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Formula 1

‘Sir Lewis Hamilton’ – F1 world champion knighted

by Matt Beer
4 min read

Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton will receive a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours list for his services to motorsport.

Hamilton became the most successful driver in F1 history after matching Michael Schumacher’s championship record and eclipsing his long-standing tally of race wins in 2020.

He has dovetailed his unprecedented achievements with a sustained and determined campaign for greater diversity, inclusion and opportunities in F1, the wider motorsport world, and in everyday life.

“Lewis is one of the very greatest racing drivers of all time and the most successful British sportsperson of his era,” said his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

“Around the world, he has long been recognised for his sporting achievement; this year, he combined his excellence on the track with a powerful voice to fight discrimination. In every sense, he led the way in 2020.

“The UK can be very proud to have a champion and ambassador of the calibre of Sir Lewis Hamilton.”

Hamilton made his F1 debut in 2007, becoming the championship’s first black driver in the process.

This year, he has almost single-handedly encouraged F1 to engage in global anti-racism, anti-discrimination and pro-diversity conversations, sparking the championship’s own initiatives and encouraging his Mercedes team to change to an all-black livery and launch a detailed company review to improve its own practices.

He also launched a commission in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering to uncover the root causes of motorsport’s lack of diversity, and suggest ways that can be tackled in the future.

Hamilton has been linked with a knighthood for several years, since he became Britain’s most successful F1 driver ever, and his off-track pursuits and the escalation of his sport-defining achievements have now convinced the UK government to push his cause harder.

Though Hamilton has attracted consistent criticism whenever linked to a ‘conventional’ nomination, because he lives in tax-free Monaco, it has often been claimed he is one of the UK’s top tax-payers.

Lewis Hamilton F1 Mercedes 2020

It has been reported that to avoid any potential controversy over how closely his tax affairs can be vetted, his knighthood nomination comes via the ‘Diplomatic and Overseas’ New Year’s Honours list, which “recognises people who have given exceptional service to the UK abroad and internationally”.

If he accepts the honour, Hamilton will join British F1 drivers Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss and Australian Jack Brabham in being knighted.

Though a very small percentage decline such honours, from personal reasons regarding the attention it would bring to opposing the fundamental link it represents to Britain’s imperial past, Hamilton had indicated recently he would accept it.

“I would never ever turn down the royal family,” he said in Bahrain.

“I don’t look at myself as an unsung hero. I’ve not saved anybody” :: Lewis Hamilton

“I’ve grown up in the UK an avid fan of them. It would be an incredible honour.

“There’s no greater honour, I think, than your country recognising you and honouring you with such an award.”

Hamilton has regularly been asked about the prospect of a knighthood and his view has always been consistent.

He even noted, semi-jokingly after being asked about a potential knighthood when he clinched his seventh world title in Turkey, that “every year we talk about this and I get the questions and I don’t really have anything different to say!”.

Though he has never actively pursued one or championed his own cause, he has always acknowledged he would be happy and humbled to receive one.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes F1 2020

In Turkey, he said that he did not view himself as in the same bracket as others who have received the honour, but is proud to race under the British flag.

Hamilton said in November: “When I think about that honour, I think about people like my grandad who served in the war, I think about Sir Captain Tom who got knighted and waited a hundred years for that incredible honour, the people that are running hospitals, the nurses and doctors who are saving lives during the hardest time ever.

“I think about those unsung heroes and I don’t look at myself as an unsung hero. I’ve not saved anybody.

“It is an incredible honour that a small group of people have had bestowed upon them.

“All I can say is that hearing the national anthem I’m very, very proud. I am a very proud Brit and this really is the most special moment to be able to be up there representing a nation.

“Having the flag over your head, over number one, that is such an incredible honour.”

Lewis Hamilton F1 Mercedes 2020

As Hamilton revealed in a recent conversation The Race was part of, personal accolades – even something as rare and culturally significant as a knighthood – mean “nothing” to him if he does not use his platform to benefit others.

He has become increasingly insistent through 2020 that his on-track success in F1 and the privilege he enjoys as a result of it must also be used to enact meaningful, lasting change in problem areas within the championship and outside it.

Even in Turkey, when he was responding to the question about the knighthood, Hamilton was adamant that his priorities were bigger, stating “I’ve got a lot of work to do” and so does F1.

“This year we’ve had this awakening and people hopefully are starting to be held accountable, and holding themselves accountable, and realising that’s actually not a really bad thing,” he said.

“It just means we’ve got to work harder, we’ve got to not be so stubborn, open our minds up and educate ourselves a bit better so we can push for a more equal world.

“I’m not going to stop fighting for that.”

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