Lewis Hamilton Talks Motor Racing Risks With David Letterman: "If There's No Danger, We Wouldn't Be Doing It"
The Formula One champion spoke about his life, influences and how to duck speeding tickets with the former 'Late Show' host on season two of Netflix's 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.'
Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton appeared on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman season two, sharing stories of how he got into motor racing, the dangers of his profession and his biggest influences.
At the top of the show, Letterman asked about Hamilton's aggressive driving style and if he's ever been pulled over. Hamilton recalled a minor speeding incident where he was recognized by the officer, and then expressed, "I'm really chilled on the road. I don't particularly like driving, so I don't drive a lot." As Letterman laughed out loud, the British driver explained his reasoning: "There's no competition when you're on the road."
Moving onto the 34-year-old's family life, Hamilton explained to Letterman that his parents split when he was very young, so he would spend weekends with his father, racing remote control cars. At local groups, he would be the youngest participant by 10 or 15 years, yet he would beat everyone.
Eventually, Hamilton was enrolled in go-kart racing where he would perform in amateur events. His father, who held four jobs during Hamilton's childhood and acted as Hamilton's manager for a time, was supportive and sometimes strict with his encouragement. "If he came second, I used to tell him how bad he was," his father told Letterman. "Because you can always do better."
They suffered a falling out and didn't speak for a while at one point. "I pushed hard, whether it was good for me or bad for me with my relationship with Lewis because I didn't want him to fail," continued his father, explaining that he never took a break to relax. "It was always full-on, because I could see the brilliance in Lewis."
Hamilton told Letterman that, growing up, he idolized Brazilian Formula One champion Ayrton Senna. "I think it's really how he carried himself and defied the odds, he was really outspoken. He really stood up for his values and his beliefs." Senna died in a racing accident in 1994 when he was 34.
Speaking to the dangers of his profession, Hamilton said, "For me it's never been a factor that I particularly consider or think about. I love racing and I'm an adrenaline junkie, so of course I respect it and I know that it's there, but that's the exciting thing: if there's no danger, we wouldn't be doing it." Hamilton also talked about the mental challenges, describing "massive highs and lows" that he often experiences.
During training to build up his neck muscles, Hamilton wears a 15-kg helmet made of lead. He also frequently studies new cars for their concerns or safety features, explaining that his goal is to be "on top of all that" — as informed as possible — by the first race.
Toward the end of the episode, Hamilton gave Letterman some driving tips as they took a non-racing vehicle to the track for a spin. "You don't turn too aggressively, you want to be flowing."
Thinking about his passion for driving, Hamilton said, "What really drives me, that I feel like some people I race against may lack, is that fire that when we were young, just how hard they [his parents] had to work, I've got this opportunity — I could easily let go of it right now — but I feel like I would be squandering it if I didn't continue to improve, grow and push. So, I've got to keep going for as long as I can, basically, till I'm not enjoying it."