Reflected fame is never easy. But Nicolas Hamilton, the younger brother of the Formula 1 phenomenon that is Lewis Hamilton, has lived with it for most of his life; he just refuses to be defined by it. Instead, the 28-year-old is forging his own path as a racing driver who has overcome cerebral palsy, and now as a broadcaster, all on his own terms.
So is being ‘the brother of’ a help or a hindrance? “Definitely both,” Nic answers. “I’m proud to be a Hamilton, of what my brother has achieved and how he’s absolutely blowing F1 apart right now. As a family, we never planned for this; we just wanted to go racing and enjoy family time, which is what it was for us. It just snowballed.”
No second guesses on the downside. “The hindrance is when people make judgements, when you’re already in the spotlight and you haven’t even turned a wheel,” he says. “People say you’re only there because of Lewis, or brands won’t partner with you because they’re expecting you to go to your brother for a load of money. It can be very difficult. But I’ve learned to deal with it in the best way. It’s a double-edged sword.”
An unexpected opportunity
Hamilton is racing in the British Touring Car Championship this year and now has branched out into a nascent TV career that he also never planned for. Well known as an avid gamer, he was picked up at short notice as an expert commentator for a new esports series called V10 R-League that has attracted teams with backing from major car makers, including BMW, Ford and Porsche.
“The first season has just been and gone, and the feedback we’ve had is that a lot of sim racers like it,” he says. “I got approached late, with only a week to prepare. It’s something different, and we’ll see whether anything comes out of it. We’re getting good traction, with BT Sport picking it up in the UK and ESPN in the US.”
School of hard knocks
In the BTCC, it’s fitting that Hamilton is driving a Volkswagen CC for Team Hard for his second season in one of racing’s most competitive series. ‘Hard’ doesn’t do it justice, especially when he has already overcome so much. When he was 18 months old, Nic’s parents were told that his already-poor eyesight would only deteriorate as he grew older, and he was never expected to walk. Lewis isn’t the only remarkable Hamilton to stand proud.
“We’ve had an up and down year so far with Team Hard, which is what I expected, driving their old car; it’s nine years old!” says Hamilton with a smile. “It was never going to be easy, but it’s a long-term plan. At Brands Hatch I scored my first BTCC points, then at Oulton Park it was a case of wrong place, wrong time when I crashed with my team-mate Ollie Brown. I came off worse in terms of car damage, but Ollie broke a rib, and that put us both out of contention for Knockhill the following weekend. But I was back out for Thruxton.”