IMOLA, Italy (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton spoke on Friday of his excitement in joining a bid to buy Premier League side Chelsea, saying he was a lifelong soccer fan who had once wanted to be a professional player and whose sister forced him to support Arsenal as a kid.
The seven-times Formula One world champion told reporters at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that he had wanted to try out for fourth tier side Stevenage Borough before motor racing took over his life.
The Briton and tennis great Serena Williams have joined former Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton’s consortium, which also includes World Athletics President Sebastian Coe and other wealthy investors, in bidding for the West Londoners.
Hamilton said it was “one of the greatest opportunities” and he wanted to help Chelsea and the local community move on from years of ownership by now-sanctioned Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
“When I was young, around the corner from where I lived I used to play football with all the kids and I really wanted to fit in,” said the Mercedes driver.
“I remember switching between the teams and getting it wrong, and my sister Sam punching me several times in the arm, basically beating me and saying you have to support Arsenal.”
Hamilton said his uncle Terry was a big Chelsea fan, however, and they had been to plenty of games between the two sides.
The Briton also owns a luxury property near the Chelsea ground that he is renovating.
Hamilton’s interest in Chelsea was mocked on Thursday by Red Bull’s reigning world champion Max Verstappen, who found it a strange move for an Arsenal supporter.
“Ultimately I’m a sporting fan,” said Hamilton, who was at school with former Manchester United and England defender Ashley Young.
“It’s the biggest sport in the world and Chelsea is one of the biggest clubs and most successful.”
Hamilton said he had been approached by Broughton and had spoken to Williams, a long-standing friend, about the opportunity.
“We are constantly in touch… we spoke about it, she asked me what my thoughts were on it and I told her I’m going to be a part of it and she was excited to join,” he added.
The Briton said he saw the bid as a business venture, one of several he has made, but also one that chimed with his other activities and passions including promoting diversity and inclusivity.
“At the moment my primary focus is continuing in Formula One… but there’s lots of opportunities to get more and more involved over time, which is super-exciting,” said Formula One’s only Black driver.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)