Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2019

Hamilton aims to get a “working class kid” into F1

2019 British Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says working class racers are “a dying breed” in Formula 1 and he wants to help someone from a less privileged background to come into the sport.

Speaking at a fan event after his victory in the British Grand Prix on Sunday, Hamilton said the cost of getting into motor racing has become too high for drivers from similar backgrounds to his.

“One of the things I’m really proud of is us as a working class family from an ethnic background coming into a place like this,” he said, “and seeing so many of you from different religions, different walks of life all come together and enjoy the grand prix and get into something new which perhaps you wouldn’t have done before.

“So I’m definitely very proud of that. But I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

“This sport is fantastic and the future is obviously the kids. Karting’s not the same as it was when I was there. You have to be in a top team now in karting. It’s hundreds of thousands to be competing. It’s different from when me and my dad were racing just out the back of a trailer.

“So I want to get involved in trying to change the format of the lower classes so we get a lot more working class kids coming through. With all due respect, a lot of the drivers, it’s not their fault that they’ve come from a lot of money. My dad always says we’re the last of a dying breed so I want to find the next working class family kid that comes through and kills it. So that’s what I’m working on.”

Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes expires at the end of the 2020 F1 season. He indicated he plans to extend his stay in the sport: “I’m still here representing the thirties and I’m going to be here for a while.”

Earlier in the weekend Hamilton gave further insight into his plans for life after racing, saying he does not intend to remain in the Formula 1 paddock. “2024… feels like a long way away,” he said on Thursday. “Who knows whether I will still be here by then. But if I’m not, if I’ve stopped racing, I won’t be here in any other capacity.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 54 comments on “Hamilton aims to get a “working class kid” into F1”

    1. Then he should retire so Mercedes can promote a French kid from a working class background

      1. Yes, possibly the best driver in the world should retire so the driver who just about kept up with Perez, who was behind Button, who himself was behind Hamilton can take the seat so that when Red Bull and Ferrari are competitive Mercedes can lose championships

      2. Yes, the working class kid made good should now retire so we can have another working class kid in the sport (but just the one), whilst the sons (and daughters) of millionaires and billionaires should all keep their seats. And the sons of the millionaires and billionaires who didn’t quite make it in F1 can keep their seats in the commentary boxes.

      3. Pierce Wiederecht
        16th July 2019, 12:52

        @hahostolze

        Obviously, it would make WAY WAY WAY more sense for Bottas to be the one who makes room for said French kid(whom I rate VERY highly. After all, he did stomp Verstappen in f3)

        1. After all, he did stomp Verstappen in f3)

          interesting, who do you mean. I can not be Ocon, while he won that year its was with less wins on track and as a result of lots of technical problems for VER ( 7 or 8 DNF;s)
          On track almost every battle was won by VER.
          So very curious who do you mean?

        2. @Pierce Wiederecht

          Mercedes seems to have to same idea, Bottas keeps getting 1 year contracts and even though he started great this season a couple of bad performances could mean Ocon gets the seat next year.

    2. Start by handing out computers and sim rigs to the working class or setting up simracing schools in working class neighbourhoods.

    3. RocketTankski
      16th July 2019, 11:40

      Hey poor kid! wanna join the Mercedes F1 team?
      Here, take this broom.

      1. LOL wow..I know this won’t make it…but definitely my CoTD

      2. Hey, poor TALENTED kid, do you want to join Mercedes F1. You could be like Webber who now is one of our aero boffins; or Travers who is one of our regular fluid engineers at the race weekends. They started on our one year intern program solely based on talent. And yes we fund your year in the UK.

    4. if I’ve stopped racing, I won’t be here in any other capacity

      I like this. And Hamilton seems to be one of those few who has diversified his interests so as to go in other directions.

    5. Pierce Wiederecht
      16th July 2019, 11:52

      I wonder if he’s talking about working class kids like he was, where the parents put literally EVERYTHING into their kids racing to the point where the rest of the family has to go without so the racer has the best karts money can buy and the best seats in entry level single seaters or is he talking about racers from normal working class families that don’t take extra mortgages and still let the rest of the family suffer all in the name of the name of the racers career. I mean, investment wise, obviously the Hamilton family did the right thing, but really family wise I wouldn’t really say so, I can’t be bothered to try and dredge it up, but I’ve read that Anthony basically sacrificed his marriage for Lewis’s career and that Nicholas did quite a lot of “going without” in the name of Lewis’s career. Like I said, investment wise, it obviously came out wonderfully, but it also sacrificed a lot of other family members’ happiness, which doesn’t seem very fair or right to me. Anyways though, that’s not Lewis’s fault but Anthony’s. As an aside, imagine the level of pressure that he placed onto Lewis by doing this. To Lewis’s credit though he just absorbed the pressure and always absolutely PERFORMED at the very front and repaid the investment a thousand fold. It’s not Lewis’s fault that Anthony sacrificed other people for Lewis, but at least Lewis never let any of them down. I’m not really a Lewis fan, but it’s incredible that a young kid performed so incredibly in the face of such HUGE and UNCOMFORTABLE pressure. He performed like he had the total total absence of pressure and discomfort like a Stroll or Gelael or Latifi (just insert the name of any of the race kids with billionaire families etc.) Anyways, like I said, I’m not really a Lewis fan but I have huge respect for the way he handled his early career but I don’t really have much if any respect for the way Anthony kinda sacrificed the rest of the family in hopes of future riches and living vicariously through his son. It shows lack of empathy for the rest of the family and really even a lack of empathy for Lewis by piling such immense pressure on a young child.

      1. Agree. I think it’s easy to say it was the right decision now but there are hundreds of families who made the same decisions and sacrifices but didn’t manage to make it like Hamilton did. From an investment and family standpoint, what the Hamilton’s did was incredibly risky and unadvisable. The odds of reaching Lewis’ level of success are minuscule – asking a family to sacrifice everything for that is like asking a family to spend all their money on a lottery ticket. Of course the winner will say it’s worth it but the losers would probably tell a different story.

        1. Pierce Wiederecht
          16th July 2019, 12:47

          Exactly what I mean, but you did it way more succinctly and in way fewer words. Bravo, seriously.

        2. I don’t think it was quite like that. It’s not as though the families were mortgaged up to the hilt. One rented a flat and one lived in a council house. At the early stages of his career it was pretty much ready cash and something all the family wanted to enjoy. Just a hobby; albeit one that took most of the spare cash. I don’t think they saw it as an investment in the early years. And it was at quite an early stage where the people that matter were sitting up and taking notice and pointing out to the family that they had something special there. Obviously there was a lot of opposition to the Hamilton’s at that time; but there were some good people such as the Buttons, etc. who were early supporters.

      2. You’ve got it wrong, HAM’S parents had already split up before he started racing karts IIRC.

        1. Pierce Wiederecht
          16th July 2019, 12:49

          Maybe they had, but that’s not really how I understood it. Regardless, you can’t possibly argue that Nicholas never had to suffer for the sake of Lewis’s career.

          1. Unless you know the family you are making wild assumptions. And more to the point…who the hell are we to judge how they run their family??

            1. Dean

              THANK YOU!!!!!!

        2. Stewart Moir
          16th July 2019, 21:12

          And Ron Dennis was supporting him in karting. Look it up.

      3. What makes you think Anthony invested in Lewis at the expense of Nicholas or any other family member. What makes you think anyone “went without so that Lewis can have”

      4. @Pierce Wiederecht Or the sort of working class that can’t afford to send one of their kids into an entry-level kart racing situation, even if they were to ignore the rest of the family’s needs and wishes to do so? There’s a lot of people in that category, especially these days. The sort of people who find that being permitted to have one family member hold multiple jobs itself requires a level of priviledge they cannot obtain…

      5. Recall the recent Guardian piece about the guy who was put out of the McLaren junior team that Hamilton was on, Wesley Graves. His (working class) family mortgaged their house and lost their business trying to fund his career without McLaren support, and he and his family now have nothing to show for it as far as a racing career or otherwise.

        I guess the answer is that they should have called it quits after McLaren pulled the plug. But parents always think their kids have supreme talent, and it’s hard to look back on 7 years or whatever of dedication and say, let’s move on.

        The same issue comes up in other sports. If your kid is a stellar basketball player, do you want to sacrifice all other activities and a lot of money to do travel leagues? Do you want to move across the country, dragging siblings along the way, etc., so your elite gymnast or tennis player kid can go to the elite academy?

        At some point, you have to make a choice based on obvious lack of success at elite levels for your age, but sometimes you have to take a risk. With Hamilton, from what I understand his talent wasn’t always obvious and it took him a while to become dominant in his karting. So his family really did have to show some faith and continue to pour in the time and money without much return (before McLaren came into the picture). It was still a gamble, even for a guy who turned out to have great talent.

        Maybe the real answer here is Ron Dennis. Dennis is a working class guy who felt the passion to take a risk on a boy in whom he maybe saw a bit of himself. Not a lot of people in F1 were like Dennis, apart from Frank Williams maybe.

    6. I don’t know much about his contribution to this, nevertheless he is a living example of it. Well done to him and to Ron Dennis who gave him the chance (from which he benefited as well of course).

    7. The best and most,cost effective thing HAM can do to accomplish this goal is to create a cheap high level karting series and driving school. Test the kids out, single out the best, provide them with cheap coaching and cheap practice opportunities and connect them with sponsorship opportunities. He should also use his connections to help sponsor this system while also signing contracts with the kids that take a small amount of their future earnings to further fund the systems going forward.

      1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
        16th July 2019, 13:23

        That would be a very commendable project.

      2. joe pineapples
        16th July 2019, 18:24

        The Hammer time scholarship foundation.

      3. That actually sounds great. He should put you on the board. Maybe he can even get Mercedes to seed it financially.

      4. You mean what Alonso is doing.

    8. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      16th July 2019, 12:58

      Just curious, are Russell, Norris, Giovinazzi, and Leclerc from wealthy families?

      1. Norris’ dad is beyond wealthy

      2. Norris’s dad is one of the wealthiest men in the country. Russell was never short of cash either. Not to take away from their skill level, just answering the question.

      3. LeClerc is from Monaco, so I would guess his family is not exactly poor.

        1. He is Monaco poor. So ok living wage and well connected

      4. And the W Series leader Jamie Chadwick has extremely rich parents who are separately successful in the City, farming and property.

    9. Pierce Wiederecht
      16th July 2019, 13:11

      Incredibly well thought out post. I’m completely and totally agree 💯%

    10. As noble as this sounds, I’m not sure really how worthwhile it is or how wise a use of resources it would be.

      There are 20 F1 drivers in the whole world, the odds of even the rich kids making it are millions to one. It is an absolute freak that Hamilton’s family made the sacrifices, and that he was even good enough let alone maybe the best. The amount of working class kids you’d need to back to find similar freaks would probably need to be thousands and thousands of them at huge expenditure. I’m not sure it’s really a helpful initiative for kids who are relatively deprived, there’s way better returns on investment to provide real help to the masses.

      I know I sound like in telling kids not to dream, but I just think the effort could do more good in other initiatives. Let the rich kids have F1.

      1. Like what? He works with various major charities such as Unicef and Save the Children as an ambassador, does a lot for children’s charities such as Starlight, supports GOSH, a number of youth clubs in deprived areas, Is one of the major supporters; along with Obama, of the Harlem Childrens Zone for poverty stricken children, was the First Ambassador to the Invictus Games and is a contributor to the Varkey Foundation and attends their annual Global Teacher of the Year Awards along with people such as Al Gore, Blair, etc. And the main thrust of his social media presence is slanted towards kids to believe in themselves. I’m sure there’s a few more to add to that list.
        I think he got caught out a bit in the early years by forming his own charity; but now I would expect that whatever he does he will surround himself with the experts in that field as he has done since that time. I think as expertise in these matters goes, he’s probably more of an expert than most of us.

    11. Ugh. Yes, let’s make F1 driving just like rap singing; make an almost negligible minority reach the top level so all the other poor kids can have the illusion that they can get there too, if only they try hard enough. And make all those who can’t feel like it’s their own fault for not trying hard enough – nothing to do with how exclusive/elitist the industry is, and how connected to the bigwigs that are actually turning the world into a smog filled sky above an ocean of disposable items on the backs of their working class parents.

      1. rap singing

        Nah. I’m done, lmao.

    12. I honestly don’t know if creating a pipeline for kids of less-than-billionaire parents into F1 is even viable. With only 20 seats available and the costs of running a team and developing the car astronomical, a driver without funding basically needs to be the next Lewis Hamilton or have previous F1 experience to be seriously considered for the seat. I’m not saying that we should just leave F1 to the rich kids per se, but creating karting series and other initiatives to help poor and working class kids get into motorsport in general, rather than F1 specifically, would be the way to go. Making it into touring cars or GT may not be as sexy as making it into F1, but it’s definitely respectable, and the chance to jump disciplines is always going to be there.

      1. They don’t have to race in F1, there are other series where if they’re good enough, they can make a decent living. I don’t think the aim is to specifically get them into F1, rather just to give them an opportunity to attain their goals.

    13. This is an interesting prospect. I wonder if perhaps the drivers themselves should set up a fund or perhaps even setup a whole new system to promote the wider take up of Motorsport amongst the general population, to democratise it back a little bit away from just the very well off.

      I looked into trying out go karting as an adult and the prices for very limited time (literally a ten minute session for instance) are astronomical. I can easily see thousands of kids out there like myself when I was that age might never get a chance to even try their hand at karting and never know if they have the talent or not. How many future Hamilton’s might be out there that we’ll never see in the sport.

    14. The negativity here is amazing even before we know any details of what Hamilton proposes he’s being attacked.

      Surely his intent to give something back is laudable. Why not make a few more positive suggestions, like Megatron M12 has?

      I was helped in a small but significant way to pull myself up the ladder from my back streets beginnings by a conscientious local councillor, and without it things may have been very different for me.

      Sometimes little things can make a difference. A new crash helmet ( for me a school uniform so I could move at 16 to a school to take A levels), a brief training course in some special area, simple advice.

      Not everyone will make it too F1 or F2 or F3 even but it is the personal development which is important and any help we can give to young people in that respect is never wasted.

    15. This is quite interesting topic. HAM has pretty noble thinking, but coming myself from a working class family, this is something that I am not sure I’d genuinely agree with. The presence of working class drivers on the grid cannot be a goal by itself. It could be more of a consequence.

      Very very long ago I manage to understand pretty well the economics of competitive racing and realized why I wouldn’t put my effort on it. Today, I pretty much enjoy my sim racing time and track outings I have with my Renault Megane R.S. a few times every year. This is quite good fun and excellent training for long-term concentration preservation in an interrupt-driven World. But nothing more than that. And it’s fine.

      Competitive racing has always required substantial financing, but what is different today is that it doesn’t require very rare talent and well-accomplished people, not to mention spectacular characters. This gives more advantage to single profile dumb drivers that have easy access to money. Perhaps, this is driven by the economics of the sport with all that big corporations that have very little to do with competitive racing whatsoever.

      So in general, if you make these cars harder to drive on circuits more complex and dangerous, leave the drivers on their own with little feedback from the pitwall … and back office, open up the adjustment options so people who in addition to driving understand better mechanics, ICE, electrical things, FD, chemistry, even politics and etc, it will naturally require hard-working and intelligent people with a lot of experience. That would give much more chance to people with working class families background as it will also push back the entry age, which I believe is appropriate around 26-30 rather than 16. If you only put kids, you see only stupid bump games (like we saw in AST and GB) instead of spectacular racing. Also we’ll see less depressed drivers at age like VET. This shouldn’t be a kindergarten sport.

    16. With karting it’s like all other motorsport at the moment. You need a lot of money. The days you just bought a car or kart and started racing are long gone.

      1. Why do you need a kart straight off? You can do the 3 x 2 hour Bambino course for around £150. The other training programs are not substantially dearer either. Whilst it maybe out of some peoples pocket, I would suggest if you have money for Sky, or maybe attend a GP, you can afford karting at that level. If you are demolishing the opposition at those levels you have a good indication of how good your child is before you start to splash out on your first kart. A good secondhand Bambino is had for £500. Or you can hang on to the junior categories and even then a reasonable kart can be had for 2k. The average family putting their teen through driving lessons and buying them their first car is going to be forking out a similar amount.

        1. For the series that follows on from the £150 course for 6-8-year-olds (that, presumably, would be necessary to action any ambitions or talents made apparent by the course), you need to pay the following (all references to articles in brackets from the Bambino Racing Regulations on Bambino’s website):

          – £390 for the series itself (Article 1.4.3),
          – £500 for the kart (I’m assuming the price @riptide quoted is correct and that the mandatory transponde and restrictor are included and working)
          – £300 towards the cost of comparison fuel testing (Article 3.2.5)
          – £20 for control tyre baggage fee (Article 3.4)
          – £variable costs of scrutineering (Article 3.6)
          – £38 a CIK karting licence (Article 1.4.1)
          – £21 for a parent/guardian licence (website requirements)
          – £98 to do an ARKS karting course the first time (website requirements)
          – £variable: fuel to get to the 7 races all over the UK (inferred requirement)
          – £variable and (if it’s the first year) reach the karting course (inferred)
          – £35 for their own race suit (necessary to attach the compulsory series badge and any series sponsors)
          – £variable potentially travel to the awards ceremony, which is compulsory for the top three and may come with promoter obligations also (Article 6.0)
          – £variable and hold a UK CIK karting club membership (Article 1.4.1),

          Drivers also require approval from their head teacher, for any rounds requiring absence from school due to travel (Regulation 1.4.1). For drivers not local to the venues, that requires a certain amount of understanding, which tends to be less forthcoming from schools with lower performance records (the types of schools working-class childen are more likely to attend thanks to a certain degree of class stratification in education in many – though not all – areas of the UK). Bear in mind that schools in the UK are expected to bar in-term absences from school for anything other than the most exceptional/unavoidable reasons, so schools fearing the law are not going to grant an exemption simply to participate in a racing series. Even if the headteacher secretly thinks the karting is more educational to the child than the day in school would be.

          I appreciate that for a series the FIA recognises, this is very cheap, but there are a lot of hidden costs, and they do mount up…

          (Also, there’s a reason working class families are putting teens through driving lessons and then supporting the costs of their driving less and less often; owning a car is now an albatross around the necks of many such families’ budgets, and often only contemplated if a job, or living in an area with poor public transport, absolutely requires one).

          1. . I would say its quite unusual for someone to just do the Bambino course and go straight into a series. You can basically turn up and ride right through to 15 at a reasonable cost. And yes I do recognise that at that early stage the rich parents can throw their kids into a series, where the average guy can’t. But if you turn up and play; and you are that talented you are not going to be ignored for too long.
            My family home is just across the road from Buckmore Park; and that place has been a success for decades based on that model. If you have a 4 to 7 year old you can turn up with your kid and have 15 minutes track time for £15. By the time you need to fork out the serious money you are either highly talented; got pushy parents, or extremely rich. Maybe that’s where Hamilton sees himself stepping in.
            I think one area where people get put off by cost initially is in the amount of track time you get for your money. When people first go they are always surprised how long the day is just to get 15/20 mins track time; and how much it takes out of you physically.

    17. Stewart Moir
      16th July 2019, 21:14

      Kimi’s father – road construction

      Michael & Ralph’s father – bricklayer

      Fernando’s father – auto repair shop owner

      Shall I continue?

      1. At what point has he referred to what came before him? He’s talking about what has come after him, do keep up.

    18. I think that is is good to hear Hamilton say things like this. From what I have seen of him this comes from the right place, it is really how he feels about things.

      IMO the best way would be for the GPDR to try and find a way to set up a fund to help provide talented kids who are not able to find the money themselves. A bit of money from all the big earners in the sport (Lewis, Max, Kimi, Sebastian, David Coulthard, maybe get Eddie Irvine to chip in etc) would surely go quite a bit towards that.

    19. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
      17th July 2019, 9:10

      I think Hamilton and Vettel were the last drivers to come from a working class family. Most drivers at the moment have quite some family cash to back up their careers.

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