Leaving aside a sporting miracle, Lewis Hamilton will become world champion in Formula 1 for the sixth time on Sunday.
From a distance, the Formula 1 season seems like a vintage like any other. Lewis Hamilton becomes world champion again, in a sport that travels all over the world with cars that race at more than 300 kilometers per hour on the circuit.
But for 34-year-old Hamilton himself, everything is different. He drastically changed his life. He eats vegan, avoids plastic and tries to live 'nitrogen neutral' at the end of the year. What drives him and what does he want to achieve?
"Hamilton and I want to bring vegetable food to the masses." Ryan Bishti, co-founder of Neat Burger
At least Hamilton is serious. In September, the first Neat Burger store opened in central London, selling vegan burgers. The driver is a major investor in the fast food chain who wants to expand over the next two years to fourteen other European countries and the United States.
"We don't focus on the niche of vegans, our goal is to persuade meat eaters," said co-founder Ryan Bishti. "We are part of a large movement and want to bring vegetable food to the masses."
Hamilton uses Instagram to expose social themes. (Image: @LewisHamilton)
"In my office and in my household I don't allow anyone to use plastic." Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton
Also in September the much-watched documentary 'The Game Changers' was released on Netflix. Hamilton worked together with top tennis player Novak Djokovic, basketball star Chris Paul, actors Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron (known from Titanic and The Terminator, among others) on the documentary.
The vegans have scientists and top athletes explain that a vegan diet leads to better sporting performance than meat consumption. One of the most important misconceptions that the documentary has to get rid of is that meat is needed to get enough protein. The protein in vegetables, nuts and legumes is even better than the protein from meat, fish, dairy and eggs, the documentary claims.
Debby van Velzen from the Dutch Association for Veganism (NVV) welcomes the role models like Hamilton are committed to promoting veganism. "If well-known people send a positive signal, it helps enormously to make veganism better known. There have been many initiatives to make vegetable food more accessible lately, and Neat Burger is one of them. It is much more accessible to be vegan eating outside the door and that is a great development. "
Hamilton became vegan two years ago and a year later sold his private plane. This year, he has come to the fore more and more emphatically about this and is reminding everyone who wants to hear that it is high time to start living more environmentally conscious and more sustainable. "I fly much less and almost always on scheduled flights. I stay in Britain much more often with my family in my spare time. In my office and my household I don't allow anyone to use plastic anymore. Everything must be recyclable, up to deodorant and toothpaste. "
"In addition, I have sold many of my cars and I drive an electric Smart. Some cars I really do not want to sell because I love them. I have had to work hard for it and I cannot say goodbye to it. But I drive it a lot less than before. "
“We know the lifestyle of a Formula 1 driver like Lewis. Then you can't tell others: you don't have to eat meat anymore. ”Former Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso
The Instagram regularly exposes social issues such as animal suffering, environmental pollution and deforestation of rainforests on Instagram. In October he called on his 13.3 million Instagram followers to also become vegan. "The extinction of humanity is becoming more likely. Go vegan , it's the only way to save our planet."
The call led to many positive but at least as many indignant responses. The scope: how can you take someone seriously in this area if they are flying around the world for a gas-guzzling sport. Even his colleagues Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso were critical. "I would never spread such a message if I myself did the opposite the next day," said the former Spanish Formula 1 driver.
Hamilton was shocked by the many negative reactions and announced a short social media stop, but soon stoically continued his mission. "It's not easy for me. As a driver, my CO2 emissions are much higher than those of someone with an average household. But that doesn't mean I should be afraid to speak out and send a positive signal."
"I understand the reactions and I can imagine that people think Hamilton is hypocritical," says Van Velzen from the NVV. "But veganism is not primarily about the environment. It's about the realization that animals matter morally."
Palmares Lewis Hamilton
- Five world titles (probably six on Sunday)
- 83 Grand Prix victories
- 149 podium places
- 87 pole positions (Formula 1 record)
Hamilton wants to change employer and sponsors
In any case, Hamilton's performance as a driver does not suffer from his fervent struggle for a better world. It says a lot about his unprecedented racing talent that the British will continue to put the victories together. This year he won ten of the eighteen GPs and he must be crazy if he doesn't want to add his sixth world title on Sunday.
From his Mercedes team, Hamilton therefore receives full support in his mission. "A better world starts with you and Lewis has done that. He is quite right," said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
The driver hopes that his employer will also produce more environmentally conscious. "Many cars have leather seats, but there is no reason not to make them from artificial suede. I want to encourage Mercedes Benz to take that step."
Hamilton is also trying to change the production process at one of his most important personal sponsors, Tommy Hilfiger. "The clothing industry is a polluting business. Meanwhile, 70 percent of Hilfiger's material is sustainable and recycled. I challenge the company to make 100 percent of it."
Fashion magnate Tommy Hilfiger and Lewis Hamilton. (Photo: Pro Shots)
"There is much more that Formula 1 could do for the planet" Lewis Hamilton
Formula 1 made the switch to hybrid engines in 2014, reducing fuel emissions by a third. With the many races spread around the world, the sport still has a major negative impact on the environment.
"There is much more that Formula 1 could do for the planet," says Hamilton. "Plans are being made now and I think there will be a proposal soon."
Despite his documentaries and Instagram messages, Hamilton did not succeed in getting other drivers to become vegan. "I have seen his documentary and found it very interesting. But on the other hand I like to eat a hamburger occasionally, with real meat," says Max Verstappen. "Everyone has to make a decision for themselves, but I will not become vegan."
"Of course the environment is important, but I don't think we should be too dramatic about it," said the Dutch driver. "I have an electric scooter at home, but I don't like it for a Formula 1 car. Well, I just love gas, can I still say that?"
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. (Photo: Pro Shots) Hami