Royal fan Hamilton says he would never refuse a knighthood

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Turkish Grand Prix - Istanbul Park, Istanbul, Turkey - November 15, 2020 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the race and the world championship Pool via REUTERS/Clive Mason

MANAMA (Reuters) - Seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton left no doubt on Thursday that he would accept a knighthood if it was offered to him.

The Mercedes driver is now the most successful grand prix driver of all time and has been tipped by the media to become Britain's latest sporting "Sir" in the country's New Year's honours list.

"Firstly, I would never ever turn down the royal family," the 35-year-old told reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix when asked what his response would be.

"I've grown up in the UK and I'm an avid fan of them.

"There is no greater honour than your country recognising you and honouring you with such an award."

Triple world champion Jackie Stewart, now 81, is the only one of Britain's 10 Formula One world champions to have been knighted.

The late Australian triple world champion Jack Brabham was also knighted, as was the late Stirling Moss who is widely regarded as the greatest driver never to have won the title.

Hamilton's admirers have suggested in the past that he is insufficiently appreciated at home.

Hamilton, winner of a record 94 races, secured his seventh title in Turkey this month to equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher's tally.

The official @RoyalFamily Twitter account, which has 4.2 million followers compared to Hamilton's six million, congratulated him on his "incredible success".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also hailed the Mercedes driver on Twitter, saying "you have made us all so proud".

Hamilton, who comes from an under-privileged, multi-racial background, said it was "very, very surreal to hear that with all the things that are going on in the world, they have a moment to mention and acknowledge the work that I've done".

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

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