The last place you might expect to find six-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton at the end of his season is another pit-garage.
It’s fair to say the ultra-talented Brit has always defied convention however, and anyone in the pitlane at the Spanish Jerez circuit in December 2018 would have found something familiar about Lewis quietly filling fuel jugs and putting on tyre warmers. A motorsport enthusiast through and through, the world champion’s last two winter breaks have seen him take to the track on two wheels with his own Yamaha R1s.
Built and run by UK-based Crescent Yamaha, the team behind the PATA Yamaha World Superbike squad, Lewis’ twin R1s started life as standard models but have been prepared to substantially higher performance levels. The F1 star’s relationship with Crescent Yamaha began in 2018 with two stock R1s prepared by the British racing outfit using parts that are available for general purchase. Sporting a host of GYTR (Genuine Yamaha Technology Racing) electronics and engine components, Öhlins suspension, Akrapovic exhaust system and now updated to 2020 specification, the bikes are near-World Superbike chassis standards, making them formidable track day weapons.
Lewis’ first track experience with his new Yamahas was in December of that year at Jerez, where he rode with PATA Yamaha riders Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes. Bringing his focused, data-driven approach to two wheels, Lewis impressed Crescent Yamaha Team Principal Paul Denning who applauded his ability to learn quickly from the SBK riders and willingness to push himself to (and on occasion beyond) the limit, despite extremely limited experience of racing motorcycles. Another impressive factor is Lewis’ clear rate of progress with every day spent on the bikes – evidenced by his much-improved riding style and performance both on his own R1s and Valentino Rossi’s Factory YZR-M1 MotoGP machine at Valencia, in December 2019.
Some of Lewis’ closest and most trusted F1 colleagues also enjoy their bikes on track; his manager Marc Hynes rides his own R1-M as frequently as possible, often alongside James Vowles, Chief Strategist of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, and Pete Bonnington, Lewis’ race engineer. Due to the busy F1 schedule and his responsibilities to his team , Lewis elects only to ride once the race season has finished, when he can simply enjoy himself as “one of the lads” and get stuck into his riding away from the buzz and hype of the F1 paddock