This account was written by Team LH fan Romy who attended the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix. Thank you Romy for sharing your warm story with us!
It happened. I still can’t believe it. It still hasn’t sunk in properly. I’m still screaming – internally and out loud!
It was March 3rd, 2023, the Bahrain GP and it’s been a week now. It feels like yesterday and it also feels like so long ago.
I always knew of Lewis and I started following him from 2018-2019. I think what stood out for me was that he’s unapologetically himself, and this was something I had worked towards for so long. It always helps in times of self-doubt to have someone who’s done what you’re doing, or going through the same. In the recent years, I went through ups and downs in my career, trying to find my path and a good fit. Looking at what he was doing with Mercedes, the way he was working with the team as they went through their ups and downs, how he handled Abu Dhabi 2021 – helped me persevere after some not-so-great rejections for roles I really wanted.
I’ve always been passionate about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), but seeing what Lewis was doing, meeting Team LH folks who are also working in that space, helped me cement what I was looking for. I’m now so happy to say that I am the head of DEI and internal communications for a media tech firm.
Lewis has almost been like my personal therapist with the motivational messages, and somehow, he knows what to say and when to say it! I’m sure others in Team LH would agree. It meant so much that I was getting this opportunity to meet him.
We took the shuttle to the circuit that morning and I was so happy to have my friends Ines, Bojana and Darko with me. It was my birthday and I had an all-day paddock access pass. It was my one shot to meet him and I was so conflicted between being positive and saying yes, I’m going to meet Sir Lewis Hamilton and not saying anything at all so that I don’t jinx it.
We got there quite early, I got my paddock pass and raced down to almost set up camp outside of the Mercedes hospitality centre. On one side, there are all the garages and opposite are the hospitality centres. In the middle is almost like a quad with a few patches of palm trees and a couple of benches. Luckily, there was one of these patches outside the Mercedes hospitality.
I took my spot on that bench and settled in to wait. I wasn’t going to miss him, and now looking back, I don’t think I could have! After an hour or so, I remember seeing Angela and Lewis’s bodyguard and was like ‘Get ready, he is here’!
Stood up, saw him and then could. Not. Move. He was wearing a black sleeveless top and grey marble-print pants (which Rashi told me later is Miu Miu) and had a hoard of photographers following him taking his picture. He walked with this air of confidence that only he could exude. When I say walk, I mean glide. He glides. So, picture this – he was gliding into the hospitality, surrounded by photographers, Angela and his bodyguard following next to him at a little distance and me standing there, probably open mouthed, rooted to the spot.
It took me a while to collect myself, get my banner out and fold it in such a way so that I can show it to him easily and then stood there again, watching that hospitality building with eagle eyes because from experience, I know he’s fast!
Luckily for me, there weren’t too many people and I got to meet Angela. I gave her a little present I had for her and she chatted with me for a little while. She said Lewis was in a meeting and that he would be out in an hour. Armed with that knowledge, I quickly got myself a drink (that Bahrain sun is quite hot!), found some shade and then watched for him again.
He came out. I wanted my banner signed, because more than a picture, I think interaction and autographs are better. I got out my banner, just approached and said “Hi Lewis”. He turned, looked at the banner my amazing friend Tania designed and said “Oh wow! I love this!” And then he looked at my hair and said “I love your hair” and to which I said “It’s your helmet!”. Yes, those were my legitimate first words to Sir Lewis Hamilton. Face palm. For context – I have purple hair and was wearing a bright yellow top.
Anyway, he signed my banner while I told him how inspirational he was, that my career is now in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, how I’ve made so many friends thanks to him and how much joy he brings to my life every day. He was SO sweet and listened so intently! It’s an indescribable feeling when Sir Lewis Hamilton pays full attention to you. He then said “That’s amazing, I’m so happy to hear that. We should get a picture!”
That was when I went into immediate panic because my phone was on the bench (about two meters away) as I was carrying the pen and banner. When I told him that, and he said “It’s okay, get it.” I mean. He actually waited while I ran to get my phone and then took a photo with me! At his suggestion! My mind was blown.
I experienced it and it still feel like it’s a dream! Who does that? Which superstar is this kind? To a random fan?
I was shaking so much that he actually told me to calm down. We took the picture and he was off. I was extremely lucky. My friends Bojana and Darko even took some amazing photos of me getting the banner signed and then taking the photo.
I calmed down, saw the picture and he looks like the Oxford Dictionary definition of perfect and I’m making a face because I was so overwhelmed!
I wanted another picture with him! This could not be my picture. Do I even try again? Use my birthday luck? I have “nothing ventured, nothing gained” tattooed on my shoulder, and it’s what I live my life by. So, I had to give it a shot.
The next time I got the chance to approach him was when he was going back to the hospitality centre from the garage after Free Practice. I had his gift (an Indian board game called Pagade that I used to play with my great-grandmother, my grandmother and now others in my family – I know he loves board games), gave it to him, quickly apologised saying that the picture earlier didn’t come out okay as I was so overwhelmed and asked if I could have another one. HE SAID YES! I placed the camera in front of our faces and he pointed the other way and said “That way, in the light.” We then turned around and took another photo.
Just writing this, I cannot believe it happened. I am stunned that I got not one, but two incredible interactions from him! I mean, what more could a fan ever want? I swear, if it wasn’t documented by other people too, I’d have thought I made it all up in my head, because no one could ever imagine such kindness, generosity and patience.
Immediately after that happened, my phone buzzed and it was my friend Iqrah saying “OMG Romy you were on TV! We saw you get your picture taken with Lewis”. I mean, what? While my friends Bojana and Darko caught my first interaction with photos, my second was caught by Sky Sports F1 on live TV and F1 Experiences (for their social media)! I cannot believe how this day went!
I am so grateful for my family, my friends and so many from Team LH, especially my friends who were in Bahrain and the Still We Raise crew (Ajla, Tania and Iqrah), for sending me so much positivity. I truly believe it’s because of that and my grandma looking out for me, that I could have been this lucky. I’m still over the moon, nothing has sunk in, I don’t know how to do normal life!
I hope everyone gets to interact with Lewis and sees what a genuinely kind and nice person he is. I’m so proud to be supporting such an inspirational person and change maker.
P.S. All of the Mercedes staff is also equally kind and generous with their time and knowledge. I had the best weekend overall!