If you’re reasonably new to F1 you’ve probably seen this woman on tv and wondered who she is? what does she do? This is Angela Cullen – technically she’s Lewis Hamilton’s physiotherapist, but in essence she’s so much more. I’ve known Angela for about six years now and I love her enthusiasm and her pizzazz and in this video you’re going to learn a whole lot more about this intriguing New Zealander.
As Lewis Hamilton’s physiotherapist, Angela is by Lewis’ side almost every minute of a four day race weekend. She’s a new Zealander, stands around five foot two inches and this is the first picture I took of her back in 2017 at the Australian grand prix, that was her third year working with Lewis and her second year with him at the track.
So, what’s she like? I love her! With Angela you can see very clearly that she loves what she does, and she’s not frightened to show her enthusiasm, especially when it comes to spending time with fans and trust me she has plenty of them. She reminds me a little bit of IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward, not too cool to enjoy the whole experience. I don’t doubt that Netflix has played a big role in her rise in popularity, she’s seen often on that show because she’s almost always in the background with Lewis.
So, what does a race weekend look like for Angela? On most days she’ll drive Lewis and Lewis’ bodyguard Lloyd to the track and drop the pair off at a gate and then park the car. In some instances, she’ll leave the car at the swipe gates, as was the case in Imola earlier this year and she walks in with Lewis and then comes back and parks it in the driver’s car park.
A few times a year she’ll ride with him on his motorbike at tracks like Monaco and when she does walk in with Lewis she’ll almost certainly swipe him through the paddock entry swipe gate with his pass – why? Well Lewis is the big show and when he walks in he wants to make sure that the shots and the vision of him are clean, so at best there’ll be a phone in his hand and certainly no pass visible. I’m not sure I’ve seen any other trainers do that for their driver, so that might be a special Angela and Lewis thing.
Prior to a practice session, Angela preps all of his gear, things like a race helmet, suit, balaclava, gloves, shoes, etc and then she’ll head to the garage to await his arrival, he normally gets dressed in the motorhome. Unlike many of the drivers, there’s very little time between Lewis lobbing into the garage and him getting into the car, Angela oversees that entry into the car and then stands ready to cool him on hot days and get him anything he needs, every trainer does this.
After qualification, Angela will meet Lewis in parc ferme if he’s in the top three or at the Mercedes garage or the back of the FIA garage if he’s not, there she’ll have a towel, a drink and an IWC watch ready for him.
On race day, after he’s strapped into the car and headed out on track, Angela will head to the grid and await his arrival, there she swaps his balaclava and helmet for a cap before heading back to the Mercedes garage with Lewis for a pre-race toilet stop. The pair will then walk back to the grid for the national anthem, often jumping the fence. After Lewis is safely strapped into the car Angela heads back to the garage, where she watches the race from and at all times she’s monitoring the chat between Lewis and the pit wall, so she’s ready for anything he might need when he comes in for a pit stop.
Post-race it’s much the same as after qualifying and if he’s on the podium, Angela will be waiting for him behind the parc ferme barriers and normally gets a hug from the seven-time world champion as he works his way around the team. You’ll often see Angela in the team celebration pics given that she is such an integral part of the Mercedes inner circle and so much so, that she has “loyalty” tattooed on her arm, the same as Lewis and other members of the Mercedes inner circle.
When Lewis has had a bad race she’s there at the back of the FIA garage to escort him and I really love this photo I took in Germany, because it shows the sort of care that she has for her driver, as she has her hand in the small of Lewis’ back as she leads him back to the motor home.
Does she stay in the same hotels as Lewis? Well sometimes, but it’s not mandatory and given that Lewis spends quite a number of races in a motorhome around the track she would obviously have different accommodation then.
The first time you would’ve seen Angela in the paddock was back in 2016. how did she get the gig? Well, she works with a company called Hintsa, which provides trainers to almost all of the f1 drivers. Angela’s been in the sports field for some 27 years and now in her 40’s she’s still looking fit and trim and has lost none of the enthusiasm required for such a hectic lifestyle. She’s the only female trainer in the paddock she also initiated the move to veganism for Lewis.
Last year she spent 280 days away from home, I know what that’s like, I did 286 and it is a tough grind but what other roles does she take on? Well it’s a long list and it includes being his valet, his PA, his driver performance coach, confidant, friend, bodyguard and training partner; her role is very much to remove all of the distractions for Lewis over a race weekend so that he can focus solely on the driving.
Occasionally I’ll see her walking Lewis’s dog roscoe at the track, she loves that role and on top of that she’s in charge of his mental health, sleep, recovery, hydration and this must surely be the biggest drink bottle in the paddock, along with his nutrition.
On the days after a race you’ll find the pair doing recovery sessions, engaging in things like surfing, skydiving, even jet skiing. These are important in not only keeping Lewis fit and healthy, but also engaged – after all the travel schedule drivers face is a tough grind and unlike crew, they can’t take a weekend off here and there, they have to be at every single race.
Does she do all of Lewis’ physical training? They certainly train together but she doesn’t call herself his trainer, as an example the pair might decide they want to do kickboxing for a week, in which case Angela would then have to find a kickboxing instructor suitably qualified to run those sessions at the track.
I see very little down time for Angela, she’ll be running helmets backwards and forwards to the bell helmet man, she’ll be ensuring all his equipment’s ready, organising his drinks and meals and holding an umbrella for the brit in the rain or the heat. Now at this point I must say I’m always rather bemused when I see people carry on on social media about “why is he making her carry the umbrella, why doesn’t he carry his own bag”, that’s Angela’s role, that’s what she does, they’re not on a date, every trainer of every other F1 driver does this exact role, but they’re males so people don’t get up in arms and Angela has many times openly admitted she’s paid to do these sort of things.
Come time for Lewis to head to the garage and often he’ll head off on his scooter leaving Angela to walk or run behind and once again we get these comments, “why doesn’t he wait for her?”, if he waited for her he would get besieged by autograph hunters. That said she is handy on a scooter as I found out in Baku a couple of years ago and earlier this year. She gets along well with Lewis’s PR officer rosa, I catch them chatting from time to time.
She’s obviously well known in the paddock and on this occasion she photobombed a facetime call Sebastian Vettel was making to the coach of a German football team in Monaco earlier this year.
She’s definitely the closest person to Lewis Hamilton at the track and in Mexico 2018, I followed Angela out on the track post-race after Lewis had wrapped up the 2018 drivers’ championship – he just completed his media interview and the first thing he said was “where’s Angela” she is his go-to person.
Is she the only female trainer in the paddock? Yes! she’s a ball of energy and I can’t remember seeing her anything but happy at the track. So what does the future hold for her? Well, I think Lewis has at least another year in him so expect to see her as a regular feature in the f1 paddock.