It’s been pretty hard to miss the connection between GT Sport and Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton’s brand logo appears in the game’s Brand Central, and you’ll see the British F1 World Champion’s face — or car — frequently on the main menu wallpapers.
But how did this collaboration between Hamilton and Gran Turismo come about? We were able to ask Kazunori Yamauchi about it when we met up with him recently.
“We first received contact from Lewis Hamilton, who said he wanted to work with us,” explained Yamauchi.
“Lewis is a driver that I have a really high respect for. He has a ‘bad boy’ persona. On the surface, he has that facet about him, but he’s there because of incredible effort on his part and in a massive industry like Formula 1, there are things that an individual can’t really do.”
That persona certainly doesn’t do Hamilton any favors at times, but Yamauchi thinks it’s part of his charm.
“I can tell that in that environment, he is always fighting for his position,” commented Yamauchi. “It is almost like going up against the entire F1 industry. Seeing his racing on the track, and seeing him make comments after the race, although he has that bad boy persona, his races are always fair.
“I could imagine what sort of motive he had at that time, so I had this conviction that we would be able to do really good work with him.”
According to Yamauchi, the working relationship between the two began with a trip to China:
“I flew to Shanghai and we took a PS4 with Gran Turismo Sport to show him the game in its development stage. I felt that the moment that I met him, in the first ten minutes or so, and he was someone who really played a lot of Gran Turismo as a kid. He was playing it a lot.
“It was a part of his relationship with Gran Turismo that made me think that he would be a great mentor, not only as a driving instructor, but as a mentor for life itself.”
That seems like rather a bold statement, given that Hamilton leads a life few can afford to follow. However, Yamauchi backs it up by referring to Hamilton’s attitude to life:
“He is a person who is very interested in technology, and he is also really into photography and music as well. He learned how to play piano from Lang Lang. He’s not satisfied with just being an F1 driver; he wants to do everything. And he spends a lot of effort in everything that he does and he truly believes that he can do it.
Although Hamilton’s racing skills are pretty self-evidence, it’s clearly not just his on-track ability that attracted Yamauchi to the idea of a partnership.
“With Gran Turismo Sport, we are starting a sport,” he explains. “When you hear ‘sport’, some people will just think about it as a business, but sport is something in which an individual has the chance to shine through. That is the great thing about sports.
“If we can share not just his driving but his outlook on life and share his values with the players of Gran Turismo, there would be value in that.”