Lewis Hamilton has revealed school was “the most traumatising and difficult” part of his life, as he described having bananas thrown at him and repeatedly being called the “n-word”.
“For me, school was the most traumatising and most difficult part of my life,” the seven-time Formula One champion, who was born and educated in Stevenage, told the On Purpose podcast.
“I was already being bullied at the age of six. At that particular school I was one of three kids of colour and just bigger, stronger, bullying kids were throwing me around a lot of the time.
“The constant jabs, the things that are either thrown at you, like bananas, or people that would use the n-word just so relaxed. People calling you half-caste and not knowing where you fit in. That for me was difficult.”
Hamilton, 38, added: “In my [secondary] school there were six or seven black kids out of 1,200 kids and three of us were put outside the headmaster’s office all the time. The headmaster just had it out for us – and particularly me.
“I felt the system was up against me and I was swimming against the tide. There were a lot of things I suppressed.
“I didn’t feel I could go home and tell my parents that these kids kept calling me the n-word, or I got bullied or beaten up at school today, I didn’t want my dad to think I was not strong.”
Hamilton, who is the only black driver in F1, in recent years has established Mission 44, which aims to enhance the lives of people from under-represented groups, and Ignite, a joint enterprise with his Mercedes team to improve diversity and inclusion in motor racing.
He is entering the final year of his £40m-a-season deal with Mercedes as he prepares for his 17th season in F1.
He is expected to stay on the grid after his 40th birthday by signing a new multi-year contract.
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Looking ahead to his future after F1, Hamilton told the podcast, which was recorded in November: “It is going to be really, really hard when I stop racing. I have been doing it for 30 years. When you stop, what is going to match that?
“Nothing is going to match being in a stadium, being at a race, being at the pinnacle of the sport and being at the front of the grid or coming through the grid and that emotion that I get with that.
“When I do stop there will be a big hole so I am trying to focus and find things that can replace that and be just as rewarding.”
It comes after Hamilton condemned racist abuse allegedly suffered by fans at the Austrian Grand Prix in July.
“It just highlights that it’s still an issue all over,” he said.
“It comes down to education and, of course, ignorance. People should come, should feel safe, should feel included and should be able to follow whoever it is you want to follow.
“[It] shouldn’t matter [about] your gender, your sexuality, the colour of your skin. It should just be everyone here to have a good time.”