Story by David Waters
When Lewis Hamilton arrived at the pre-race press conference before the first ever Miami Grand Prix in May this year the journalists present witnessed something remarkable.
The seven times world champion swaggered into the room jangling and shining with an excess of jewelry and watches. He looked more like a Mogul emperor than a twenty-first century sportsman.
Hamilton’s neck was laced with strings of pearls and chunky gold and platinum chains while his wrists boasted not one but three IWC watches – the brand new Mercedes AMG F1 collab (the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Edition “Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team watch), the recently launched Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Mojave Desert as well as the driver’s favorite Big Pilot’s Watch. And just to add more mystery to the spectacle, each watch was set to a different time.
And as if his wrists weren’t cluttered enough with these chunky time pieces, they also just about had room for rows of Cartier’s iconic Just un Clou bracelets. His extreme look was completed with no less than eight chunky rings on his precious diver’s hands.
All this hardware being sported by Lewis Hamilton made a witty yet serious point. The famous driver is in an ongoing dispute with F1A, the governing body of Formula One, who are insisting on a previously unenforced regulation that all drivers must remove jewelry before races as well as having to wear fire retardant underwear.
Pretty sensible health and safety regulations, you might think.
So perhaps there is more going on here than what could be seen as just another cosseted sports star picking a fight with his professional body over his personal freedom to wear what the hell he likes.
There’s something about the anonymity of F1 driving itself which could be driving Hamilton’s antagonism to removing his jewelry. Disguised in head-to-toe jump suits, oversized crash helmets and all the paraphernalia of the modern racing driving should we be surprised this man, who is regarded by many as the greatest racing car driver of all time, wishes to flag his individuality and global fame with head-turning jewelry and watches?
Hamilton is of course also well known for cutting a dash in colorful graphic sportswear too – take the limited edition Heron Preston/Levi’s collaboration he recently wore ahead of the IMOLA Grand Prix. His hot pink jacket and jeans double denim look topped with a Prada bucket hat made the driver about as unmissable as a thirty tonne meteorite hitting this middle of Italy.
And maybe this is the point too. Being the only Black athlete to ever drive in the Formula 1 series makes Hamilton is a target for racists.
Both the FAI, the governing body of Formula 1 and Mercedes (Hamilton’s team) issued statements to condemn the online abuse Hamilton suffered when his car clipped Max Verstappen’s at the start of the British Grand Prix in 2021. After being given a 10 second penalty as Hamilton was regarded by stewards as being the cause of the accident (Verstappen was fortunately unharmed after crashing at 180 mph), Hamilton still managed to win the Grand Prix.
Formula One in a statement after the race said, ‘“Formula One, The FIA and Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team condemn this behaviour (referring to the online racist comments about Hamilton), in the strongest possible terms. These people have no place in our sport and we urge that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions. Formula One, the FIA, the drivers and the teams are working to build a more diverse and inclusive sport, and such unacceptable instances of online abuse must be highlighted and eliminated.”
It’s hard to imagine how much extra pressure this online abuse puts on Hamilton’s young shoulders as it must be for other Black athletes in predominantly white sports who are also targeted by racists. To know there are thousands of people following your every move wishing you to fail for the ‘fault’ of not being white is hard for many of us to imagine.
Perhaps Hamilton’s attachment to his watches and jewellery is not only an important part of his identity but also a powerful way of signaling his unbowed wealth and success in defiance of his haters.
“I’ve been in the sport for 16 years, I’ve worn jewelry for 16 years,” Hamilton recently told the Daily Mail. “In the car I only have my earrings and nose ring which I can’t even remove and one piercing where I can’t really explain where it is. If they stop me [racing,] then so be it.”
Quite how this impasse between Hamilton and F1 will be resolved is hard to call.
Lewis Hamilton is happily taking his cues from the style braggadocio of hip hop. With his outsized watches, flashy jewelry and bold graphic clothing he’s defiantly refusing to quietly fade into the background to avoid the spleen of his critics. It’s a look that seems to say – I’m the best in the world whatever you say or feel about it and I’m not giving up any time soon. Take a spin!
Like this? Read about Lewis Hamilton’s Cartier brooch
The Formula One driver opted for a brooch featuring rubies and diamonds when he was knighted at Windsor
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