I’m a three-time Formula One World Champion and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my dad, there’s no question about that. Right from the start, he was the ‘mechanic’ of our family. The person you could always rely on to fix any problem, give good guidance, and set us on the right track. We struggled, life wasn’t easy. He didn’t have all the luxury ‘tools’ that some parents have today, it didn’t matter because right from when I was little he gave me all the love, memorable experiences, and care that I could have wished for.
I’ll remain forever grateful to him for what he did for me in my earliest moments of life. Not only because it helped my immediate confidence, health, happiness, and wellbeing, but because it laid the foundation for my future successes. At the time of course, I didn’t realize that the experiences my dad gave me would pave the way for who I am today. Recently through my work with UNICEF, I have come to understand much more about how the environment my father created for me all those years ago has had a much bigger impact on my life than I could imagine.
When I was a young boy, my dad helped me realize what I wanted from life. He was devoted. He made sure I felt safe. He would play with me, joke around, and race me to the car in the car park. All of these things that parents do for their young kids help their brains develop. He was the one who fueled my dreams and never ceased to help me reach my goals. He worked multiple jobs to put food on the table, but he never missed an opportunity to spend time with me, to share a meal, or teach me how an engine works. He remains my greatest role model and to this day, I have taken on his work ethic. Not only in karting and my racing career, but throughout my life, my dad has never failed to be there for me, alongside my mum and step-mum as well, who supported my dad and me at every race, through all ups and downs. From what I have seen, parenting is the hardest job in the world, and I want all parents everywhere to be supported so they have the time, tools and knowledge they need to give their children these critical experiences in childhood that shape their futures, just like my dad did.
Research suggests that when children positively interact with their fathers, they have better psychological health, self-esteem and life-satisfaction in the long-term. We can help every father across the globe to be there for their kids by breaking down the employment and societal obstacles that deprive fathers – and mothers – of precious time and experiences with their young children. This weekend is all about celebrating dads who are striving to do their best for their kids and highlight the importance of love, play, protection and good nutrition for the healthy development of young children’s brains. The stronger the structure of the brain, the better the child will learn, and the happier, healthier and more productive they will be.
Today, we have the science at our fingertips, telling us that healthy brain development in babies and young children relies as much upon their environments and experiences in early life as much as their DNA. Let’s come together and support the parents of the world by providing them with the tools necessary to engineer a stronger, healthier path for our future and the children that will create it.