Fantastic ambassador’ Lewis Hamilton deserves knighthood, says Damon Hill

The former Formula One world champion Damon Hill believes a knighthood is an absolutely deserved honour for Lewis Hamilton. The British driver is to be knighted in this year’s new year honours list, according to the Sun. Hill has said if it is bestowed it will be recognition not only of Hamilton’s achievements on track but of his character and impact across the sport, where as a black driver he has been breaking down barriers since he began racing.

Not only has Hamilton made it to the very top of F1 but as the only black driver in the sport he has had an influence beyond his achievements on the track. Hill said: “Lewis has always been breaking down barriers, the moment he arrived in F1 or even in karting he was breaking barriers and challenging the status quo.

“The knighthood will be seen as recognition of not just his driving but also as a black driver that has bust another door open for anyone who is not white. He has destroyed the preconception that it can’t be done, that there is an area where you cannot achieve something because of the colour of your skin. He has totally destroyed that notion.”

Hamilton’s honour has yet to be officially confirmed but having secured this year’s world championship at the last round in Turkey, he claimed his seventh title and in doing so became the most successful F1 driver of all time. He has equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven championships but has the most race wins and pole positions, with 94 and 97 respectively.

Only three other F1 drivers have been knighted: Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Jackie Stewart.

This season Hamilton has also been forthright in his public commitment to equality, anti-racism and diversity. He has pushed F1 to pursue these aims and displayed personal commitment and character beyond the demands of driving. Hill believed the honour would only increase his ability to make a difference.

“It is a very rare thing in our sport to get a knighthood,” he said. “It is then also a recognition of his stance on equality, anti-racism and environmental issues. He is outspoken, he is playing his part and using his fame for positive purposes. He is a fantastic ambassador and having a knighthood will only increase his opportunities to do that work.”

Hamilton was awarded an MBE after he took his first title in 2008 for McLaren. He has been almost unbeatable in recent years, winning six titles with Mercedes since joined in 2013. Hill believed the scale of his success was also being acknowledged. “If you have to win more than anybody else in our sport to get a knighthood then that is a measure of how much that achievement has been recognised as exceptional,” he said.

It is believed Hamilton’s tax status may have been a hindrance to him not being knighted sooner. The British driver lives in Monaco but does pay tax in a number of countries where F1 takes him including the UK, where he has a home and where his contributions put him among the top 5,000 taxpayers.

The government has come under pressure to acknowledge his achievements. The all-party parliamentary group for F1 wrote to Boris Johnson after Hamilton took his seventh title, calling for him to be honoured. The chair of Motorsport UK, David Richards, also wrote to the prime minister putting the case for Hamilton’s inclusion in the honours list.

The vice-chair of the F1 parliamentary group, Lord Hain, welcomed the decision, should it be confirmed. “Lewis is not just a serial champion, he is actually the biggest British sporting star in the world by far. It is long overdue,” he said. “The fact that his background is so humble, and the fact that he is black, just adds to his incredible achievement. He is a role model for young girls and boys whatever their backgrounds, whatever their colour, to be able to reach for the sky.”