You probably heard phrases like “It’s Hammertime” or “Get in there, Lewis” being uttered by Lewis Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington ‘Bono’ during F1 broadcasts. But who is ‘Bono’?
Lewis Hamilton’s desperate cry “Bono, my tyres are gone” has become an internet meme, as on more than one occasion it preceded Lewis setting another fastest lap. But while racing fans might find the message amusing, the man on the other end of Lewis Hamilton’s radio is definitely not laughing. Race Engineer Peter Bonnington, affectionately called ‘Bono’, is there for Lewis at all times, and has guided the seven-time Formula 1 champion to countless victories.
Bonnington’s first job in Formula 1 was as a data engineer at Jordan Grand Prix in the early 2000s. He then moved to the Honda F1 team and, as an understudy of race engineer Andrew Shovlin (current Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director), worked as Jenson Button’s performance engineer. When Honda F1 got bought out by Ross Brawn and became Brawn GP in 2009, Bono helped Button win his first (and only) drivers’ championship.
When Mercedes took over Brawn GP and turned it into its works team in 2010, Bonnington got the opportunity to work as Michael Schumacher‘s performance engineer. In 2011, after Michael’s race engineer Mark Slade left the team, Bono took over his position and worked with the seven-time champion until his retirement at the end of 2012.
After Schumacher’s departure, 2008 F1 champion Lewis Hamilton joined the team and Bonnington immediately got assigned as his senior race engineer. The rest, as they say, is history.
“The first time [Lewis] came to the factory, that’s the first time we met and the first time we started working [together],” Bono explains.
“It felt like he was a rock star walking in. Looking back at the pictures, you just think, ‘Wow, this is Lewis’.
“Michael was such a legend, a great driver to have worked with. And then Lewis comes along and you think, this is the next breed.
“He’s here and he’s the rock star – and I’m the one in charge.”
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As a senior race engineer, Bonnington is responsible for all trackside communications with Lewis, as well as with the team’s data analysts and mechanics, in order to achieve the best performance from the car and the driver. He is also responsible for analysing historical data to determine the initial set-up for the next race, managing vehicle mechanics, organizing the testing schedule and assuring compliance with regulations.
During his time with Lewis, Bono guided him to numerous victories and six of his seven world championships. He has been with Lewis through thick and thin and is there for him during every moment on the track.
“I’ve had Bono by my side my whole time here at this team, and you can hear our rapport when we’re in a race,” Hamilton said in 2019.
“Bono is fantastic at managing, because there is a lot of commotion going on on the wall, and everyone is saying tell him this or tell him that, and Bono knows what to filter.
“He is the best filter. He always comes across calm and cool and collected.”
Over the years Bono coined some of Formula 1’s most well-known catchphrases, such as “Get in there, Lewis”, said after Hamilton brings the car home in P1, and “It’s Hammertime”, said when it’s time to instruct Lewis to push hard. The origin of the second phrase was explained by Bonnington himself in 2020.
“You can’t just say, push, because, you don’t know how hard, do you want to put a number on it? Let’s just use a different language,” Bono said.
“So, for an all-out lap it turned out to be Hammertime. Lewis suggested ‘put the hammer down’ but I thought that doesn’t sound right.”
In 2021, the relationship between Bono and Lewis is as strong as ever, and there is no doubt that more success awaits the pair in the future. In Bonnington’s own words:
“We’ve grown up over these years since 2013. I guess I still considered myself quite a young engineer back in those days.
“Michael’s years gave me such a learning ground – wow, it was a very steep learning curve – but moving on with Lewis, even then I still didn’t feel like I was probably worthy of dealing already a world champ.
“But it’s just having the time with him and we’ve kept improving, chipping away, year on year, just trying to find what’s the next thing that we can learn. Where can we find that next bit of performance?
“He just embraces it, which is really great. It’s the thing that people probably don’t see but it’s just that ability to learn and soak up the next thing.”