Anthony Hamilton: Being the Dad of a three-time F1 champion

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 19:  Lewis Hamilton (L) of Great Britain and McLaren Mercedes is seen with his father Anthony Hamilton on the grid before the start of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on October 19, 2008 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Anthony Hamilton: It's difficult to break Lewis
03:10 - Source: CNN

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Anthony Hamilton is father to the three-time F1 champion Lewis

Hamilton Snr. now wants to help budding soccer players

CNN  — 

Anthony Hamilton will watch his son Lewis Hamilton try to wrestle the world championship from his Mercedes rival Nico Rosberg over the last four races of 2016.

He told CNN Sport that the agonies of watching his eldest son race in Formula One haven’t changed over the last 10 years of his career.

“It’s the same nerves, the heart palpitations when the race gets going,” Hamilton Snr. smiled ahead of Sunday’s US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

With an acute understanding of the emotions of watching your child compete at the highest level, he is still encouraging other parents to help their children become sporting heroes.

“When people say to me ‘my son or my daughter isn’t good enough’ I think you know what I’m sorry but they are great,” explains Hamilton.

“We are all great people – it’s about how you nurture your kids.

“Everything is possible and I like to think we are an example of that because from where we came from who would have thought Lewis would be at the top of motorsport?”

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‘We came from nothing’

Separated from his eldest son’s mother Carmen, Hamilton raised his family in a council house in Stevenage, a town 30 miles north of London.

He worked multiple jobs to fund his son’s career and dedicated both their lives to the peripatetic lifestyle of competing in go-karting and then in the junior single-seater categories.

Lewis Hamilton would go on to become a three-time F1 world champion.

“We came from nothing and I didn’t have anyone telling me to do this or do that, I had to learn myself,” Hamilton Snr. explains.

“But one thing I knew was that you’ve just got to be positive and believe in yourself. Sometimes people use that term ‘believe in yourself’ flippantly but the reality is you have got to believe.”

Business venture

Despite his background in motorsport, Hamilton Snr has now designed a machine – KickTrix – to help budding soccer players blossom into Premier League stars.

It allows children – and adults, too – to practice “keepy-uppies” indoors and then apply their new, honed ball control skills to the 11-a-side game.

“I looked at the plethora of players that come into football and into the Premier League and all the British kids that aren’t playing in the Premier League and I’m wondering what’s the difference?” he explains.

“Maybe it’s the weather? When you’re abroad you can play longer but you can’t play when it’s raining outside in the UK.

“I wanted to design something that actually gave our young players a little bit of a leg up which they can use indoors because the more times you kick a ball and the more time you practice, the better you are.

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“There are a lot of good young players but a lot of them don’t make it because they don’t have the skills necessary to control the ball.

“Maybe I could have been a good footballer if I’d had the opportunity to play football in the house without breaking things!

“If you do 20,000 kicks with the KickTrix machine you’ll be able to 1,000 free keepy-uppies with the ball.”

At £250 ($305) the machine isn’t cheap, but Hamilton stresses that it’s another kind of investment that is more valuable to a gifted child.

“It’s about whether you give your son or daughter time, whether you’re there mentally and physically to support them,” he adds.

Strained relations and pushy parents

Hamilton carefully managed his eldest son’s career all the way to F1. Lewis was signed to the McLaren team’s driver development program aged just 13 and made his F1 debut in 2007.

A jubilant Hamilton was waiting in the team’s garage when his son won a thrilling first world title in Brazil one year later.

But the father and son pairing dissolved Hamilton’s relationship as manager to the F1 star in 2010 under reportedly strained circumstances.

Hamilton Snr. explained that it can be “extremely difficult” to balance guiding your child’s career and avoid morphing into the archetypal pushy parent.

“There are a lot of parents who want their kids to be successful and the kids want to do something else,” he says.

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“You have to find exactly what your child is interested in doing then you have to say ‘OK I’m going to dedicate a certain period of life making sure you can achieve that objective.’

“But you can’t push them too much, it’s about gentle encouragement.

“If your kid looks like they have the potential to be great then you’re going to push harder. There is a fine line between being a parent and a manager.

“If you step over the line and become a pushy parent it’s likely that the young kids will want to push back and won’t try hard. While they love what they’re doing they don’t love what you’re doing and it’s important they do love it.”

Nic Hamilton, ‘the bigger superstar’

Hamilton Snr. also guided his younger son Nicolas, with wife Linda, into a career in motorsport against seemingly insurmountable odds.

The 24-year-old, who recently raced in the British Touring Car Championship in a modified car, has cerebral palsy, a condition that leads to severe problems with movement, posture and coordination.

“Nic is probably the bigger superstar,” says Hamilton. “He is an amazing young man.

“A year to 18 months after Nic was born he wasn’t walking and we couldn’t figure it out. When we went to the hospital they said ‘your son won’t walk and here are these glasses because by the way he’s going to be blind.’ It was devastating for Linda and I.

“A little bit like Lewis, Nic has had tough love from me but huge love from his mother. Everything that was done for him with tough love was done positively.

“He is so independent now. He will take nothing from anybody, he wants to do everything himself.”

Text from Dad: ‘Dude, focus, be positive’

It has not been the easiest season for the eldest Hamilton son, whose F1 title defense has been hampered by engine reliability.

The frustrations seemed to boil over at the last race in Japan when the Mercedes driver amused himself on social media during an official media conference leading to criticism that he showed a lack of respect.

“Lewis is still the same person he always was but he lives in the bubble of motorsport,” says his Dad.

“The human side of Lewis is what you saw recently. ‘I know you guys have a job to do but I’m not really enjoying it. Why don’t we try this for a change?’ I think Lewis had a good point.”

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What advice would Hamilton give his eldest son as he faces a daunting task in the final four races of the year?

“The advice is always the same,” he says. “We are older, we are wiser and we always love them and care for them whatever the situation, and we’re always there for them.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are and whether you want to listen to your parents or not.

“I always send Lewis messages that say ‘Dude, focus, be positive. You know how great you are and just continue believing in yourself.’

“Lewis might be a triple world champion but he’s still like you and me, he’s still the same. It hurts when you don’t win and things go wrong, but typically he’s a believer.”

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When asked by CNN what lessons he has learned as a father to sporting sons that he would pass on to parents who would like their children to achieve, he answers: “Success is relative, but it’s disappointing if you don’t try.”

The days of crafting a career together may be over but it is sound advice that his superstar son, even at the age of 31, will take onto the track as he faces the biggest title fight of his career.