This will likely be the headline – or maybe it’s already a headline as more and more people read the piece; Lewis Hamilton covers the new issue of Vanity Fair and reveals that he was almost in Top Gun: Maverick, the number one movie of 2022. Lewis tells writer Chris Heath that he and Tom Cruise are close (which we know, since Tom is at so many of his races, always with the Mercedes team) and was obsessed with the original movie so when he found out that they were working on the sequel, he had to be part of it: 

“So when I heard the second one was coming out, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I have to ask him,’” he says. “I said, ‘I don’t care what role it is. I’ll even sweep something, be a cleaner in the back.’” Cruise said yes. And Hamilton was not to be a cleaner; he was to be one of the fighter pilots. Then reality set in. Filming would have taken place during the climax of the Formula 1 season, and Hamilton knew he couldn’t countenance turning up on set without having done every last piece of preparation. “I’m a perfectionist,” he says. There just wasn’t time. Reluctantly, he contacted Cruise and Kosinski—“The most upsetting call that I think I’ve ever had”—to let them know. 


I mean it would have been something to see: Formula One’s Top Gun in Top Gun. I wish we could know what he wanted his call sign to be. 

But while Lewis’s near-involvement with Top Gun will probably be the part of the Vanity Fair profile that gets the most play, there’s so much more here because his Top Gun story is just one example of how candid he is in this interview. He talks about his upbringing, he touches on his relationships, both with his family and in his approach to dating, the racism he experienced growing up in England and that he continues to deal with today, even though he’s one of the most famous athletes in the world. Also… he discusses at length how he processed what happened in Abu Dhabi last December, when he was five laps away from his eighth championship only to have it taken away by a f-cked up decision that some of us are STILL NOT OVER. With cameos from some other high-profile people like Tom Brady and also Melody Hobson and George Lucas, who are basically Lewis’s best friends. As Lewis says, “It is very, very surreal to grow up watching Star Wars and have Yoda’s dad say positive things about you.” But it was Melody and George who were part of Lewis’s inner circle and support system in the aftermath of last year’s final race. 


This is not your standard celebrity feature with the subject trying to hide more than he cares to share. 


This is Lewis Hamilton, midway through one of the most challenging seasons of his professional career, considered by many to be the greatest of his sport, approaching it almost like he’s introducing himself. And not just because F1 has never been more popular (thanks in large part to Netflix’s Drive to Survive) but because he feels he has more to do. And because, as he explains in this interview, he’s been shaped by his beginnings – as one of the few Black kids in school, as more often than not the only Black person on the track, Lewis has said that “Being the first and only Black anything is a proud and lonely walk”. That lonely pride informs so much of who he is, still, even with all this success. Lewis tells Vanity Fair that he continues to unpack the ways that racism has affected him, and address scars that he didn’t even know he had, scars that revealed themselves over the last few years, following the murder of George Floyd. 

All of this, in combination, might be why a profile of the biggest name in motorsport feels like a piece about a rookie. Which is refreshing in and of itself: that there are still so many things to discover about Lewis’s celebrity despite the fact that he’s been a superstar for 15 years. 


As for his two covers – I prefer this one, obviously: