Lewis Hamilton opens up over ‘traumatising’ school days

A report by Clive Petty for London’s Times.

Lewis Hamilton has spoken of his “traumatising” school days and having to endure being repeatedly called the N-word and having bananas thrown at him.

The seven-times Formula One world champion grew up in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, 30 miles north of London. He is the son of a white British mother, Carmen Larbalestier, who raised him until he was 12 before he went to live with his Grenadian-British father, Anthony, from whom she had separated.

“For me, school was the most traumatising and most difficult part of my life,” Hamilton told the On Purpose podcast. He has previously admitted to taking up karate to defend himself.

“I was already being bullied at the age of six,” Hamilton said. “At that particular school I was one of three kids of colour and bigger, stronger, bullying kids were throwing me around a lot of the time.

“And the constant jabs, the things that are either thrown at you, like bananas, or people that would use the N-word just so relaxed . . . people calling you half-caste, and not knowing where you fit in. That for me was difficult.”

Hamilton then studied at Saint John Henry Newman Catholic School, where one of his fellow pupils was Ashley Young, a former England international footballer who plays for Aston Villa.

“In my [secondary] school there were six or seven black kids out of 1,200 kids and three of us were put outside the headmasters’ office all the time,” he told the podcast.

Hamilton has been a vocal figure on tackling race issues both in F1 and in society

Hamilton has been a vocal figure on tackling race issues both in F1 and in society

He was excluded for a period after a fellow pupil was attacked and needed hospital treatment, only to be reinstated when it was determined that Hamilton was wrongly identified and not involved.

Hamilton told the podcast that he felt the system was against him, adding that he suppressed “a lot of things”.

“I didn’t feel I could go home and tell my parents that these kids kept calling me the N-word, or that I got bullied or beaten up at school,” he said. “I didn’t want my dad to think I was not strong.”

Hamilton, 38, remains Formula One’s only black driver. He is considered the most successful driver in the history of the sport with a joint-record seven titles — shared with Michael Schumacher — has won the most grands prix (103), podium finishes (191) and pole positions (103).

However, he failed to win a race in a season for the first time last year and finished sixth in the standings. He is entering the final year of his deal with Mercedes but is negotiating a new multi-year contract reported to be worth £60 million a year.

Looking ahead to life after F1, Hamilton told the podcast, which was recorded in November: “It is going to be really, really hard when I stop racing. I have been doing it for 30 years. When you stop, what is going to match that?

“Nothing is going to match being in a stadium, being at a race, being at the pinnacle of the sport and being at the front of the grid or coming through the grid and that emotion that I get with that.

“When I do stop there will be a big hole so I am trying to focus and find things that can replace that and be just as rewarding.”

Hamilton will unveil his new Mercedes at the team’s launch at Silverstone on February 15 before the first round of the new season in Bahrain on March 5.

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