On the Road with Lewis Hamilton, Who Plays Mario Kart Before Hopping Into His F1 Car

Few people on earth travel as often as professional athletes. With On the Road, the GQ Sports Travel Questionnaire, they’re weighing in on everything from room service to flying comfortably to their favorite chain restaurants.

Lewis Hamilton’s entire life is about time. On the Formula 1 circuit, success is defined by posting a better time than the competition. As someone who’s always moving at lightning speed—zipping not only between other cars on the track, but also between continents and time zones—it’s important for Hamilton to keep one eye on the clock.

It makes sense, then, that he’s partnered with IWC Schaffhausen, the Swiss luxury watch brand. His Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph debuted at London Fashion Week, featuring a vibrant teal dial and 12 diamonds, one at each number on the watch’s face. This is his third timepiece with IWC, and he was involved in the entire design process. He’s come by his watch taste honestly, too: he remembers having a Mickey Mouse one as a kid, which eventually developed into a desire for something more elegant.

During a swanky evening in June at Zero Bond, the exclusive social club in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood, Hamilton talked watches, but also the boundless travel he’s done since joining Formula 1 in 2007. His 103 career wins includes triumphs in Japan, Australia, Brazil, Monaco, and several places in between. But before the 38-year-old retires, he says there’s one place he’d still like to race, and he won’t rest until F1 makes it happen.

GQ Sports: When you’re packing for a trip, how many watches do you bring with you?

Hamilton: I can be on the road for about two months at a time. So, I have a little travel pouch that IWC presented me, and I think there’s four watches in it. One’s maybe a little more sporty, I have different options for straps, then I have ones that are for the elegant events I get to go to. I also have a jewelry box that I carry a lot of jewelry in as well.

Besides watches, what are some other essentials you have to bring on the road?

I always need headphones. I’m listening to music everywhere I go—that’s how I zone out, especially on the plane. I don’t like the loud noises on a plane. I take my Nintendo Switch. I’m always playing Mario Kart! I used to travel with a pillow, but I have someone else take it now. I bought it online, it’s just a little travel thing that folds out. It’s always in my room, because the hotel pillows aren’t always the greatest. I had a neck piece as well for the plane. I use a [sleep] mask, too, that’s cooling so you don’t have bags under your eyes, and I take face masks, because skin gets so dry on a plane. For the last hour of a flight, I’ll sit there with a face mask on for moisturization. Trying to stay young, you know?

Do you always just go to sleep on the plane?

Most often, yeah. I’m not the greatest of sleepers [at night], so I’m falling asleep before the plane even takes off. It’s the best. Sometimes I wake up and I have no recollection of taking off or how long we’ve been on the flight. I used to watch a lot of movies, but I ran out of things that I’m really interested in. I’m doing a lot of reading now when I’m on the plane. I try to get through a book if I can, or half a book at least. Right now I’m working on a Formula 1 movie that I’m producing, so I’m reading through the script. That’s taking up most of my flight time if I’m not sleeping.

What’s your ideal travel outfit?

I’m all about comfort. If I could be here in a sweatsuit, I would. I usually have a vest, T-shirt, and sweats, or a tracksuit. I always take a hoodie as well, because I don’t like putting my hair down on the headrest, always have the hoodie up. But if I’m going through the airport and there’s going to be cameras, I’m in something decent, but I’ll have my change of clothes for as soon as I get on the plane. I go into the bathroom and change into something comfy.

What’s the funniest interaction you’ve had with a fan?

A lot of fans throw their babies to me. Hey, hold my baby! Now you’re stuck with this baby. I’ve signed someone’s forehead, cheek, I had a fan in Japan who brought me a pack of boxer shorts. When I went to try them on later, I couldn’t get them past my knee. They were, like, kids’ boxer shorts. It was so funny! I guess they just wanted me to wear them, I don’t know? You’d look good in these?

The only thing I refuse to sign would be a helmet. I take a lot of pride in my helmets—that’s my jersey. I might have given two helmets away, to like my boss and a really dear friend who’s passed away now. Those are part of my heritage. One day I want to put them all in a museum with all my cars and stuff so people can see the journey from where I started.

What’s your favorite place to travel for F1?

Tokyo. I think that’s my favorite city. It’s very cool, very clean, very futuristic. The people are incredible, the culture is beautiful. So clean. Everyone takes so much pride in their work. The taxi drivers, for example, wear gloves. They’ve got great fashion out there. They really are the leaders in the fashion space. Also, all the technology there is just different. You go to the stores and they’ve got absolutely everything you’d ever want within one store. And the food is great!

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