Lewis Hamilton’s reported knighthood has been welcomed as “long overdue” for Britain’s “biggest sporting star”.
Hamilton won a record-equalling seventh world championship last Sunday and will receive the accolade in the New Year Honours, according to The Sun.
Former Labour cabinet minister Lord Hain, who serves as Chair for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Formula One, has written on two occasions to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for Hamilton, 35, to be honoured with a knighthood.
“If it is correct, I will be thrilled to see Lewis joining the pantheon of sporting knights because he is right up there with Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Mo Farah, Sir Andy Murray, Sir Alastair Cook and the others,” Hain told the PA news agency on Sunday.
“Lewis is not just a serial champion, he is actually the biggest British sporting star in the world by far. It is long overdue.
“The fact that his background is so humble, and the fact that he is black, just adds to his incredible achievement.
“It is not just what you see in the cockpit of his car, but also his charitable work and improving diversity in Formula One, which could have an impact on other sports.
“He is a role model for young girls and boys whatever their backgrounds, whatever their colour, to be able to reach for the sky.”
In the wake of Hamilton’s seventh title, which moved him level with Michael Schumacher’s all-time championship tally, Johnson was told it would be totally wrong to deny the Briton a knighthood because of his tax status.
Motorsport UK chairman David Richards also sent a letter to Downing Street earlier this month explaining that Hamilton, who lives in Monaco, “is subject to withholding tax at source in nine countries” and “files tax returns in four of the nine countries”.
It is also claimed that HMRC’s UK Income Tax Liabilities Statistics, published in 2019, puts Hamilton among the top 5,000 highest tax payers in the UK.
“It would be totally wrong for the UK to deny Lewis an award befitting his historic achievements because of where he chooses to live or work or because his tax status has been misunderstood,” Richards stated in the letter.
Hain added: “For more than half of the year Lewis’ job takes him around the world. He pays tax in a number of countries, and he also pays a great big lump of British tax, too.
“He has a residence in Britain and is proudly British so it should not be an issue.”
Hamilton was awarded an MBE following his first championship in 2008 and has gone on to rewrite the sport’s record books, winning more races (94) and securing more poles (97) and podiums than any other driver before him.
“When I think about that honour of being knighted, I think about people like my grandad who served in the war,” said Hamilton on the potential accolade.
“Captain Tom waited 100 years for that great honour, and then you have these doctors and nurses, who are saving lives during this hardest time ever.
“I think about those unsung heroes and I don’t look at myself as an unsung hero. I haven’t saved anybody. It is an incredible honour that a small number of people have bestowed on them.”