Racing With The Hamiltons Review

RACING WITH THE HAMILTONS: Tuesday 6th March, BBC1, 10.35pm

Thankfully this is not a documentary about Neil and Christine wearing tight leather suits and reaching speeds in excess of 200mph, but a sensitive and insightful portrait of the family of racing stars Lewis and Nic Hamilton. Being the brother of an Formula 1 Champion who has achieved more fame and even more fortune can never be easy, but for 19-year-old Nic, who has cerebral palsy, the journey to achieve success has been particularly trying.

Nic may look very similar to Lewis, and he certainly shares the same sky-high aspirations, but with both legs contorted by his condition he has “never had a dayâ€? without pain. This documentary tracks his attempt to become a successful racing driver – just like his brother.

But unlike his brother, who was ferried around to junior go-kart competitions every weekend by scarily dedicated parents Linda and Anthony, Nic’s experience as a driver had previously been limited to the rapidly firing pixels of a computer screen. Make no mistake, that irrepressible Hamilton DNA still did its high-flying job, he was British online simulation champion by the time he was 18.

It was Lewis who finally encouraged him to make the move to a real car. “He’s got talent there but it’s about nurturing it. Some people don’t get opportunities and fortunately we’re in a great positionâ€?, he gushes, forgetting his usual tedious displays of bravado for this BBC film. Lewis clearly loves his brother.

While Nic certainly has an endearing personality and an inspirational disregard for the limitations of his affliction, it is difficult to ignore the fact he has benefitted from a significant head start in a field which is pretty inaccessible to others like him. This latest in the BBC’s Beyond Disability series does throw up some interesting questions about the unequal playing field/race track which many aspiring sports stars must find impossible to scale. You can’t help but wonder how many other cerebral palsy sufferers would source the thousands of pounds being spent on Nic’s attempt to become a driver. And as for David Coulthard as coach and a raft of blue-chip sponsors…well.

There is no denying that the boys’ father, Anthony, packs a motivational punch equivalent to the formidable engine power of the MP4-27. “Life is twice as hard for Nic so he has to experience love that is twice as hardâ€?, he frowns. But the documentary deftly contrasts gruff, track-side remarks with the actions of a deeply passionate man who is clearly adored by his sons. It is all rather moving really.

Finishing an impressive ninth in his last race of the season, Nic will be returning for another racing stint this year. He may have had some extraordinary head starts in an extremely competitive (and expensive) game but the young man grins when he talks about the disabled spectators that have begun appearing at the entrance to his tent, asking him to sign posters. Privileged? Definitely. A role model? Undoubtedly.