“I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to race,” explains Hamilton, who is now 28, seven years younger than Lewis.
The condition affects Hamilton’s legs and balance, preventing him from being able to flex his ankles and use conventional foot pedals when driving.
Hamilton can compete thanks to a specially modified car.
Adapting the car
Hamilton’s car has a hand clutch on the steering wheel, which allows him to minimize the use of his legs.
Made of carbon fiber, the hand clutch operates like a regular foot pedal, says Hamilton. “When you release the clutch and you feel the bite point … I just have that through my hands.”
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He is currently the only disabled driver in the championship, racing against 30 able-bodied athletes at speeds of up to 130 miles per hour.
This season, Hamilton came 15th in a race, scoring him one point. “I’m the first disabled athlete to have done that,” he says. “Getting closer to the front of the grid, I want to get to the top 10, top five.”
Hamilton says because he faces a lot of challenges, “it’s going to be sweeter when I eventually go on that podium.”
“I got bullied and got pulled backwards in my wheelchair and laughed at,” he says of his time at school, adding: “I was the only Black person at my school, so I was very singled out.”
“Motorsport gave me a purpose,” he says. “It gave me a reason to overcome my condition.”
The academy aims to give any disabled driver with a full UK driving license the chance to receive race coaching, mentoring or tuition. It estimates there are two million disabled drivers in the UK.
“I would love to see disabled people be able to access circuits and access the industry,” says Hamilton. “Hopefully, through this academy, we can give people more opportunities, more happiness, more purpose.”