Lewis Hamilton’s Fortnite Skin is a Nod to ‘Black Panther’


What do you think your reaction is going to be the first time you drop into a map and you’re going up against a guy that’s dressed as Lewis Hamilton?

LH: It’s going to be really emotional. Firstly, jumping in on my own, just very surreal. But just seeing how, you know, it’s been a real positive response to my fan base. They’ve been incredibly supportive over the years. For those that do play the game, hopefully they get to enjoy this character. I’m sure particularly because of Roscoe.

A lot of times games have a super-high peak where everybody’s playing, but they eventually fall off. Fortnite has been able to largely withstand that. Why do you think that is? 

LH: I think it’s just so user friendly and it’s such a social thing. When people come home from work, it’s something they get to play; they don’t have to go out, and they can still hang out with their friends. It’s a lot of fun. I’m always surprised by the fact that it’s lived on so long and people are still loving it today. But of course they’re continuously evolving it. They’ve had LeBron, different characters—they’ve had so many different icons already a part of this [that] I feel really honored to be amongst those.

Formula 1 and Fortnite are both continuing to cross over more and more into the pop culture space with different partnerships and collaborations. Can you speak to the similarities between the two in the way they try to appeal to a broader audience?

LH: Yeah, they need to. Ultimately it’s such a complex sport. It’s not that easy to understand fully. It takes time to learn about it. And even some people who have known it for 20-plus years are still learning about it. There are so many intricacies of what we do that are pretty fascinating, but it’s all tech led, and just continuously engaging with a new audience [is important]. And once you catch them, I think then they’re hooked. That’s what I’ve noticed so far. But it’s something I grew up with, so I had a love for it really, from like 4 years old. It’s going to be really interesting to see the new generation over the next decade.

As essentially the face of the sport, you’ve been recognized for years and years. But since the beginning of Drive to Survive, how much more have you been recognized, and how much of an impact have you noticed on the rise in popularity for the sport as a whole?

LH: It’s been such a game changer for us. I’d be traveling to the U.S., for example, and I couldn’t understand why these amazing sports fans for the NBA and NFL never really engaged in Formula 1. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t catching on, but of course we only had one race here once a year. So, you know, the excitement, it was difficult to catch on. I think [Drive to Survive] really brought it home for people. It really showed the characters within the sport, which I think is why people are so engaged today. And in terms of being recognized around places, of course it changed everything. But it’s really, really positive. People are just excited about it. Luckily we have a race every week or two, so people are just excited to see what’s coming up next.

How much of an impact do you think having three races in the U.S. now has had on the sport, and how important is the American audience for F1?

LH: The American audience is huge, and I think it’s pivotal for us for the sport to continue to grow. I’ve always felt like one race here was never enough—we definitely needed more. There’s so many great cities in this country; it’s so vast. I always thought we’d have to have at least two, but the fact that we have three now is amazing. I mean, I’m so excited for this race this weekend. I went round after work last night, and I was driven around the circuit just to see what it looks like. And driving with all the night lights and the casino lights, it’s going to be epic. But I think we have a real responsibility also as a sport. When I went to Austin, for example, with Mission 44, I brought 60 young women to the circuit who have never had the opportunity to see what Formula 1 is about. 

STEM is so important. So I think whilst providing entertainment, we can also have a really positive impact. And there’s a lot of work to do in terms of encouraging the next generation that there’s space within our industry for people from all different walks of life. And so that’s what I feel like my role is.

You started to answer my next question, but you’ve always used your platform to give back and speak for people who can’t necessarily speak for themselves. How much of a priority is that for you? 

LH: For me I think that’s number one. Whilst we exist in the sport to win, for me, seeing these young kids coming through who either look like me or just remind me of myself as a youngster; seeing them coming in and their eyes light up, almost opening up Pandora’s box for them, you know anything’s possible.

I think that for me is one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve been able to do. So I want to continue to do that and do it bigger and more. If I knew when I was a kid how important STEM was and what it could lead to, I would have done so much better firstly at school because I would have had a direction, and so that’s what we’re hoping to do.

Have you seen ASAP Rocky’s collaboration with Puma and Formula 1? What is it like for you to see someone in that space have a collaboration with F1?

LH: I saw ASAP in Miami earlier this year, and he came to the track and the front of the garage. He was telling me, “I’ve just done something with Puma; I’m going to do this collab.” I think it’s cool; I think Formula 1 and the actual car itself is cool, but it’s full of engineers and not necessarily the most creative people there. To be able to pull in creatives, and particularly be able to pull in pop culture, I think it’s really an important way for the sport to grow. Bringing in creators like Rocky—I think it’s great. I saw just a clip of it on Instagram. And I’ve got +44; I’ve just done my own collab with [Takashi] Murakami.