LONDON (Reuters) – Seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was awarded a knighthood in the UK New Year’s honours list published on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old this year became the most successful F1 driver of all time after equalling Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles and beating the German’s 91 race wins.
The sport’s only Black driver, who grew up in social housing as the grandson of immigrants from the Caribbean, Hamilton has also used his profile to campaign for diversity and speak out against racial injustice.
The Monaco resident’s presence on the overseas and international list, rather than a main one with many rewarded for service to public health in a pandemic, was seen as a reflection of his tax status.
The Daily Mail newspaper said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had “bent the rules” to get around the tax requirements for domestic awards.
The citation referred to Hamilton’s sporting record and his “charitable and philanthropic contributions in the UK and overseas”.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins, famed for his work on movies such as “1917”, “Shawshank Redemption” and “Skyfall”, was also knighted on the same overseas list.
Hamilton’s supporters have long felt his achievements have not been sufficiently recognised at home and they expressed delight at the Mercedes driver joining a select group of sporting sirs.
“Lewis is a true giant of our sport and his influence is huge both in and out of a car,” said newly-appointed Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali, a former Ferrari team principal.
“What he has achieved is phenomenal with still more to come.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff hailed Hamilton, who won his first title with McLaren in 2008, as the most successful British sportsperson of his era.
The knighthood, he added, showed that Hamilton — often seen as a polarising figure — was “now receiving the recognition he has earned during a career of unparalleled success in motorsport”.
“The UK can be very proud to have a champion and ambassador of the calibre of Sir Lewis Hamilton,” added the Austrian.
Hamilton is the fourth F1 driver to be knighted after the late Australian Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and triple champion Jackie Stewart and the only one to have received the award while still racing.
Cycling’s Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres gold medallist Mo Farah, twice Wimbledon tennis champion Andy Murray and England cricketer Alastair Cook have also been knighted as active sportsmen.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)