By Natalie Rodgers
If you’re a fan in any capacity to Formula 1 racing, then you know who Lewis Hamilton is. One of the greatest car racers, Hamilton has taken the world by storm—not only for his abilities on the track but for his dedication to diversity and inclusion within his sport.
But the latest achievement in the world of Formula 1 doesn’t come from Lewis, but from his brother, Nicolas.
Earlier this year, Nicolas “Nic” Hamilton, who has cerebral palsy, became the first person with a disability to drive an F1 simulator. Complete with the ensemble, mechanics and capabilities of an F1 vehicle, the simulator is designed to create a hyper-realistic replica of the F1 driving experience. The simulation is almost exclusively used by F1 racers, and even then, the opportunity to try the technology is rare.
But thanks to a collaboration between the Hamilton brothers, F1 and Mercedes; Nic was able to take the coveted experience for a spin. The F1 team even made modifications to the simulator to fit Nic’s accessibility needs.
“Time in the sim is incredibly rare, and not something accessible for someone like my brother,” Lewis Hamilton wrote on Instagram of the experience. “It took custom modifications to the seat, steering wheels and pedals to make this possible. He’s always been a fighter and seeing him have this day is an honor. The smile you see here never left his face.”
Though this was Nic’s first time behind the wheel of an F1 simulation, this was far from his first time behind the wheel of a racing vehicle. In 2011 at the ripe age of 19, Nic made his racing debut at the Renault Clio Cup United Kingdom, a touring car racing event. Using a modified vehicle, Nic currently competes with the British Touring Car Championship and has raced in over 180 competitions in his 12-year career as a professional driver.
Nic was first introduced to the world of racing as a child, frequently attending races with his brother. After years of playing racing video games and watching his brother drive, Nic decided that he wanted to follow his ultimate dream: Becoming a racer himself. Using a wheelchair for most of his childhood and teenage years, Nic was determined to show the world that having cerebral palsy doesn’t prevent people from following their passions. Through training, accessibility and his own personal determination, Nic was not only able to become a race car driver, but achieved a personal goal of limiting his need for a wheelchair.
“Without this love of racing, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” Nic stated in an interview with Mini Cooper. “Motorsport has completely changed my life for the better. And it still keeps me going and gives me a reason to get up in the morning and improve… I don’t think that my love for motorsport will ever die.”
In 2015, Nic became the first person with a disability to compete in the British Touring Car Championship and is currently the only person with a disability in his field. Though he wants to continue his racing career, Nic additionally hopes to write a book and become a motivational speaker in the future.
“By sharing my story, maybe I can help people realize that just being yourself is fine,” Nic continued in his Mini Cooper interview. “You don’t need to fit into the world. Instead, you build your own world and create a place where you feel confident.”
Sources: Mini Cooper, Crash, Wikipedia, Formula1