Inside Lewis Hamilton’s close bond with brother Nicolas – including £70k gift before tragic slide into debt & addiction

Lewis came up with a clever way to distract bullies who picked on his sibling because he was in a wheelchair

GROWING up in the shadow of a world-famous sibling cannot be easy – least of all when that person is Lewis Hamilton. 

But according to his half-brother Nicolas, 32, the seven-world Formula 1 champion has supported him and his career at every turn… except for financially.

Lewis and Nicolas Hamilton have always been 'super close'
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Lewis and Nicolas Hamilton have always been ‘super close’Credit: Getty

Watching Lewis race as a youngster inspired Nicolas to get into motorsport
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Watching Lewis race as a youngster inspired Nicolas to get into motorsportCredit: instagram

Nicolas has been Lewis's plus-one for many star-studded and glamorous events
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Nicolas has been Lewis’s plus-one for many star-studded and glamorous eventsCredit: Getty
Recently, the 32-year-old hit out at claims his career in the British Touring Car Championships (BTCC) was being “bankrolled” by Lewis, who is reportedly worth £270million.

Nicolas also spoke out about developing an “all-consuming” gambling addiction in 2017 that lost him thousands of pounds and left him feeling suicidal.

To pay off his debts, he was forced to sell his “pride and joy” – a midnight blue Mercedes C63 gifted to him on his 24th birthday by Lewis.

Nicolas, who told The Times “gambling is no longer an issue” last week, has faced many struggles throughout his life.

And it’s been his brother Lewis who has helped him to overcome many of the obstacles, as we reveal.

‘Didn’t treat me differently’

At 18 months old, Nicolas was diagnosed with spastic diplegia – a form of cerebral palsy that affects his balance and movement.

Doctors predicted he would never be able to run or walk but today, the 32-year-old can walk unaided and no longer uses his wheelchair.

His many achievements include becoming the first disabled racer to compete against able-bodied racers at the BTCC in 2015 and achieving a career-best at Donnington Park last year.

Nicolas believes Lewis played a part in him becoming the person his it today and much of his sibling’s help dates back to their childhood.

While most brothers often bicker, fight and have a friendly rivalry that wasn’t the case for the Hamilton brothers – instead, the youngster felt encouraged by Lewis.
Nicolas Hamilton gives fans a tour of his specially modified British Touring Car for the 2019 BTCC season
He recalled: “We used to go outside and play basketball. He didn’t treat me any differently, so we would still run races, which I obviously wouldn’t win.

“It never upset me, it actually spurred me on to either run faster or become more mobile. I don’t think that was his plan but it was the effect he had on me.

“It has never been ‘I want to be better than him, bigger than him’, and I don’t think he ever wanted to be bigger or better than me.”

Bully plan

Nicolas’s school years weren’t easy. He recalled bullies regularly “taking the mick” out of how he walked and mocking him for being in a wheelchair.

Nicolas has cerebral palsy, which affects the movement in his lower body
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Nicolas has cerebral palsy, which affects the movement in his lower bodyCredit: Instagram

Lewis gave his brother tips to stop bullies from picking on him
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Lewis gave his brother tips to stop bullies from picking on himCredit: Instagram

Most weekends, Nicolas and his family watched Lewis's races in the UK and Europe
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Most weekends, Nicolas and his family watched Lewis’s races in the UK and EuropeCredit: Instagram
He told the Independent: “Kids did not want to be my friend. I was getting pulled back in my wheelchair and wasn’t able to fend for myself”.

On In The Pink podcast, Nicolas said it was Lewis – who took up martial arts after being bullied at school himself – who came up with a plan to help.

He recalled: “[Lewis] said, ‘If people are laughing at this wheelchair that you’re in, then why don’t we make it cool and do some cool things in it?’

“He taught me how to do wheelies and stuff in the wheelchair, and I almost became like a Tony Hawk skateboarder in my wheelchair.

“I started jumping stairs and trying to be cool. That helped me through it. It was a character-building moment, so I’m glad I went through it.”

‘Planted seed’

Nicolas spent “every weekend” travelling with his family to watch Lewis’s races around the UK and Europe when he was younger.

“I became a real racing nerd,” he admitted. “I knew all the drivers and talked about karting all the time.”

It seems spending so much time in the motorsport world rubbed off on Nicolas and would help to shape his future career.

He taught me how to do wheelies and stuff in the wheelchair, and I almost became like a Tony Hawk skateboarder in my wheelchair.

Nicolas Hamilton

Lewis encouraged Nicolas to go into racing at 18 after spotting how naturally talented he was on a simulator.

Nicolas told The Times: “Lewis could see that I was good on a simulator. He planted the seed in my mind.”

Nicolas became determined to stop using his wheelchair in his teens
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Nicolas became determined to stop using his wheelchair in his teensCredit: Getty

At 18, his talent for simulator work was recognised by Lewis
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At 18, his talent for simulator work was recognised by LewisCredit: Alamy

The Hamilton brothers at Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2011
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The Hamilton brothers at Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2011Credit: Getty
By then Nicolas had stopped using his wheelchair after spending time strength training so he could walk unaided.

In 2011, he made his racing debut at the Renault Clio Cup in a modified car. But that year – had it not been for his sibling – could have been his last in motorsport.

While competing on the Thruxton Circuit, in Hampshire, known for being the fastest in the UK, he had a terrifying crash.

Nicolas lost control of his vehicle and struck a tyre barrier at 100mph. He was knocked out by the collision and had to be pulled out of his smoking vehicle by a marshal.

Pretty much everyone presumes that Lewis bankrolls me in my motorsport career, that he pays for everything and provides endless opportunities because of his wealth and success in the sport, but it’s just not true.

Nicolas

Many would have lost their nerve after such a terrifying incident but not Nicolas, who four years later became the first disabled driver to compete in the BTCC.

He revealed it was his brother’s wise words that kept him racing. After the crash, Lewis advised him to take the corner again “as fast as he could as if nothing had happened”.

Sports car gift

Currently, Nicolas is on a break from the BTCC while trying “to find half a million pounds” to fund his racing career.

For now, he is working as a developer for driving games and a motivational speaker.

He explained Lewis has been supportive of his racing dreams but has “never put a penny into my motorsport”.

I don’t go to his races anymore. I haven’t for a long time… To see Lewis I would have to take a lot of time away from my life.

Nicolas

In Nicolas’s memoir, Now That I Have Your Attention, he wrote: “I know pretty much everyone presumes that Lewis bankrolls me in my motorsport career, that he pays for everything and provides endless opportunities because of his wealth and success in the sport, but it’s just not true; it is also something that I would never want or accept.”

While Nicolas says his brother hasn’t financed his career in any way, he has splashed out on his sibling.

Nicolas had to sell the Mercedes C63 (above) that Lewis gave him for his birthday
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Nicolas had to sell the Mercedes C63 (above) that Lewis gave him for his birthdayCredit: instagram

Lewis describes himself as his brother's 'No1 fan'
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Lewis describes himself as his brother’s ‘No1 fan’Credit: Instagram / @lewishamilton
For his 24th birthday, Lewis gifted him a midnight blue C63 Mercedes – thought to be worth around £70,000.

Nicolas recalls: “We went out to the car park and he said, ‘Wow, look at that car, that’s so cool.’ It was a midnight blue C63 Mercedes.

“I think I described it as ‘amazing’ and then he held out the key and said, ‘Happy birthday.’ I was gobsmacked. I remember him saying, ‘It’s insured, it’s ready to go, just drive it home.’”

The gift was Nicolas’s “pride and joy” but in 2017, he was forced to sell it to pay off a tax bill that he couldn’t afford due to blowing thousands of pounds on gambling.

‘No1 fan’

In recent years, Nicolas has admitted he has been unable to follow his brother as he races around the world but remains his “No1 fan”.

He said: “I don’t go to his races anymore. I haven’t for a long time… To see Lewis I would have to take a lot of time away from my life.”

In 2020, when Lewis secured his 92nd career win, which surpassed the record of legendary racer Michael Schumacher, his sibling gushed with pride online.

He wrote: “Although I was not there, I live your emotions with an immense amount of pride! I am speechless, but always knew you had it in you.

“I’m so grateful to have you as my brother… Here is to many more victories to put that record out of reach! Love always, your number 1 fan.”

The siblings regularly share throwback photographs celebrating each other’s achievements – often with the hashtag #HamBrothers, in reference to their surname.

Undercover spectator

Lewis covered up to avoid being a distraction at Nicolas's race last year
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Lewis covered up to avoid being a distraction at Nicolas’s race last yearCredit: Instagram

Nicolas achieved a personal best while Lewis watched on (left) from the sidelines
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Nicolas achieved a personal best while Lewis watched on (left) from the sidelinesCredit: Instagram
When Lewis isn’t on the racetrack, he has sneaked in trips to watch his sibling race but chooses to keep a low profile.

The F1 champion has been known to cover up to avoid diverting attention from his sibling’s achievements.

Last year, when Nicolas achieved a personal best finishing sixth at Donnington Park, Lewis was watching from the sidelines in a long black coat with his hood up, a hat and a dark facemask.

Gushing with pride, Lewis later said: “He got sixth in the race and I was just standing in the crowd just watching as a fan. I was so excited!

“And no one knew that I was there actually, I was just jumping up and down trying to support him.”

Lewis was unable to spend time with his brother in the pitlanes after the race but fuelled his confidence in a touching call afterwards.

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