A 'huge oversight' if Hamilton is not knighted

LONDON • David Richards, the head of British racing's governing body, said it would be a "major oversight" if Lewis Hamilton is not recognised with a knighthood in the New Year honours list.

The Briton won his sixth Formula One world championship title last month and is second only to Michael Schumacher, who won seven, as the most successful driver in history.

The 34-year-old also has only seven fewer Grand Prix wins than the German's record of 91, and Richards has been a strong supporter of the Labour peer Lord Peter Hain, who has campaigned for Hamilton to be honoured.

"Naturally as the governing body of motorsport in the UK, we wholeheartedly support Peter Hain," said Richards, the chairman of Motorsport UK. "I can't think of anyone more worthy of that recognition than Lewis.

Hamilton received an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2008 after he won his first championship.

Since then, cyclist Bradley Wiggins, long-distance runner Mo Farah, tennis player Andy Murray and cricketer Alastair Cook have been knighted.

Three F1 drivers have also been knighted, all many years after they retired - Jackie Stewart, Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham.

Richards believes Hamilton's feats are equally worthy of recognition, not least because he has had to work so hard. He grew up on a council estate in Stevenage and remains the only black driver in F1. His father, Anthony, had to commit himself personally and financially to helping his son's career.

"Lewis is far more remarkable in that he did not come from a privileged background," Richards said. "He and his father worked incredibly hard to get into karting and up the steps of the ladder.

"It was sheer graft, not gifted to him on a plate. They made huge sacrifices, that makes his achievements even more extraordinary."

Hamilton could go on to beat both Schumacher's records and Richards said the Mercedes driver's inspirational achievements deserve acknowledgement.

"He is a role model for underprivileged children in the UK to show them that anything is possible," he said. "I hope he uses that to help and leave a legacy for other kids to show their ambitions are achievable."

Hamilton was beaten into second place by England cricket vice-captain Ben Stokes for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award last Sunday, but former cricketer Darren Gough also feels a knighthood is in order.

"I'm a massive F1 fan and Lewis Hamilton doesn't get the credit he deserves," he added.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 22, 2019, with the headline 'A 'huge oversight' if Hamilton is not knighted'. Print Edition | Subscribe