SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Formula One’s seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton said on Wednesday he wanted to spend more time in Brazil and indicated his approval of a bid to make him an honorary citizen.
The Briton, knighted by his own country, was in Sao Paulo to deliver a keynote speech at an event focused on business and digital transformation.
Previous keynote speakers at the VTEX Day event include former U.S. president Barack Obama, British entrepreneur Richard Branson and former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
“I want to spend more time here in Brazil…It is such a beautiful culture. I’ve only been to Rio and Sao Paulo, but I want to come back for Christmas, New Year or something,” Hamilton said.
“(Brazilian soccer international) Neymar invites me every year, and (pro surfer) Gabriel (Medina) invites me every year, but I never had the chance…I’m waiting for my Brazilian passport.”
A bill to make the 37-year-old an honorary citizen is pending in the lower house of the Brazilian parliament but has yet to be voted on.
The move was proposed by congressman Andre Figueiredo after last year’s Brazilian GP, at which Hamilton unfurled the Brazilian flag after winning at Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit.
The crowd chanted his name along with that of late triple world champion Ayrton Senna, a national hero and Sao Paulo native who died at Imola in 1994.
The Briton, the most successful driver in the history of the sport who has always held up Senna as his boyhood idol, later carried the flag onto the podium to an ovation from the fans.
Presidential hopeful Ciro Gomes, a member of Figueiredo’s PDT party, backed the honorary citizenship for the Mercedes driver.
“Hamilton, you already live in our hearts. With the honorary citizenship, you will be even closer to us,” he said on Twitter after Hamilton posted a picture of himself with the Brazilian flag above a headline about the initiative.
“I’d be honoured,” said the Briton on Twitter.
(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo, writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)