SILVERSTONE, U.K — There is no doubt about who is the crowd favourite at the British Grand Prix these days, but Lewis Hamilton was still answering questions about the extent of his ‘Britishness’ after qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
Hamilton is comfortably Britain’s most successful F1 driver and has enjoyed a supreme run of success at his home race in previous years, winning five of the last six races at Silverstone. The five-time world champion is a resident in the tax haven of Monaco, something he has been criticised for by U.K. media in the past.
Despite the fact he is closing in on Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of wins and world championships, some suggested in the lead-up to this week that his popularity at home has failed to match the ‘Mansell Mania’ of the early 1990s around Nigel Mansell. That theme continued immediately after qualifying.
When it was suggested he was not universally popular in the U.K because “you live in Monaco and your accent isn’t maybe as British as others”, he said there was no doubt to question the authenticity of his heritage.
“I don’t think I have an answer to that,” he said. “It is crazy because every driver I watched growing up, I remember watching Jenson Button, and all the youngsters come through and every one lives in Monaco and nobody ever says anything.
“No matter how often you go aboard or elsewhere in the world you come back to the U.K. and see the beautiful countryside, the history of Formula One as a sport here and I see all my family who are also here and this of course feels where my heart is.
“I feel fully British and also I still like to honour my family heritage… I don’t know. People have a right to their opinions but if you look around there is a lot of Team LH caps, the support that I’ve had has been incredible and it has grown over the years.
“While of course there is always going to be people with negative views on it I feel like every day is an opportunity to try to turn those around that have a negative view on things. I guess maybe in time I hopefully do more and more positive things for the country.
“I go to all these races and wear the British flag proudly and there is no one else who has raised it so high. For most that might not be enough but I’ll keep looking to see what else I can do. For those that do follow me I really do appreciate their support.”
On Sunday Hamilton will attempt to claim a seventh British Grand Prix victory from second on the grid. Mercedes teammate and main championship rival Valtteri Bottas beat him to pole position by just 0.006s in a tense qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.