Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been told it would be “totally wrong” to deny Lewis Hamilton a knighthood because his “tax status has been misunderstood”.
Motorsport UK chairman David Richards and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Formula One have written to Johnson campaigning for Hamilton to be knighted in the New Year Honours.
Hamilton, who secured his record-equalling seventh world championship with a supreme victory at Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix, lives in Monaco.
But in the letters sent to Downing Street seen by the PA news agency, it is stated that Hamilton “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, 68, states in the letter.
“Even though Lewis is resident in Monaco (Sir Jackie Stewart was based in Switzerland for many years whilst racing along with nearly every F1 driver).”
Richards and the F1 All-Party Parliamentary Group – whose letter is signed by former Labour cabinet minister Lord Hain, and Conservative MPs’ Greg Smith and James Sunderland – point to Hamilton’s charitable work for the Make A Wish foundation, Save the Children and UNICEF and his push for equality and inclusivity in a sport where he remains the sole black driver.
They also highlight the Hamilton Commission, which has been established by the new seven-time world champion, to improve the representation of black people in motor sport.
Richards adds: “Throughout Lewis’ journey to the top he has walked a lonely path as the only black driver in F1 and the Black Lives Matter movement has allowed him to speak candidly about his experience. He has used his voice, platform and influence to call for positive change.
“His story is a remarkable one of sheer application, dedication, sacrifice, supreme skill and determination to enter a sport where the odds were stacked immeasurably against him.
“Lewis is a global icon. A patriot of exemplary character who never misses an opportunity to drape himself in the Union Jack and to exult his proud Britishness.
“Lewis is applauded the world over for his achievements in a Formula One car and it would be entirely right for the UK to recognise his extraordinary achievements by bestowing him a Knighthood as has been the case for so many other British sportsmen of similar standing.”
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told the PA news agency: “What the PM would say is that is an absolutely fantastic achievement by Lewis Hamilton, who has entered the sporting and Formula One history books.
“Anyone who is considered for an honour undergoes a full series of checks before that’s awarded. It is an independent system.”
Hamilton departed the Istanbul Park circuit for Monaco with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff on Sunday night following his historic achievement.
The 35-year-old Briton is out of contract with sport’s all-conquering team at the end of next month but it is anticipated that both parties will wrap up a new deal before the year is out.
Hamilton was awarded an MBE following his first championship in 2008 and has gone on to rewrite the sport’s record books, drawing level with Schumacher in terms of championships, and winning more races and securing more poles 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.”