Lewis Hamilton was cheekily declared an ‘eight-time’ world champion as he was awarded honorary Brazilian citizenship ahead of this weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Stevenage-born Hamilton, whose idol growing up was Brazilian F1 icon Ayrton Senna, is hugely popular in the country and passionately waved its flag after his stunning victory at Interlagos last season.
That win kept the F1 title race alive heading into the final two races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Of course, having looked set to clinch a record-breaking eighth drivers’ title, he was controversially pipped by Max Verstappen thanks to then-race director Michael Masi's incorrect handling of a safety period in Abu Dhabi.
READ MORE: Lewis Hamilton tells Brazilians 'I feel like one of you' after citizenship ceremony
That result still rankles with many fans around the world while more wounds from 2021 have been reopened after Verstappen’s Red Bull team were found to have breached the sport’s cost cap.
It was announced earlier this year that Hamilton would be made an honorary citizen of Brazil. His citizenship ceremony took place on Monday in the capital Brasilia ahead of this weekend’s grand prix. As he addressed the Chamber of Deputies to express his gratitude and love of the country, Hamilton was cheered boisterously by fans, with several holding banners.
Meanwhile, politicians also spoke to hail Hamilton, with one even calling him an eight-time world champion.
President of the Chamber of Deputies Arthur Lira said Hamilton was “British by birth but Brazilian at heart”, adding: “Lewis is a collector of titles, a seven-time Formula 1 world champion"
At that point, fans shouted to correct him. Lira then added: "Or is it eight? Octa champion!”
That drew more passionate cheers from the audience. Meanwhile, as he listened to speech via a translation device, Hamilton smiled and winked.
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During his own speech, the 37-year-old said: “When I arrived here in 2007, the love that’s grown, the experiences we’ve had… Particularly in 2021, knowing you guys were cheering me all the way was one of the most special moments of my entire life.”
He also paid tribute to his hero Senna, who died following a crash while leading the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in 1994.
“I really want to dedicate this honour to Ayrton Senna,” he said, to more cheers from the audience. “To Ayrton’s family, to friends and to his fans. When I was five years old, I saw Ayrton race for the first time and that was the moment I knew I wanted to be a world champion, just like him.”
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