Lewis Hamilton’s rise to the top of Formula 1 is a similar path on which thousands of young hopeful racing drivers have and are currently going through in the world of karting, and he admits that the time dedicated to the sport during his youth stunted his maturity.
The triple Formula 1 world champion was asked by to Auto magazine if his climb up the motorsport ladder in his junior years made him grow up fast, to which he replied, “I used to think that was the case, but now I don’t think so. I think if anything it hindered me in my growth, massively. I got to Formula 1 and I feel like I was hugely immature.”
“I know young 17-year-olds now who are so mature, so much further along than I was at 22 and looking back on it now I think it hindered me. It didn’t allow me to blossom as a growing being. It just didn’t allow me to blossom into who I was and it took me longer… I was cocooned for longer, which is surprising.”
“You’d think being around adults it would help you actually grow up. But you miss that [teenage] gap: you take a leap from being a kid to having to be an adult and you miss all the foundation in between. So you get there; you can act like an adult but you’re not really an adult, and that’s how it was basically for me.”
He also explained the lifestyle of young drivers who are on the path he once trod, “I think that’s the name of the game for all us kids who raced. You leave home on the Wednesday or the Thursday sometimes to get [to a track] and practice on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and you miss days off school. You miss weekends where you’re friends are going to an arcade, or bowling, or sleepovers, group activities. You miss that social connectivity.”
“So when you go back to school on a Monday you walk up to a group and they’re all talking about this amazing weekend they’ve had and you can’t be a part of it. They’re like, you weren’t there, and I used to have that all the time. So to build those bridges was very, very hard, it was like rebuilding it every bloody week. So yeah, lots of sacrifices with that.”
But at the same time Hamilton explains how he was destined to be a racing driver from a very early age, “I loved cars, as all kids do; model cars, anything with a steering wheel. I loved motorbikes; I loved anything with an engine in it.”
“Then when I was five years old, I went on holiday, there were these Formula One bumper cars. Shaped like a Formula One car, but it was a three-wheeled bumper car basically and my parents couldn’t get me off it. I just loved driving it.”
“I loved watching my dad drive. I just loved the feeling of it and then once I did it and I could do it, I wanted to do it more. It’s difficult to say, I don’t feel like I was inspired, I was just… Maybe it’s fascination,” recalled the triple Formula 1 World Champion.
Indeed Hamilton has some advice for parents whose children are dedicated to becoming professional sportsmen or women, “Probably, if I hadn’t been racing, I would have matured way earlier. I would say for parents pushing their kids into football and soccer and sacrificing all their other stuff, they’ve got to find a real balance I think.”
“Parents are just so forceful. It’s all sport, because we want to be a star, and I think it’s important to make sure that they maintain some of their [kid’s] childhood because you can’t live it again. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”