Hamilton explains how he came up with his signature “hammer time” radio call

2022 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton has explained how his team’s signature “hammer time” radio message originally came about through an exchange with his race engineer Peter Bonnington.

Bonnington – ‘Bono’ – has been Hamilton’s race engineer since the driver joined Mercedes in 2013. During his title-winning 2014 campaign Bonnington’s use of the phrase “hammer time” as an instruction for Hamilton to be on full attack became a regular feature of their radio chatter.

It remained a frequently heard radio message in the subsequent years as Hamilton continued to win races and titles. But it has been heard less frequently during 2022 as Mercedes’ slump in form left them out of contention for victories for much of the year.

But the “hammer time” call was heard once again at the recent United States Grand Prix as Hamilton pursued eventual race winner Max Verstappen.

The expression comes from MC Hammer’s 1990 hip-hop track ‘U Can’t Touch This’. Hamilton recalled how he came up with the idea to use it as Bonnington’s signal for Hamilton to push to the maximum.

“I think I came up with hammer time,” he said. “Because there was a point where he was like ‘now it’s time to push’. And I got frustrated with him, because I’m like ‘dude, I’m already pushing’. But I was like, if you’re trying to signify that now’s the time to go all-out, use everything you have, I said ‘just tell me it’s hammer time’.

Since they teams up at Mercedes together, Hamilton and Bonnington have delivered a total of six world championship titles.

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“I’m incredibly grateful for Bono,” said Hamilton. “I’ve had an amazing journey with him.

‘Bono’ is “one of few people who can put up with me” – Hamilton
“I think we’ve got one of the longest, if not longest standing driver-engineer partnerships that there’s been, and he’s been hugely integral to my success. We’ve had an amazing journey together, we’ve supported each other on and off track through good and bad times.”

Hamilton describes Bonnington as one of few people who’s able to put up with him, along with his pet dog Roscoe.

“I love working with Bono, he’s like a brother to me – a brother from another mother. I think he’s probably one of the few people that can truly stand me, I would say, on the good and bad days, except for Roscoe.

“What he is able to do, how calm he is able to be throughout the race, and how he’s able to help guide and help me navigate through a race, I don’t think there’s many people that could do that.”

Their partnership will continue into an 11th season next year, and Hamilton plans to be on the Formula 1 grid longer than that.

Hamilton’s ‘Hammer time’ messages during United States GP

Lap: 12/56
BonningtonSo Verstappen 42.6 434.LambiaseMax just mind that single bump on the run down to turn 12, try to stay right. Gap 4.3.
HamiltonHow’s my pace otherwise?LambiaseLewis was just told to push.
BonningtonLewis it’s Hammer time
BonningtonBox. Box. Box. Box. Box.
Lap: 13/56
BonningtonWe go strat mode four, start four. So you’re all clear on exit, four behind to Bottas.LambiaseOkay. So Hamilton is in, Max.
BonningtonSo this is out-lap critical.VerstappenWhat do you want me to do?
BonningtonSo Verstappen in.LambiaseFree to push.
BonningtonSo clean stop for Verstappen.LambiaseBox and pit confirm, Max. Box, pit confirm.
LambiaseStrat 12 in pit lane.

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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  • 23 comments on “Hamilton explains how he came up with his signature “hammer time” radio call”

    1. Yes, this definitely needed explaining :D

    2. I always thought it had something to do with “Hammering” Hank Aaron. Lewis drives car 44, which was Hank’s jersey number when he played.

    3. MC Hammer was one of the biggest acts of the early 90s and this is his most famous song.
      Only people living in a cardboard box would need an explanation.

      1. Well, it is entirely possible to watch F1 today without having been alive in the early ’90s (yes, realizing that scares me, too).

        Or, for some of us, to have stopped following developments in popular music sometime shortly after Springsteen releasing “Nebraska” ….

        (not that wondering about the origin of “Hammer Time” has in any way kept me awake at night)

      2. Not all of us listen to that kind of music, I had no idea (not that it matters, a bit too soapy kind of an article, but here we are anyway). Strangely enough, people still find things to argue about.

      3. CARDBOARD box?

        Eh, luxury lad.

        When I wanted to go faster I had to get out and lick the track clean AND I was my own race engineer!

      4. Everybody seems to remember “U can’t touch this” (M.C. Hammer 1990) but if you don’t know “Superfreak” (Rick James 1981) you are in for a surprise

        1. Or watch this pretty aggressive Pepsi Commercial

    4. Phrases to trigger certain behaviour are taught in Secrets of Speed by Ross Bentley, a book I’d recommend to anyone doing any kind of performance driving.

    5. The fact that some people needed to be told where the phrase – “Hammertime” – comes from makes me feel really old :(

      As an interesting side note.
      MC Hammer could be viewed as a classic example of how fame and fortune can destroy a Celebrity if they let it go to their head.
      He went from being at the top of his industry, making insane amounts of money, to being a bankrupt felon working as a telephone salesman.

      Fortunately Lewis has Bono and Roscoe to keep him in check ;)

      Beware going into the music biz Lewis!

      1. The fact that some people needed to be told where the phrase – “Hammertime” – comes from makes me feel really old :(

        Being a “‘hip’ sorta guy” I keep abreast of the new music fashions ;)

        1. Inserting “Baggy Trousers” into the conversation…

      2. FAke news..
        For information closer to the truth, try..

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MC_Hammer#Personal_life

    6. While the younger audience (me included) immediately understood the meaning referring to the chorus “Stop! It’s hammertime.” referring both to the fact that they’re about to stop and that Lewis should push, I felt that the commentators struggled to grasp the concept as late as this season, even trying to come up with alternative interpretations, creating mild metahumour in the process. The song, which is a total banger by the way, may be dated, however thanks to its internet meme status it remains relevant.
      Reading the headline made me cringe a bit, but I guess I can’t be too angry at journalists trying to bring the community together by explaining a cultural reference that might be lost on some due to cultural differences.

      1. There’s also a reference to this in warcraft 3, one of my favourite games (strategy)! The gryphon rider, the strongest aerial unit for the humans, when you send it to attack, occasionally says “it’s hammer time!”.

    7. What I could really do with an explanation for, is what the hell “Ham til I die” means? He’ll always be Ham-ilton? Riiiiight. Got ya.

      There’s a Bill Bailey joke about The Killers lyric, “I’ve got soul but I’m not a solider”.

      They both belong in the same category.

    8. You know that wise observation which states that if the only tool at your disposal is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail? Well, it’s Hammer Time.

    9. I’d always assumed this was taken from “Days of Thunder”. They talk about “dropping the hammer” a few times in that film.

      1. @geemac It always evoked the Cole Trickle memory for me as well. Time to give it everything it’s got. He did get to do a sponsor day in Tony Stewart’s Cup car back in 2011, it’s certainly possible “dropping the hammer” was a phrase uttered that day…

    10. The MC Hammer song is not one of my favourites. I had always assumed though that this phrase came from this song. I just assumed that it must be one that Lewis or Bono liked so they decided to use ‘Hammer time’ as a convenient, but slightly coded message.

    11. Ehhh… I remember hammer was always a word for pushing, even before then. Rubens used to do it with Jock, although Jock used to say “bring down the hammer” instead of “hammer time”

    12. Ifbthere is no news, or no interesting topic, there is nothing wrong with not posting anything…. or creating your own content, research or whatever. This non-item is the worst thing …

    Comments are closed.