British race car driver Lewis Hamilton is a winner. Quite literally. With 103 victories to date, he’s got the most wins in Formula One history. And in 2020, he won his seventh World Championship, earning him the joint record for the most Formula One titles. Hamilton was even knighted by the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle in recognition of his motorsport career, earning the 37-year-old the title of “Sir.”
But there’s more to Hamilton than just his need for speed. Off of the racetrack, the Mercedes driver has a big heart. He’s an animal rights activist, a social justice advocate, an environmentalist, and a generous philanthropist. Here’s how the highly decorated speed racer has used his fame for good.
He advocates for plant-based eating
You won’t find meat, dairy, and eggs on Hamilton’s plate. The race car driver eschewed animal products back in 2017 after watching the documentary What the Health. In an interview with BBC, he cited environmental, animal welfare, and health concerns for the dietary switch.
“I urge you to do some research, find the compassion I know you have within you to recognize what you are contributing to in terms of what you eat which keeps the meat and dairy industry flourishing and therefore, deforestation, animal cruelty, our seas and climate decaying on a daily basis,” he said.
Hamilton, alongside Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Cameron, served as executive producer for the 2019 documentary The Game Changers, which examines misconceptions around plant-based eating, protein, and athleticism.
He uses his social media platforms for good
With more than 26 million Instagram followers to date, Hamilton certainly has a large fanbase, and he’s no stranger to speaking out about issues he cares about on social media.
A dedicated vegan, the topic of animal rights is a regular topic on his feed. “We all have a voice, I have this platform and so to not use it correctly would be wrong of me,” he posted on Instagram in 2018 alongside a photo from a hog farm. (Warning: the photo is graphic.) “Nobody is perfect, I certainly am not but this is actually happening every day to so many animals worldwide. This is why I have decided to go on a vegan plant-based diet. Yes it’s hard, nothing’s ever easy but I’ve felt the best I’ve ever felt for the past year.”
He’s also used his platform to share his support of LGBTQ+ individuals. In November 2021, donned a custom rainbow helmet during the Qatar Grand Prix. “We stand together,” he wrote on Instagram.
He also regularly discusses sustainability, climate change, and other social justice issues.
He invests in vegan and sustainable companies
Hamilton knows how to put his money where his mouth is. He has invested in several companies that align with his morals.
The record-breaking racer is a backer of vegan-friendly nutritional drink brand Athletic Greens. He’s partnered with Tommy Hilfiger to release a number of collaborations, which make use of vegan and sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, recycled denim, and Sorona yarn. He’s also invested in vegan burger chain Neat Burger and Chilean food-tech startup NotCo, which makes plant-based meat and dairy products.
“I like to think I’m quite good at choosing the business ventures that I enter. I like to think I have got relatively good foresight on a lot of things that I choose to be a part of and do.” he told ESPN about his entrepreneurial endeavors.
He campaigns for social justice
Formula One’s first and only Black driver (in 1985, Willy T. Ribbs became the first Black man to ever test drive a Formula One car), Hamilton has shown his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, speaking out about the inequalities prevalent in the racing industry.
“The inequities within our sport and within the world persist. Change is still needed. We must keep pushing to hold ourselves and others accountable,” he wrote on Instagram in February 2021. “We have to keep striving for equality for all, in order to continue to see true and lasting change in our world. As long as I have air in my lungs, I will continue to fight for change in everything I do.”
In 2020, he condemned police brutality against minorities and urged his followers to speak out against racism. “Please do not sit in silence, no matter the colour of your skin. Black Lives Matter,” he said. The same year, he also unveiled a Black Lives Matter helmet, which featured the words “Still We Rise.” He’s even raced in an all-black car—dubbed the Black Arrow—in support of the movement.
He promotes sustainability
Hamilton is an ardent environmentalist and is committed to lowering his carbon footprint. In fact, he’s pledged to go carbon neutral, sold his private jet, abstained from driving his gas-guzzling sports cars, and has opted to drive electric vehicles instead, such as the Mercedes-Benz EQC and the Smart EQ ForTwo.
“I’m trying to fly less through the year and mostly flying commercial. That has been a big change in my habits. I’ve gone to stay at Bedfordshire with the family instead of flying everywhere,” he explained. “Obviously I’ve changed my diet [to become vegan] which is quite a drastic difference. I have a new Smart electric car at home; I’ve sold several of my cars.”
He’s also eschewed plastic in his home. “Every single piece of plastic ever made still exists today, and a heart-breaking amount ends up being discarded and polluting our environment,” he said. “It was really eye-opening to see the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans, infecting the habitats of the marine life who live there.”
The famous driver is also aware of the impact that his sport has on the planet. Hamilton spoke out against new Formula One regulations to make cars wider, which would require more energy. “I don’t understand why we go heavier, particularly when there’s all this talk about being more sustainable and the sport going in that direction,” he said.
He’s a philanthropist
In addition to investing in vegan companies, Hamilton regularly donates to causes close to his heart.
In July, he pledged £20 million to launch his own foundation, Mission 44, which aims to help underprivileged young Brits. To help improve diversity, the group partnered with the educational charity Teach First to recruit 150 Black science, technology, engineering and mathematics educators in England.
In 2020, amid the Australian bushfires, Hamilton donated $500,000 to support Wires Wildlife Rescue, WWF Australia, and the Rural Fire Services. And he encouraged his followers to donate too. “My love of animals is no secret and I can’t help but grieve for the defenseless animals thought to have died so far, pushing certain species closer to extinction,” he said. “I implore you to join me in thinking about the impact we are having on our planet.”
The race car driver has also supported charities like Save the Children, UNICEF, and Education Africa.
He speaks out against animal exploitation
Dog dad to an adorable pooch named Roscoe, Hamilton regularly lends his voice to the voiceless.
He’s rallied to conserve marine life and spoken out against the illegal wildlife trade. “It’s so important that we fight for those that don’t have a voice, animal rights, and protecting our planet’s amazing wildlife,” he said. “The illegal wildlife trade continues to thrive and it damages our environment and threatens endangered species.”
He has called for an end to shark finning, lambasted factory farming, and spoken out about animals in captivity, urging his followers not to support dolphin shows and other attractions that used animals for entertainment. “Please don’t go and support these shows around the world. Don’t buy tickets to show your kids,” he said. “Instead educate them of these horrible things that are happening to the dolphins, whales, and other sea life. These beautiful creatures shouldn’t suffer.”
Hamilton has also called on Mercedes to ditch leather. In response, the company has begun using more sustainable, plant-based materials in their vehicles, including recycled plastic bottle suede and cactus and mushroom leather.