‘Fantastic Ambassador’ Lewis Hamilton Deserves Knighthood, Says Damon Hill

  • F1 world champion is reportedly lined up for new year honour
  • ‘Lewis has always been breaking down barriers,’ says Hill
 Damon Hill, the 1996 F1 drivers’ champion, says seven-times title winner Lewis Hamilton is ‘using his fame for positive purposes’.
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Damon Hill, the 1996 F1 drivers’ champion, says seven-times title winner Lewis Hamilton is ‘using his fame for positive purposes’. Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

The former Formula One world champion Damon Hill believes a knighthood is an absolutely deserved honour for Lewis Hamilton. The British driver is to be knighted in this year’s new year honours list, according to the Sun. Hill has said if it is bestowed it will be recognition not only of Hamilton’s achievements on track but of his character and impact across the sport, where as a black driver he has been breaking down barriers since he began racing.

Not only has Hamilton made it to the very top of F1 but as the only black driver in the sport he has had an influence beyond his achievements on the track. Hill said: “Lewis has always been breaking down barriers, the moment he arrived in F1 or even in karting he was breaking barriers and challenging the status quo.

“The knighthood will be seen as recognition of not just his driving but also as a black driver that has bust another door open for anyone who is not white. He has destroyed the preconception that it can’t be done, that there is an area where you cannot achieve something because of the colour of your skin. He has totally destroyed that notion.”

Hamilton’s honour has yet to be officially confirmed but having secured this year’s world championship at the last round in Turkey, he claimed his seventh title and in doing so became the most successful F1 driver of all time. He has equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven championships but has the most race wins and pole positions, with 94 and 97 respectively.

Only three other F1 drivers have been knighted: Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Jackie Stewart.

This season Hamilton has also been forthright in his public commitment to equality, anti-racism and diversity. He has pushed F1 to pursue these aims and displayed personal commitment and character beyond the demands of driving. Hill believed the honour would only increase his ability to make a difference.

“It is a very rare thing in our sport to get a knighthood,” he said. “It is then also a recognition of his stance on equality, anti-racism and environmental issues. He is outspoken, he is playing his part and using his fame for positive purposes. He is a fantastic ambassador and having a knighthood will only increase his opportunities to do that work.”

Hamilton was awarded an MBE after he took his first title in 2008 for McLaren. He has been almost unbeatable in recent years, winning six titles with Mercedes since joined in 2013. Hill believed the scale of his success was also being acknowledged. “If you have to win more than anybody else in our sport to get a knighthood then that is a measure of how much that achievement has been recognised as exceptional,” he said.

It is believed Hamilton’s tax status may have been a hindrance to him not being knighted sooner. The British driver lives in Monaco but does pay tax in a number of countries where F1 takes him including the UK, where he has a home and where his contributions put him among the top 5,000 taxpayers.

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The government has come under pressure to acknowledge his achievements. The all-party parliamentary group for F1 wrote to Boris Johnson after Hamilton took his seventh title, calling for him to be honoured. The chair of Motorsport UK, David Richards, also wrote to the prime minister putting the case for Hamilton’s inclusion in the honours list.

The vice-chair of the F1 parliamentary group, Lord Hain, welcomed the decision, should it be confirmed. “Lewis is not just a serial champion, he is actually the biggest British sporting star in the world by far. It is long overdue,” he said. “The fact that his background is so humble, and the fact that he is black, just adds to his incredible achievement. He is a role model for young girls and boys whatever their backgrounds, whatever their colour, to be able to reach for the sky.”

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WHO IS LEWIS HAMILTON

Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton MBE HonFREng (born 7 January 1985) is a British racing driver who most recently competed in Formula One for Mercedes, having previously driven for McLaren. Hamilton has won a joint-record seven World Drivers’ Championship titles (tied with Michael Schumacher), while he holds the outright records for the most wins (95), pole positions (98) and podium finishes (165), amongst others.

Born and raised in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Hamilton enjoyed a successful ascent up the racing ladder and was signed to the McLaren young driver programme in 1998. This later resulted in a Formula One drive with McLaren in 2007, making Hamilton the first and only black driver to race in the sport, as of 2020.[note 2] That season, Hamilton set numerous records as he finished runner-up to Kimi Räikkönen by one point. The following season, he won his maiden title in dramatic fashion—making a crucial overtake on the last corner of the last lap in the last race of the season—to become the then-youngest Formula One World Champion in history. After four more years with McLaren, Hamilton signed with Mercedes in 2013.

Changes to the regulations for 2014 mandating the use of turbo-hybrid engines came at the start of a highly successful period for Hamilton, during which he has won six further World Championship titles. Hamilton won consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015 during an intense rivalry with teammate Nico Rosberg to match his hero Ayrton Senna‘s three World Championships. Following Rosberg’s retirement, Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel became Hamilton’s closest rival in two intense championship battles, and Hamilton twice overturned mid-season points deficits to claim consecutive titles for the second time in his career in 2017 and 2018. Hamilton won his third and fourth titles in a row in 2019 and 2020, respectively, equalling Schumacher’s record of seven drivers’ titles.

Described by the official Formula One website as “an inspirational role model and ideal ambassador for his profession”, Hamilton was listed in the 2020 issue of Time as one of the 100 most influential people globally. He has been credited with furthering Formula One’s global following by appealing to a broader audience outside the sport, in part due to his high-profile lifestyle, environmental and social activism and his exploits in music and fashion. A target of racist abuse throughout his career, Hamilton has been outspoken in his criticism of racial politics in Formula One as well as advocating for greater diversity in the sport.

Honours and achievements

Formula One

Other awards

Orders

Recognition

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Lewis Hamilton speaks out on Knighthood and declares ‘I am a massive royal fan!’

Lewis Hamilton is set to be knighted in the New Year’s Honours List after winning his seventh F1 world championship.

Lewis Hamilton would be honoured to be given a knighthood should he receive the offer. The Mercedes driver, speaking ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, admits he would never turn down the Royal family if he was included on the New Year’s Honours List.

Hamilton has made history this season in matching Michael Schumacher’s seven world championships in Formula One.

The Briton has dominated the sport in 2020, securing the title with three races remaining.

Hamilton’s closest rival and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas has had no answer for the 35-year-old.

And the former McLaren driver has reacted to the news he could become Sir Lewis Hamilton in the New Year.

“It is very surreal, when you grew up watching the news like everyone else, hearing your name in the House of Lords or the House of Commons or in Parliament.

“It is very very surreal to hear that with all the things going on in the world that they have a moment and acknowledge the work that I have done.

“As far as I am aware, there is a lot of talk and I have not really thought a lot about it, but it would be an incredible honour.

“There is no greater honour that your country recognising you and honouring you with such an award.”

Lewis Hamilton won his seventh F1 world championship this season
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