Lewis Hamilton, vegan racing driver

Lewis Hamilton is established as the leading Formula One driver of his generation and one of the all-time greats having taken numerous wins and Championships.

By 2020 he was a six-time World Champion (the second most of all time) with 88 individual race victories.  His career total points score of 3563 (as of August 2020) is a record, as are his 92 pole positions, his 156 podium finishes and his three grand slams in a season.  He has the record points score for a season with 413.

Lewis has also become a household name and has been credited with broadening the sport’s appeal, partly due to his environmental and social activism. 

He was the first black driver in Formula One and has received racist abuse though all stages of his career.  He has spoken out against this.  

Speedy roots

Starting to race at a young age, Lewis won the British Karting Championships aged 10, and at age 15 was World Number One – remaining the youngest to ever achieve this.

By 1998 (aged 13) he was signed by McLaren and the team’s partners Mercedes-Benz to become part of their Young Driver Support Programme.

In 2000 he became the European Champion of Formula A with maximum points.

After moving through different stages, he first competed in Formula One in 2007, finishing third in the Australian Grand Prix. 

In 2014 he recorded eleven wins, 384 points and 16 podiums – and won his first World Championship.  He went on to complete 14 consecutive podium finishes, the 3rd longest streak in F1 history. With 32 GP wins, Lewis became the most successful British F1 driver in history. The same year, and for a second year in a row Lewis was GQ’s Sportsman of the Year. 

Vegan Powered

Motivated largely by environmental concerns, Lewis turned vegan in 2017.  He is quoted as saying that “as the human race, what we are doing to the world… the pollution, in terms of emissions of global-warming gases, coming from the amount of cows that are being produced is incredible. The cruelty is horrible and I don’t necessarily want to support that and I want to live a healthier life.”

He has also revealed that he experimented with plant-based diets in order to boost his energy.  He said it “frickin’ changed my life…I have more energy; I’m so much more productive.  I wake up feeling way better, clearer in thought and fresher in my body. I recover quicker; I sleep better. My skin cleared up. I have fewer allergies. There are just so many impacts.”

Followers of the sport recognize that it is about far more than the car, with drivers needing to be in excellent shape mentally and physically, and Lewis has said his diet is key to this.  “I’m physically in better shape than I’ve ever been” he said in an interview with Men’s Health magazine “and I’m more successful than ever right now, and my plant-based programme has played such a big role in that.”

While he has expressed regret in not making the change earlier in his life, he does not regret his incremental approach which saw him gradually transform to veganism over a period.

“Don’t go hard,” he suggests “because that is hard. You’ve just got to taper off things: stop eating chocolate, stop eating dairy and then slowly stop eating meat and stop eating fish. Go pescatarian for a while. That’s what I did…and I don’t miss a single thing.”

Eating to win

Many Formula One drivers eat porridge for breakfast, and so does Lewis.  A previous favourite was eggs with avocado on toast — a meal he still enjoys without the egg since avocado is rich in healthy fats.

“I love vegan pancakes,” he says. He has also said he would go on his summer or winter holiday and always, without fail, have a “stack of pancakes” when he arrived in the morning. “I love pancakes,” he said. “Well, doesn’t everybody?”

Hamilton also loves burgers, and while he says he found it tricky to find a tasty version of his guilty pleasure when he went vegan, he ultimately succeeded.   When he found a good alternative, he was hooked! “I found a vegan burger in Hong Kong and had them send burgers to me in Japan, where I ate them every day.”

His Instagram story includes plenty of food.  Examples include “slow-cooked zucchini with toasted pine nuts alongside a couscous, pomegranate, raisin, and orange peel salad”, “orzo pasta with steamed green beans and sundried tomatoes, a unique guacamole dip, a sprouted grain mix, and hummus with vegetable crudités.”

Vegan activism

In 2019 he announced plans to open his own vegan restaurant, a chain called Neat Burger, aimed to prove a different option.

 “As someone who follows a plant-based diet, I believe we need a healthier high street option that tastes amazing but also offers something exciting to those who want to be meat-free every now and again,” he says.

He has also spoken in favour of veganism on his huge social media channels and urged people to go vegan.  His dog has also started eating vegan!

The future

In 2020, aged 35, he was the second oldest driver in Formula One, although he said he envisaged competing for another three years.  He was positive about the cancellation of part of the season due to the COVID restrictions, and said that “whilst it was a negative in many, many ways, in some ways it gave a lot of life, a lot of energy to focus on some other things.”

He also wants to encourage diversity, noting that he remains the only black driver in the sport.

“I think you’ve still got to earn the right to be here in terms of how you perform and continue to deliver. So my goal is to continue to deliver for as long as I can. So I do see myself going for at least another three years.”

You can be sure that this incredible career will continue with vegan food playing a crucial part in Lewis carving his name into history.

Lewis on Wikipedia

See more vegan motor sports competitors

BBC report – bringing veganism to the masses

Lewis’ change to veganism

Men’s Health magazine report

What he eats

More on his vegan restaurants