LONDON — Lewis Hamilton is now a “Sir” as well as a seven-time F1 champion after receiving a knighthood Wednesday as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year’s honors list.
Hamilton, who secured his seventh F1 title last month to equal Michael Schumacher’s record, has said his recent success was partly inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The 35-year-old race car driver took the knee on the grid and wore anti-racism slogans during the season.
Hamilton told the BBC last week that “it was a different drive than what I’ve had in me in the past, to get to the end of those races first so that I could utilize that platform” against racism.
Mercedes-AMG, the team for which Hamilton races, tweeted their congratulations saying “Arise, Sir Lewis Hamilton. We couldn’t be prouder.”
Arise, Sir @LewisHamilton ⚔️ We couldn't be prouder, LH ❤️
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 31, 2020
Supporters have suggested Hamilton would have been knighted sooner if not for his tax status. Hamilton’s knighthood was awarded in the “overseas” section of the honors list because he lives in low-tax Monaco.
His tax affairs made news in 2017 when the Paradise Papers leak showed he avoided paying more than $4 million in taxes on a private jet registered in the Isle of Man, a tax haven.
Motorsport U.K. Chairman David Richards said Hamilton’s tax status had been “totally misunderstood” and that the racing champion was among the 5,000 highest taxpayers in the U.K.
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The queen’s honors are awarded twice a year, in late December and in June, when the monarch’s birthday is observed. The awards acknowledge hundreds of people for services to community or British national life. Recipients are selected by committees of civil servants from nominations made by the government and the public.
There is growing criticism of the honors’ evocation of the British Empire, the legacy of which has been debated anew amid campaigns against racism and colonialism around the world.
The education spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, Kate Green, who has an OBE, recently called the titles of the honors “offensive and divisive.”
The British government said there are no plans to change the titles.
In other honors, veteran comic actress Sheila Hancock was made a dame, the female equivalent of a knight, in recognition of her six-decade career.
Acclaimed makeup artist Pat McGrath, dubbed the “most influential makeup artist in the world” by Vogue, also received a damehood.
Roger Deakins, a 15-time Academy Award nominee who has won Oscars for “Blade Runner 2049” and “1917” received a knighthood.