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How will Hamilton's life change?

By Simon Austin


Lewis Hamilton and Nicole Sherzinger
Hamilton is mixing in A-list circles - and dating pop star Nicole Scherzinger
Lewis Hamilton became Formula One world champion on Sunday, but he has been enjoying the trappings you might expect to come with that status for more than a year.

Hamilton's good looks, youth and his status as the sport's first black driver had earned him a global profile, multi-million pound endorsements and a pop star girlfriend long before his triumph in Brazil.

So you might think life will not change that much for the 23-year-old now he has fulfilled his lifelong ambition of becoming F1 world champion.

Wrong, according to Britain's previous world champion, Damon Hill.

"Lewis will become 10 times more well known maybe a factor greater than 10, actually," Hill, who won the 1996 title, told BBC Sport.

There probably has not been another driver who has had such a high profile before winning the world championship, and Hill believes the 23-year-old can now be elevated to the status of a global icon.

"I think there is a special quality to Lewis," he said. "He's in that higher bracket of sports people who are seen as good ambassadors for what they do.

"Muhammad Ali, for example, is just an absolute superstar.

"If you ever go anywhere he appears, its just electric. He's a megastar, so sportspeople can carry this vibe with them if they're up for it.

"There is no reason to believe that Lewis won't have a fame level which will take him into the homes of people who aren't necessarily interested in F1, but who are interested in his story.

"He is the first black F1 driver, let alone the first black driver to have won a major championship, and that will be of interest to a great many people."

THE PRICE OF FAME

Hill says there is a downside to such fame, though.

"His life will be affected by an even greater level of intrusion into his life from the public and media," Hill said.

"The compensation is that you get paid very well, so you can afford to protect yourself, to create your own environment and keep away from the glare.

Vivian Burkhardt
Geneva is such a boring place that Lewis just spends his spare time playing Formula One games over the internet with his 15-year-old brother Nic

Former girlfriend Vivian Burkhardt

"But that isn't necessarily an enormously healthy thing, to be perfectly honest."

Indeed, Hamilton cited intrusion into his private life as one of the reasons for moving from Surrey to Geneva last year, although the lower rates of tax in Switzerland were also undoubtedly a factor.

Yet he admitted he found life in his new home city a little lonely in an interview with the New York Times in July.

"I wouldn't say I have much of a life here," he said. "You can't have millions of people come over. Who do you invite?

"I can't just wake up on Sunday morning and go golfing with my dad and my uncle."

When asked if it was a lonely life, he replied, "Yeah, I would say that, for sure."

Speaking in a "kiss-and-tell" interview with the News of the World in the summer, Hamilton's ex-girlfriend Vivian Burkhardt - a former Miss Grenada - revealed that his life away from the track was "far from glamorous".

"There he is in Switzerland, where he has no friends, no family, just this amazing flat in the richest part of the city - but it's simply big and empty," she said.

"It's such a boring place he just spends his spare time playing Formula One games over the internet with his 15-year-old brother Nic back in England. The rest of the time he's texting friends."

Perhaps it is little surprise that Hamilton has been looking for a house in London with his new girlfriend, Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger.

A PUBLIC PRIVATE LIFE

Hamilton's relationship with Scherzinger and friendships with the likes of hip-hop superstars Pharrell Williams and P Diddy might suggest a glamorous showbiz lifestyle, but the Englishman's routine during the season is actually defined by discipline and clean living.

He lives in a luxury four-bedroom apartment on the banks of Lake Geneva, near team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, fitness trainer Adam Costanzo and McLaren team doctor and motivator, Dr Aki Hintsa.

Lewis Hamilton dominates Monday's front page headlines
Hamilton dominated Monday's front page newspaper headlines
They occasionally share a meal, go jogging, or play tennis and squash.

Most of Hamilton's time is spent on a relentless schedule of testing, debriefs with engineers at McLaren's headquarters in Woking, Surrey, appearances for sponsors and fitness work.

The close season will allow him to spend more time with Sherzinger.

They met backstage at the MTV Music Awards in Munich last November and were subsequently photographed together at the Monaco Grand Prix, Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday celebrations in London and walking hand in hand through the streets of Paris.

Yet until travelling to the season finale in Brazil, Scherzinger did not attend another race after Monaco - which was won by Hamilton - because he wanted to focus on his racing.

COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES

Hamilton's father Anthony - who acts as both an agent and manager to his son - is reported to have been negotiating with Sony and Pepsi about new sponsorship deals for his son.

Becoming world champion will obviously improve the Hamiltons' bargaining position.

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis is incredibly friendly with both the senior and most junior members of the team

McLaren insider

Anthony is cautious about his son having too many commercial commitments, though, and McLaren will have a big say on whether the deals go through.

The Briton currently has just one personal sponsor, Reebok, believed to be worth 10m over three years, and also promotes Bombardier in exchange for use of its Lear jets.

He is not allowed to promote personal sponsors while on F1 duty and has to spend much of his time promoting the team's sponsors, the most important of which are mobile phone giant Vodafone, whisky brand Johnny Walker, oil company Mobil and Spanish bank Santander.

As is customary, Hamilton will receive a world title bonus on top of his 7m-per-year McLaren salary.

The 23-year-old was estimated to be worth 15m in the latest Sunday Times Rich List, level with Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

And he has been making investments, the most notable of which was the purchase of a luxury hotel complex in Grenada, the Caribbean island his grandfather left for England in the 1950s, for a reported 20m.

A SINGULAR ATTITUDE

A McLaren insider was adamant that becoming world champion will not change Hamilton's attitude or personality at all.

The Briton joined McLaren's driver development programme at the age of 11 and has often talked about being part of the "McLaren family".

"Lewis has been with the team for 12 years and he realises he is a component of the machine," the McLaren source said.

"That's why he often talks about 'we' when he gives interviews. He realises he's representing the 1,300 staff who work for McLaren at Woking and that won't change.

"Lewis is incredibly friendly with both the senior and most junior members of the team. For example today he was chatting with junior members of the team about what flat-screen TV he should buy and where he should put it in his house."

Hamilton has attracted criticism from his fellow drivers this season, but the McLaren source puts any bad feeling down to envy and jealousy.

"Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher were not popular with their peers and success polarises opinion," he said.

With Hamilton looking set to become the pre-eminent driver of his generation, this is something that looks likely to continue.

Additional reporting by Andrew Benson

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see also
Last-gasp Hamilton takes F1 crown
02 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Ecstatic Hamilton revels in glory
02 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Reaction to Hamilton's F1 title
02 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton destined for greatness
02 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Rollercoaster race to the F1 crown
02 Nov 08 |  Motorsport
Hamilton's rise to the top
18 Jun 07 |  Motorsport
Hamilton decides to leave Britain
29 Oct 07 |  Formula One
Changing the face of Formula One
24 Nov 06 |  Formula One


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