Lewis Hamilton believes Formula One has become a ‘billionaire boys’ club’ that would not allow him in if he were launching his career now.
The seven-time world champion started out on a council estate in Stevenage, with his father Anthony taking on four jobs to fund his early rise through the karting ranks.
He was signed by McLaren aged 13 as part of their young driver programme, turning him into the most prepared newcomer in the sport’s history.
World champion Lewis Hamilton believes Formula One has become a ‘billionaire boys’ club’
Drivers such as Nicholas Latifi (above), Lance Stroll and Nikita Mazepin are sons of billionaires
Speaking in Monaco, where Sunday’s race will take place, Hamilton said: ‘We are living in a time that this is really a billionaire boys’ club. If I go back to where I started, growing up in a normal working-class family, there’s no way I could be here. No way. All the guys that you’re fighting against just have that much more money.
‘For the future, we’ve got to work to change that, to make it more accessible to people from rich and more normal backgrounds.’
Hamilton, who has grafted his way to a £250 million fortune, is absolutely right in so far as money — rather than racial prejudice — is Formula One’s big barrier, as it always has been to varying degrees.
Three drivers on the current grid — Nicholas Latifi, Lance Stroll and Nikita Mazepin — are sons of billionaires and another two — Mick Schumacher (whose father Michael is pretty much a billionaire) and Max Verstappen — are sons of former drivers.
Hamilton was only third quickest in practice here on Thursday, behind the two Ferraris led by Charles Leclerc and a place ahead of title rival Verstappen.
Hamilton was only third quickest in Thursday’s practice at the Monaco Grand Prix
This early part of the season has produced a close fight between Hamilton and Verstappen’s Red Bull, one the Mercedes driver is relishing after years having it mostly his own way.
‘I know how hard I have had to work to be strong, exploit every opportunity I have had, and no one can take it away from me,’ said Hamilton, who holds a 14-point lead in the championship table.
‘With more wheel-to-wheel battles, I hope I have the chance to show what I’m capable of. I will keep fighting, I hope everyone sees more of me.’