Lewis Hamilton

Inside the Mind of an F1 Champion

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If you’re a parent or coach of a young athlete, join my (currently free) membership where you can get educational modules, support, and community from other parents, coaches, and mindset specialists.

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When I was 4 or 5 years old, I either wanted to be Superman, or a Formula 1 World Champion.

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is known for the mastery of his mindset - so much so that Masterclass paid him (handsomely) to develop a course called "Lewis Hamilton Teaches a Winning Mindset."

In the course, he covers the fundamentals of his excellence, including:

You'll find a comprehensive review of what it looks like to master your mindset at the highest levels of sport in one of the most intense sports on the planet. He touches on focus and clarity, passion, well-being, and more.

It turns out that Hamilton believed in his greatness from a young age (it was between Superman and world champ, after all). Like anyone greatly committed to their craft, he searched for solutions to the emergent problems he faced as he leveled up. At the very top, that solution had to do with training his mind. Everyone he races against is world-class, but not everyone has a world-class mindset.

Here's what his mindset is made of.

Well-Being as the Foundation

"The better you feel, the better you are at doing your job."

Lewis Hamilton

Not many high performers talk about this, but in my experience, if you don't get this piece right the rest doesn't matter.

You can't perform if you're not well.

In his Masterclass intro, Lewis hints at the importance of making sure he feels good so that he can do his job well. At first glance, this is fairly intuitive, but when you hear about high performers and the all-time greats, you rarely hear about their emotional well-being or taking time to recover.

Instead, you hear a lot about their work ethic, intensity, and sometimes, even how little they engage in recovery. This message creates the illusion that simply working harder raises your game. 

In the less popular soundbites and behind the scenes, you'll hear the best athletes talk about not sacrificing sleep and how important their rest is to their long-term success. They'll talk about the traditional (and not so traditional) methods they use to recover because it helps them to maintain their edge. It's the only way they can do it night in and night out.

If you're looking for recovery activities you can do, here's a short list:

  • Spend 20 minutes in nature

  • Get in a float tank

  • Yoga

  • Mindfulness

  • Journaling 

Any of these will have some restorative function that helps you. That restoration will promote your well-being, and, as Lewis mentioned, allow you to drive to higher performance.

Constant Improvement

"I'm always looking at how I can be better."

Lewis Hamilton

In Lewis's case, he seems to genuinely believe that his focus on self-mastery and constant improvement is the recipe for his success. 

This would be a good recipe for any high performer interested in raising their game to follow.

Taken one at a time, Lewis's focus on constant improvement makes every race and training session another opportunity to get better. It creates a context to make the mundane parts of sport - the daily rituals and routines that become necessary evils rather than fun experiences - more engaging and impactful. And, seeing himself make progress, like for all of us, is intrinsically rewarding. This approach creates a virtuous cycle where it's possible to fall in love with boredom because it feels good, rather than forcing himself to go through the motions.

This focus on constant improvement comes from his passion for the sport and being the best in the world. And, it's a good, simple target to focus on that can lead to massive returns. If you break down your long-term goals into daily steps, you can make the long-term seem accessible - even if that long-term goal is to be the best in the world.

Turning constant improvement into something you do every day, rather than just talk about, is tough. My typical recommendation is to:

  • Pick a skill you want to develop

  • Set a goal to work on that at least 15 minutes per day

  • Keep track of how many days you do it in a row

  • Make sure you make it more challenging as you go

Certainly, there are more scientific ways to approach it, but the simplicity of the approach tends to work for most people. 


“My mastery is not how to push my car to its limits, it’s mastering my emotions and understanding how to live up to my potential.”

Lewis Hamilton

In past editions, I've written about self-regulated learning - the fundamental process underlying deliberate practice.

Self-regulated learning is a sub-skill of a broader repertoire of behaviors called self-regulation, which is the ability to control, modify, and direct (to some degree) our cognition, emotion, and physiology.

It also happens to be the most critical skill any of us can develop on the path to excellence and self-mastery.

We seem to know this intuitively when we talk about peak performance and the greatest athletes of our time. We talk about them being "cool under pressure" or responding to adversity - both tools developed through self-regulation skills. We admire their consistency, talk about their discipline, and revel in their ability to deliver in crunch time.

Lewis suggests that this level of self-regulation is the key to his greatness.

He's not relying on some technological innovation to drive him to the top. He's relying on the fundamentals of personal performance to maintain his edge. His mindset training is built around learning to direct his attention, which underpins the controlling of the thinking, feeling, physiology, and behavior I mentioned above. 

He also talks consistently about the concept of "self-discipline," which is the language most of us are familiar with when we're talking about self-regulation. 

Discipline is staying on course,” he said. “… It’s setting yourself goals and targets and not being weak and giving up on it.

Lewis Hamilton

Though I wouldn't describe giving up as "being weak" (sometimes giving up is the right decision), the idea of staying on course, committing to a goal, and focusing on the process all underpin good self-regulation. And, though the language of "weakness" is less than ideal, the idea that you shouldn't simply give up when you experience difficult thoughts or feelings is critical to sustaining success over time.

Notably, Lewis also talks about giving himself rewards for the journey of self-mastery. I think we too often assume that self-mastery itself is motivating and good for us and that persisting is simply the right thing to do. But getting better is hard. The best in the world find a way to make discipline fun, just like he does.

Growth Mindset & Fixed Mindset

From an early age, Hamilton seemed to know that he had what it takes to be an elite driver. 

What made him special was taking that talent and pairing it with hard work, effort, and an approach that allows him to regularly learn from his failures and mistakes.

He's a great combination of growth and fixed mindset.

He knows his strengths and what he's great at and is also doggedly persistent in his attitude around learning and staying focused on the process. He also clearly holds some positive, fixed-mindset self-beliefs (more on that later).

He also seems to plan his races around his strengths and what he's good at, which is a great strategy for getting the most out of himself. This approach - focusing on what he does well, rather than the field - gives him both the best chance to win and the greatest perceived sense of control. For example, he talks about his aggression being a differentiator for him, and how he uses that aggression to win consistently. He's not attributing all of his success to hard work and effort but understands how hard work and effort amplify his talents to form a winning combination.

Lewis also demonstrates a great degree of growth mindset. Like Jordan's famous "missed more shots" quote, he embraces failure as a key part of his success and uses the failure as information (through self-regulated learning) about how he can be better.

Failure-- in my opinion, failure is 100% necessary for greatness. To achieve greatness, to have that success, you've got to fail as many times as possible. So don't shy away from it. And don't take it as a negative.

Lewis Hamilton

While I admire this approach, it's much easier said than done. Data suggests we don't learn nearly as much from failure as we think we do (Fishbach, 2022) and that when we do, it's mostly what not to do rather than what to do better the next time. When I see these quotes from athletes, I believe that they believe in the power of failure, but I'm not sure I believe it's as central to their success as they make it seem. Instead, I think it's the failure, paired with good coaching and good self-regulated learning, that brings about the growth athletes tend to attribute to the failures themselves.

Failure only works if you have a system to learn from it that you can deploy, regardless of how you feel about the failure you’ve had.

I feel the pressure before every race. But the pressure mostly comes from my will and my own drive and expectations of myself. I expect a lot for myself, and I think when I was younger, I had a lot of expectations from my dad. But on top of that was my own expectations of I've done the work. I know what I can do. I know what I can do with that car. And when you fail, it's difficult, because you know you could have done it.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton also clearly embodies other aspects of a growth mindset, including valuing hard work, persistence, and effort as keys to his success. He's documented his journey as a young driver through the typical path to the top in his sport, which has required steady aim at his goals and a willingness to do the work when others dropped out. Combining that effort with his strengths has helped him reach the top.

Harmonious Passion

One theme that consistently shows up in the research about Lewis's mindset is his passion for the sport and his passion for winning. This passion enables him to embrace failure and learning, make the process of improvement more meaningful, and maintain motivation year after year.

This passion also drives his pursuit of excellence. Because he cares so much about the sport and getting the most out of himself, he's willing to go the extra mile when other top-end performers might stall out. Passion is what allows him to keep competing like he's in second place when he's in first.

This passion was similar to Roger Federer's and drives Hamilton to another level of performance. While I'm sure most racers at his level are passionate about the sport, it's worth noting that Hamilton seems to be able to use it as a constant source of fuel and engagement for himself.


I was born to race and win.

Lewis Hamilton

If you research performer considered an all-time great in their sport, eventually, you'll find something about a drive to win. Hamilton's drive has led to 7 world championships and a rapid ascent through the racing ranks, alongside his quest for constant improvement.

What I appreciate about Lewis's motivation to win is that it's real. Yes, it's important to focus on getting better and to work every day on the little things that add up. But the best performers in the world aren't confusing that for winning.

Winning, at the highest levels, is everything. And, the drive to win and compete often starts much earlier. I think one of the things that propels people to persist and ultimately reach greatness in their area is the drive to win - as much or more than the care and commitment they have to the craft.

Of course, it's beneficial to also enjoy the journey along the way to winning. But to pretend like the journey is an adequate substitute for the destination is just a trick you play on yourself when you're afraid of losing. It doesn't mean the journey doesn't matter. 

Winning just matters more.

Nobody is remembered for having a great process and not winning, after all.

Team and Mentorship

One thing I thought was notable in Lewis's interviews and class about mindset was his emphasis on the people around him. While no high performer does it in a vacuum, the people around the performer are rarely recognized as a key part of the team so publicly, unless a journalist asks or they're giving a speech. Even then, the recognition is often restricted to close friends and family and maybe a coach or two.

Hamilton consistently recognizes the roughly 2000 people who help make his job possible. And, he takes personal accountability and responsibility for their performance. I've worked with pro athletes on team sports who are less generous with their recognition of their teammates than Hamilton is. It speaks a tremendous amount to his leadership, but in a deeper way, to his understanding of excellence. Even in a sport when you're out there driving on your own, someone is in your ear talking to you, a team is waiting for you to pit, and 2000 people put you in the car. There's no way for you to be who you are without other people helping you get there.

Hamilton also recognizes the influence mentors have had on his performance, kind of how Kobe consistently acknowledged Jordan's mentorship in his success.

Ayrton Senna raced Formula One. And when I would come home, I would watch-- I would put on this video of his-- it was just called "Racing is in My Blood." And it's the only video I had. I got it for Christmas when I was probably eight or something. And I watched it like a million times. I was sitting right next to the TV looking at just how he was staring, how he was turning through the corners, how aggressive he was, how he spoke about the things he believed in, how focused-- laser focused he was. And at the time, I looked at him and was like, that's what I want to do. I've got to be an aggressive driver. If I'm going to be a driver, I've got to be aggressive. I've got to believe in myself.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton used older drivers as guides on his own journey. They helped him understand the sport. How to execute well. How to manage the demands. How to have a long career.

What mistakes to avoid.

Mentors can be a powerful source of inspiration and learning if done right. But of course, not all athletes are open to the mentorship of other pros. Some want to do it themselves - to their detriment. Again, this is part of what makes Hamilton special. I'm sure his ego is healthy, and it's not so big that he won't look for help or try to learn from other people or recognize that other people are a part of his success.


Lewis (rightly) spends a lot of time talking about and optimizing his preparation. The proverbial "work when the lights are off matters most when the lights are on" definitely fits for him, as it does all high-performers.

I started to learn how to prepare myself better so that I arrived more relaxed, more confident in what it is I had to do. Mental preparation is key for all of us.

Lewis Hamilton

What's fascinating about Hamilton's preparation routine is that it starts well before race day. In my work with pro athletes, this is an approach I also used - preparation for the next game, especially in the NBA, starts almost as soon as you leave the locker room from the last one. Between letting go of whatever just happened (good or bad) and needing to master what's happening in the upcoming competition, there's little time to spare.

Preparing like Hamilton does puts a premium on feeling good and reducing stress between competitions. For all top talent, there are some elements of performance that matter more than others. In the case of an athlete, it's the actual competitions themselves. For an executive, it might be a board meeting. A salesperson and a big pitch. 

This approach sets Hamilton up for good "typical" performance - in his case, quality practices - and "maximal" performances, the races themselves.

Hamilton also gives us a glimpse into what his preparation looks like for race day.

Today I have the pretty much perfect method for-- or I'm still refining it, but it's almost perfect-- the prep that I have in order to get myself centered, be calm in mind. I put my music on. I go into my stretching. Then there's a few other things, like interviews that follow that, and then come back to my room. And I need like 20 minutes to focus, calm my heart rate down, be present. There's those few stages that I take, and then I walk into the garage. I'm like, wow, this is my dream. This is what I always wanted to do, so I'm going to go out there and give it everything.

Lewis Hamilton

He gives you his winning formula right there:

  • Focus

  • Calm

  • Presence

And he gets there by prioritizing presence, gratitude, and positivity. He also makes a concerted effort to avoid his phone and negativity, or anything that would upset or distract him from the task at hand. Of course, if there's information about his car he needs to know, he'll take it in, but otherwise, he's incredibly protective of his mindset - proactively - about race day itself.

There's a lesson in here again for all of us trying to perform at our best. Forget the mere distraction of the cell phone - how about the potential for negativity it introduces right before a big meeting or event you have going on? What can you do to better protect your time between performances? What mindset do you want to be in, and how do you prioritize that?

Taking steps to bring this mindset to life could be a huge boost to your overall performance. It might mean taking steps Hamilton has taken to set boundaries with people in person or over Slack or text. It might take actively avoiding certain tasks that you know are likely to distract or detract from how you feel before the big event. But if doing so allows you the opportunity to deliver a championship-level performance, it's your responsibility to do it as a leader and peak performer.


The last component is what he describes as an "unshakeable" self-belief that he needs to perform at his best. Hamilton, like other high performers, relies on this self-belief to help him sustain through the inevitable ups and downs of a Formula 1 season. 

For Hamilton, this self-belief comes from past success and experience seeing himself succeed and persevere through past failures. 

When asked if he ever has a moment of self-doubt in an interview, he answers:


When it comes to driving, he has the self-belief built on evidence of his hard work and winning to allow him to overcome any sense of self-doubt. He's internalized this winning and effort so much that he regularly references that he believes he could be Super Man with the helmet on.

I've never doubted myself in the car. I don't doubt myself in the car.

Lewis Hamilton

What's most important about this element is that his mindset isn't built on false facts or affirmations in the mirror. He's basing these beliefs on a history of hard work that's led to success, overcoming adversity and winning, and pushing himself to the limit, and still surviving.

We could all cultivate a belief like that if we were all willing to push ourselves to our highest, best use.

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