Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton capped a remarkable year on and off the track after he was awarded a knighthood in the UK’s New Year’s Honours List which was announced on Wednesday.
This year, Hamilton won his seventh F1 driver’s championship title, equaling the great Michael Schumacher’s record.
Off the track, the 35-year-old became a powerful voice on the issue of racism and was one of British sport’s leading voices supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Briton is the fourth F1 driver to receive a knighthood after the late Australian Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and triple champion Jackie Stewart.
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Equaling a legend
Having won his first world title in 2008, Hamilton ushered in a period of dominance on the track between 2014 and 2020, winning six further world championships to equal Schumacher’s record.
Not only that, but in October, Hamilton beat the German’s record of 91 career F1 race wins. His victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix broke the record with the Briton’s total now standing at 95.
His 11 victories during 2020 also equaled his personal race win record in a F1 season.
The end to his 2020 campaign on the track hit a slight bump in the road after he tested positive for Covid-19. Ahead of the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi – in which Hamilton finished third – Hamilton admitted he was struggling with the after-effects of the virus.
Although his contract at Mercedes expires at the end of the season and he has previously said there are “no guarantees” that he will continue racing after the 2020 season, the news of Toto Wolff’s contract extension hints that Hamilton might be sticking around.
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Setting an example
As the sport’s first and only Black world champion in its 70-year history, Hamilton has helped campaign for diversity and spoken out against racial injustice.
Earlier this year, he said he was “completely overcome with rage” at the sight of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25 and called out the rest of the F1 grid, and the sport itself, for remaining silent.
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In June, he attended a peaceful protest in London, urged people to “keep pushing” for change and backed anti-racism demonstrators who tore down a statue of 17th-century slave owner in Bristol, southwest England.
He also set up a commission in his name to increase diversity in motorsport shortly after which F1 launched the #WeRaceAsOne initiative, and with it a new Task Force which aims to “increase inclusion in the sport.”
In what Hamilton has described as an “important statement,” Mercedes unveiled an all-black car for this season in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter message.
The halos of both cars featured the call to “End Racism,” while Toto Wolff, the team principal, revealed that Mercedes would review its recruitment policy.
Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton also criticized the sport’s record on human rights.
“Naturally, the human rights issue in so many of the places that we go to is a consistent and a massive problem,” said Hamilton.
“We are probably one of the only ones that goes to so many different countries and I do think as a sport we need to do more.”
Aleks Klosok contributed to this report.