- Photography by Mr John Balsom
- Styling by Mr Mitchell Belk | Style Direction by Mr Dan May
- Words by Mr Chris Elvidge, Senior Copywriter, MR PORTER
Mr Lewis Hamilton paces the tarmac at Silverstone, the scene of this weekend's British Grand Prix. He's wearing sunglasses, an oversized beanie hat and a brushed shearling, leather-lined, olive-green coat from Burberry Prorsum. It's one hell of a look, but he's not convinced. The man clearly has a sense of his own style. "I try not to make it difficult for people," he explains later. "But when you put something on, you've got to feel comfortable in it, and comfortable being seen in it. It's like a new layer of skin."
While he's happy to casually shoot the breeze as we discuss his approach to dressing, when the conversation turns to his day job the answers are far less laid-back; out comes the competitive side of Mr Hamilton, the side that really defines the drive and ambition of this gifted 28-year-old racing driver.
You're expected to think a certain way in this sport, but I think slightly differently
"How long has it been?" I ask. "Four years?"
"Five." The reply bristles with the speed and ferocity of an F1 car. Mr Hamilton knows exactly how long it has been since he lifted the World Drivers' Championship - and he's intent on making it clear that his competitive spirit is as keen as ever. "I'm still hungry," he says, and it's hard not to be convinced. Five years may have passed, but in the high-octane world of Formula One he is still a force to be reckoned with.
Mr Hamilton's rise to the pinnacle of the motorsports world was something of a perfect storm. All of the ingredients were there: articulate, good-looking and above all precociously talented, he exploded onto the Formula One scene in 2007 at the age of 22, just months after Mr Michael Schumacher's retirement left a power vacuum at the top of the sport. The British public were quick to anoint him sport's new Messiah, and such was the weight of expectation that during his debut season - one that he finished as runner-up, the youngest driver at that point to have ever done so - the BBC released a documentary, Lewis Hamilton: Billion Dollar Man, in which they feverishly proclaimed that he was "on his way to becoming the most famous British sports star of all time".
That claim seemed a lot less outlandish a year later when he picked up his first World Championship - but that was five years ago, and despite finishing in the top five in all of the subsequent seasons, some have unfairly speculated that he may have lost his focus amid some of the sport's more glamorous distractions, with his interest in music (he has spent time in the recording studio), and his high-profile relationship with Ms Nicole Scherzinger. But although he may live life in the fast lane, it's clear on meeting Mr Hamilton that he is not the type to court this kind of attention.
BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX, NOVEMBER 2008
Mr Hamilton celebrates his Drivers' Championship win in parc fermé, São Paulo. Courtesy Mercedes
Melbourne Grand Prix, March 2013
Mr Hamilton waits as the Mercedes AMG Petronas Team pit crew changes his tyres in a race in which he finished fifth. Courtesy Mercedes
Mr Hamilton's helmet colour is typically yellow as a nod to his boyhood hero Mr Senna. For this year's Monaco Grand Prix, however, he sported a special gold edition. Courtesy Mercedes
Ever since his debut season in 2007, Mr Hamilton has been one of Formula One's most popular and recognisable figures. Courtesy Mercedes
NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND, MAY 2013
From left: Sir Stirling Moss and Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One driver Mr Hamilton meet at Silverstone Circuit. Courtesy Mercedes
He is unapologetic, however, when discussing his life outside of Formula One. "You're expected to think a certain way in this sport," he says. "But unfortunately I think slightly differently. I think that as long as you focus on doing your job well and giving it all the attention you need, you can still have other interests and do the other things that you want to do. I haven't been out to a club for a year and a half," he adds, "and that might seem strange for a guy in his 20s, but for me I feel that's just the path that I'm on. That's what I need to do right now to stay focused."
After joining the highly competitive Mercedes AMG Petronas Team at the start of this season he knows better than anyone that the time is ripe for him to regain his world-beating form - but speaking a few days after the Monaco Grand Prix, he doesn't seem to be brimming with confidence. "I'm in a new car, and I just don't feel comfortable at the moment," he says. "I've never had this in my career; every car I've ever driven has felt right to me, and I've been able to push it to the limit. But right now I feel almost as if I'm starting from scratch again."
To be fair, they've had a decent start as a team, with another podium finish in Montreal just over a fortnight ago, but there's still plenty of work to be done. Mr Hamilton, a pure racer at heart, would clearly prefer to avoid the politics that surround his sport. "I'd rather just arrive on the Friday and drive," he admits. "But there's always so much else going on." So does he feel as if he could go out and race tomorrow? "Yeah," he says, without a moment's hesitation, "no problem." And he's just as opinionated regarding the modern sport's heavy focus on engineering and tyre management. "The car plays such a big part now. Today, if you put us all in the same car, then you'd see the best drivers at the front. But unfortunately now you can have a driver that's not so great, but in a great car - and he can go on to win a World Championship."
With a straight-talking style that's a breath of fresh air compared to some of his more anodyne rivals, the man once regarded as the Young Turk of Formula One now seems almost like a throwback to a bygone era. He has spoken before of his respect for Mr Ayrton Senna - his yellow helmet is a tribute to the legendary Brazilian driver - and, just like his hero, you sense that Mr Hamilton feels most at home when he's on the very limit. "If they took away the danger aspect of it, I don't know... that's why I like jet-skiing, rock climbing or skydiving. Because there's danger involved. That's what gets the adrenalin going - that feeling of being right next to the edge."