis is comfortable in who he is. He’s moved to a plant-based diet and is true to his beliefs and religion and he’s found himself through motor sport. He’s proved that the best thing in life is to do you the way you want to do you. He’s ignored a lot of advice and has done what makes him happy.”
For this year, Nic has his own programme and is preparing for the biggest season of his career. His touring car will be modified to fit a hand clutch and a larger brake pedal.
“This year is huge. I’ve been working toward a full BTCC season for seven years.
“I still get texts however, checking in on how I’m going in Clios or whatever I’m racing. He still keeps tabs on me.”