“I thought about it numerous times,” he confesses as we sit down in the bar of the Intercontinental Park Lane.
“I didn’t want my words to be twisted into something negative.
It is his greatest achievement — and pride — that Lewis shows the same humbleness and courtesy in his everyday life despite the trappings of success readily available to him.
Another bullet will go on Nyck de Vries, a 16-year-old Dutch kid who looks about 10 and has already been signed by Mc Laren. “But if there is such a thing as a sure thing.” Then there is his other son, 19-year-old Nicolas, Lewis’s half brother, who is driving in the Renault Clio Cup this year despite suffering from cerebral palsy. “Not just for disabled people but for anyone with a dream.” Could he follow Lewis into F1? He could be the last bullet.” He is only half joking.
It has been a long road for Anthony Hamilton, whose parents moved to the UK from Grenada in the 1950s, instilling in him values typical of a Roman Catholic of Caribbean ancestry.
“There was just a longing for him to do his own thing and for me to do my own thing. “The unfortunate thing is that before I had control, too, and it’s the control really that I didn’t like at the time.
We both know it is this subject which Hamilton is so cautious about; understandably so. Anthony has not spoken about this period in his life before. “Again that was about growing up; about Lewis making his own decisions. “Anyway, fortunately I don’t get involved in any of that any more. What I can say is that Lewis has been one of the greatest sons a parent could ever ask for and Nicole is a really, really great girl. I knew it had got to the point where he had his life the way he wanted it; the world title, his own girlfriend, his own money. I didn’t want to leave when things were going badly. “What I’m trying to say is that when 2010 happened it was a good thing for both of us.
Their split 12 months ago after nearly 20 years as driver-manager was a uniquely painful episode in both their lives. In fact, this is his first interview since the split with Lewis. I had spent nearly 18 years trying to make sure that Lewis didn’t lose his big opportunity. She is good for him.” Does he worry Lewis will be seduced by Hollywood and lose his focus? But responsibly.” Amid all the soul-searching, Anthony does own up to one regret; that he did not quit as manager straight after Lewis won his title in 2008. I’m trying to take life a little easier now.” That is a relative term for someone with a work ethic as deeply ingrained as Anthony Hamilton. Our chat is extended because he keeps dashing off to speak to potential sponsors for one of his drivers, Luciano Bacheta, for whom he is trying to secure a drive in German touring cars.
“I know of at least five people who have done that,” he says, shaking his head. But I’d like to think that I knew best most of the time. A year ago that would have resulted in a forbidding presence within the Mc Laren motorhome, and glowering for those reporters who dared to cover the incident. It appears a year off has given him fresh perspective. “But in reaching it, he had never had the opportunity to do all the ordinary things a teenager does. I certainly learned a lot last year.” How to let go, seemingly.
“If I know five, there must be 500 more.” Mention of Lewis brings up the elephant in the hotel’s bar. It just didn’t happen quite the way I would have wanted.” After years of symbiosis, the pair went months without talking as the strain of going cold turkey told. “You know what, that incident was part of growing up,” he says. You must remember, together we had achieved our dream; he was world champion; he had money in the bank. There was talk at the time that Lewis’s relationship with his American pop star girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger may have contributed to the split? It was more a combination of factors of which that long-distance relationship was one.
I find a lot of reporting can be destructive but I want to be positive in my life. To make sure people who believed in him and us were proud.” It must have been hard, I say, to watch as Lewis went through some difficult times at the start of last year?
If I’ve got anything to say, it must be positive.” Those words reveal the essence of Formula One's most famous father of recent years; anxious, intense, guarded, but at the same time deeply caring and clearly possessed of an overwhelming urge to set a good example to others. One hour turns into three as we discuss the projects he has on the go, his work helping young drivers stay on the straight and narrow. We talk about the burden of responsibility he feels when families sell their houses and move abroad in the hope that their boy will be the next Lewis Hamilton. The ‘hooning’ incident in Melbourne, for instance, when Lewis was pulled over by traffic cops for wheel-skidding on a public road?