Nicolas Hamilton opens up on battling gambling addiction in new book, Lewis Hamilton

Space-Separated Links

URL URL URL URL URL URL


Sitting inside a dirty room, unwashed and slurping a Pot Noodle, Nicolas Hamilton broke down in tears before his computer screen.

The 32-year-old – the half-brother of seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis – had frittered away thousands on gambling in a six-month binge and spiralled into a deep depression that left him on the brink of suicide, The Sun reports.

Every practice, qualifying session and race from the 2024 FIA Formula One World Championship™ LIVE in 4K. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial Today >

What started as a $4 bet on Arsenal scoring developed into an “all-consuming” addiction to online casinos and blackjack that rarely saw him leave his room in 2017.

Two years earlier Nicolas, who has a form of cerebral palsy, had made history as the first disabled driver to go up against able-bodied racers in the British Touring Car Championship.

He was forced to sell off his “pride and joy”, a midnight blue Mercedes C63 gifted to him by Lewis, to settle a hefty tax bill that he couldn’t afford due to his gambling and “naivety” about finances.

In his memoir Now That I Have Your Attention, Nicolas speaks out about that dark time, which left him on the verge of ending his life.

“I felt so ashamed, using this amazing gift to pay my tax bill,” he wrote.

“It felt like I had practically stolen the money from my brother and I have never forgiven myself for that.

“It destroyed me. I got a real wake-up call. I had no way of going forward because I’d lost everything.

“I was stuck. I had a balcony at my flat and I was thinking what would I do if I just jumped off it.”

Nicolas’ struggles came three years into Lewis’ racing career with Mercedes, in 2017, when he was paid $45 million a year – not including funds from sponsorships and endorsements.

Yet he felt unable to confide in his half-brother, or his parents, and relied on daily calls to Samaritans over a difficult two-week period.

Nicolas has since overcome his addiction – even able to take a trip to Las Vegas casinos recently without having a flutter – and says he’s grateful that “gambling is no longer an issue”.

Recalling his difficult moments, he told The Times: “I wanted more of the winnings – and the losing didn’t really deter me. It just got me in a cycle.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about it — I just wanted to go back to my computer. The whole day would go quite easily.

“I could see it was a problem but I was too far in. I was scared to stop. I’d lost so much money that I felt like, if I stopped, I was in a hole that I wouldn’t get out of.”

After admitting all to his parents, Nicolas says they were “supportive” and “felt sorry for me”.

He’s never spoken to Lewis about selling the Mercedes, which was bought for him as a surprise 24th birthday present.

Overcoming gambling addiction was just one of many struggles Nicolas has battled throughout his life.

In 1992, he was born two months premature and spent the first six weeks of his life battling to survive in intensive care.

At 18 months old, Nicolas was diagnosed with spastic diplegia, which affects his balance and muscle movement in the lower half of his body. Doctors predicted he would never be able to walk or run.

The disability meant much of his teens was spent in a wheelchair, which led to bullying from classmates.

He recalled them mimicking him while he attempted to walk with mobility aids and try to tip him over while in his wheelchair.

Nicolas told The Independent: “I didn’t have a voice or a purpose in school – a disabled boy and only person of colour in my school … kids did not want to be my friend. I was getting pulled back in my wheelchair and wasn’t able to fend for myself.”

Growing up, he had a strong bond with Lewis – admitting they “were super close” – and says his sibling would encourage him to take part in sports.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Similarly, his parents instilled resilience, regularly telling him to “brush yourself off” after falls while walking and encouraging him to be independent and strong.

At 16 years old, Nicolas’ life changed forever after a rude interaction in 2008 that encouraged him to work even harder than before to no longer need to use his wheelchair.

He was travelling abroad to watch Lewis in a race with his mum when a lady at an airport check-in counter, refused to address him directly and instead spoke to his mum.

“She just asked my mum whether I needed assistance or help,” Nicolas recalled during an interview with The Independent last year.

“I had all the hormones of a teenager wanting to be a man. I was growing a beard. I wanted to talk to girls and go to the pub.

“But I’d become lazy and I was in a wheelchair because it was easier for me. It was hard work to walk around.

“Able-bodied people weren’t looking at me in the way I wanted to be perceived. That was when I got out of my wheelchair. And I haven’t been back in.”

Nicolas starting regular strength training and physio to help him walk – despite it causing neck, back, pelvic and muscular pain – and says before his legs “were like mush”.

He told The Times: “Pain will always be a part of my day. I do not take anything for it. I learn to deal with it.”

Nicolas was encouraged to go into racing by his brother at 18 after noticing he was “good on a simulator” and says he “planted the seed in my mind”.

In 2011, he made his racing debut at the Renault Clio Cup in a modified car and four years later, became the first disabled driver to compete in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).

Despite his personal achievements, Nicolas has regularly been compared to his famous brother including after a near-fatal crash in 2011 after he hit a tyre barrier at 100mph on the racecourse at Thruxton Circuit, in Hampshire.

While being pulled out of the car, which had smoke coming from the bonnet and engine, he recalls a marshal telling him: “Oh dear, Lewis isn’t going to be impressed with this, is he?”

Nicolas, who described it as “the most insensitive comment”, added: “Even at my most vulnerable moment, when I was in the midst of experiencing the scariest, closest-to-death moment of my life, people will still compare me with him.”

In April last year, Nicolas recorded his best finish to date – sixth place during a BTCC race at Donnington Park – which helped to silence the critics who said he was only driving because of his famous brother.

“To come across the line with that result, after everything I’ve been through – best day of my life,” he said.

“To finally shut the critics up on 23 April was the best thing I could ever wish for. It was a load of relief and a lot of weight off my shoulders.”

Nicolas has faced nepotism comments, online trolling and bullying throughout his racing career due to beliefs that his famous sibling helped him financially or with connections.

Last year, he defiantly stated: “Lewis has never put a penny into my motorsport.” And has since addressed it in his memoir.

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.”

Nicolas revealed his father Anthony financially supported his first season as a driver but since then, he has had to find the funds himself.

To do so, the 32-year-old has taken on a number of jobs including working for racing video games companies, where he spends up to eight hours analysing virtual cars.

Nicolas is also a public speaker – working for nine different UK agencies – and has other one-off gigs including representing MGM as an ambassador at last year’s Las Vegas Grand Prix.

He remains passionate about racing and hopes to someday compete again after parting ways with Team Hard last year but first, he has to raise the money to compete.

Nicolas explained: “I’d love to be back on the grid and I think I deserve to be but I’ve got to find half a million pounds.”

Despite being compared to his F1 racing champion brother, which he calls “hard”, there is no sibling rivalry.

Instead, Nicolas credits Lewis – who he describes as “the best human being to ever sit behind the steering wheel of a car” – as someone who helped to make him the man he is today.

Nicolas adds: “He’s still a massive reason why I’m as strong as I am and why I’m out of my wheelchair. I’m still his No 1 fan …

“But it has been really hard being related to Lewis and trying to carve my own career in motorsport.”

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.