F1 Champ Lewis Hamilton Was Almost A Pilot In ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Hamilton told Tom Cruise, “Dude, if you ever do ‘Top Gun 2,’ I will even be a janitor—just let me be in it.’”

(Kym Illman/Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton’s need for speed is so strong, it almost got him a fighter pilot part in 2022’s Top Gun: Maverick.

That’s one of the many fascinating reveals in GQ’s March/April 2024 cover story on the winningest driver in F1 history. And while Hamilton’s racing career is of course a topic of discussion, much of the interview deals with 39-year-old, seven-time champ’s pursuits off of the grid, namely fashion and film.

His new production company, Dawn Apollo Films, is currently working alongside the team that made Top Gun: Maverick, including director Joseph Kosinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, to create what aims to be the realest and best racing movie of all time. Details are scant, but Brad Pitt is expected to star—he was spotted wearing an F1 racing kit as cameras rolled on a crowd exceeding 150,000 at the 2023 British Grand Prix.

But Hamilton’s origin story in Hollywood goes all the way back to 2014, when Days of Thunder star and avid motorsports fan Tom Cruise invited the driver to the set of his 2014 movie, Edge of Tomorrow. A friendship formed, and at dinner one night, Hamilton showed Cruise his watch with a Top Gun logo on it (The timepiece was likely an IWC, a brand with which both Hamilton and the Top Gun franchise have collaborated many times.)

“I said, ‘Dude, if you ever do Top Gun 2, I will even be a janitor—just let me be in it.’” This was well before a Top Gun sequel had been formally announced, but a few years later, when Top Gun: Maverick was greenlit, Cruise remembered Hamilton’s request. According to GQ, Cruise put Hamilton in touch with Kosinski, who offered him the role of a pilot. Unfortunately, Hamilton was midway through a heated battle for the 2018 F1 title with Sebastian Vettel and declined the offer.

“Firstly, I hadn’t even had, like, an acting lesson,” he says. “And I don’t want to be the one that lets this movie down. And then secondly, I just really didn’t have the time to dedicate to it. I remember having to tell Joe and Tom—and it broke my heart. And then I regretted it, naturally, when they show me the movie and it’s: It could’ve been me!

Hamilton couldn’t have regretted the decision too much, as he did end up winning his fifth F1 title at the conclusion of that season. A couple of years later, Hamilton was again speaking with Kosinski, this time alongside Bruckheimer about getting involved in an ambitious F1 movie.

“My point was: Guys, this movie needs to be so authentic. There’s two different fan groups that we have—like, the old originals, who from the day they’re born hearing the Grand Prix music every weekend and watching with their families, to the new generation that just learned about it today through [Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive].”

Given that desire to get things right for the yet-titled racing movie, coupled with the talent aboard, hopes are high that it will achieve the goals that Hamilton has set forth.

And if the champ has any leading-man ambitions, he’s well-primed for physically demanding action roles. Hamilton is of course an exceptional athlete, but he also knows his way around a firearm—just see the above video, in which he blazes through two-gun target practice at Taran Tactical, the same California-based gunsmith and private shooting range where Keanu Reeves trained for John Wick.

Head to GQ’s website to read the full cover story.