Lewis Hamilton awarded knighthood after pressure on the Prime Minister
Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has finally been given a knighthood in the New Year honours list following pressure on the Prime Minister to approve the accolade.
Despite being one of the UK’s most successful sportsmen Hamilton – who matched Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles in 2020 and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year for a second time – had previously been overlooked, reportedly due to his tax affairs.
But in November, Motorsport UK and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Formula One wrote to the PM saying it would be “totally wrong” to deny Hamilton a knighthood because his “tax status has been misunderstood”.
The 35-year-old, who was brought up on a council estate in Stevenage, credited his success in 2020 to a new determination inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
He took the knee on the grid and wore anti-racism slogans during the season, sentiments that weren’t popular with some of his fellow drivers.
Speaking on Boxing Day, he said: “It was a different drive than what I’ve had in me in the past, to get to the end of those races first so that I could utilise that platform (for Black Lives Matter) and shine the light as bright as possible.”
Hamilton has not resided permanently in the UK since 2007, and his knighthood was included on the Diplomatic and Overseas List.
He initially moved to Switzerland and then on to Monaco, both considered tax havens, though he has defended the amount of tax he pays in the UK.
In an interview with the Sunday Times in 2017, he said: “What people don’t realise is that I pay tax here, but I don’t earn all my money here.
“I race in 19 different countries, so I earn my money in 20 different places and I pay tax in several different places, and I pay a lot here as well.
“I am contributing to the country and, not only that, I help keep a team of more than 1,000 people employed. I am part of a much bigger picture.”
Hamilton built his reputation as a prodigious junior karter, and made his F1 debut in 2007 with McLaren.
His maiden title was won with that team too in 2008 but Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull then took centre stage, before a move to Mercedes for the 2013 season changed everything.
He won the world championship in 2014 and 2015, lost out to Nico Rosberg in 2016 but has dominated ever since, with 2020 his fourth title in a row.
The magnificent seven was completed in Turkey in November, and he won 11 races in the 2020 season in all.
He surpassed Schumacher’s record of 91 race wins with his triumph in Portugal in October.
Hamilton has used his winning platform to show his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, with protests spreading around the world following the death of George Floyd in police custody in the US in May.
Asked on Radio 4 by Professor David Olusoga if he had been concerned about the response to his stance, Hamilton replied: “There is no way that I could stay silent. And once I said that to myself, I didn’t hold any fear.”
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