Vanity Fair has just published a fantastic, in-depth interview with seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton. The conversation touches on all of the big topics surrounding Sir Lewis and his F1 career: the controversial end to the 2021 season, Hamilton’s emergence as an activist, how his childhood shaped him. One tiny note stuck out, though: Did you know Lewis Hamilton’s daily driver is an electric Smart car?
Vanity Fair’s Chris Heath paints the unlikely scene of riding shotgun with a seven-time F1 champ in the smallest, most unassuming car in Mercedes-Benz’s extended portfolio:
Lewis Hamilton is behind the wheel and I am his passenger. This experience is not entirely as you might expect. First, there’s the car we are in. He knows that people expect him to have some kind of cool sports car, and he did have cars like that when he was younger. But these days his vehicle of choice for trips like this is a tiny electric Smart car, made by his team’s parent company, Mercedes. Second, on open roads, Hamilton is an achingly sensible and careful driver, never speeding and frequently pulling over to let impatient drivers pass. Third, as he explains, he actually doesn’t like driving. Not this kind, the kind the rest of us do, with traffic in two directions, and pedestrians, and junctions, and nothing clear-cut to prove. In fact, he rarely does it. “I just think that I find it stressful,” he says. “I try not to do things that don’t add to my life.” And then he adds—a statement said with sincerity—“Look, we’re on these roads, anything can happen.”
It’s a surprising revelation for a guy we used to see roaring around in an AMG GT, but as Heath reveals more of his conversation with Sir Lewis, we start to see why the champ has decided to put less emphasis on what he drives. As the duo get snarled in traffic in the South of France, Hamilton starts to get frustrated. “This is now stressful for me,” he says. “This road is crazy. So much going on here. I’m going to turn around in a second.”
Honestly, I can’t say I’m surprised by this revelation. Top-tier racing drivers rely on the predictability and shared understanding of the rules of the race track. It’s what allows them to focus on squeezing out the last tenth or hundredth of a second from a lap. On public roads, the chaos and uncertainty of the average motorist must be nerve-wracking for someone whose professional life is spent wheel-to-wheel with the most talented drivers on earth.
Besides, what does Hamilton have to prove? He’s recognized worldwide. Anyone who knows even the tiniest bit about Formula 1 knows Hamilton is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. When you can have just about any car on earth, sometimes the biggest statement comes from picking the smallest car. I can respect that.
The full Vanity Fair profile is worth a read. Check it out here.