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Brazil’s House grants honorary citizenship to Lewis Hamilton

Brazil’s House of Representatives on Monday granted honorary citizenship to British Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton.

Mr. Hamilton has won seven World Drivers’ Championship titles, a joint record with Germany’s Michael Schumacher.

Formula 1 has been popular in Brazil for decades, where it airs on network TV. Three Brazilian racers went on to become world champions, the most famous of which being Ayrton Senna (1960-1994), who many Brazilians take as a national hero.

Mr. Hamilton and a few hundred fans attended the plenary session in the House. At the weekend, he will race in Interlagos, in São Paulo, the second-to-last Grand Prix of the 2022 season.

The motion to grant Mr. Hamilton honorary citizenship was drafted last year by Congressman André Figueiredo of Ceará.

In November 2021, after winning the São Paulo Grand Prix, Mr. Hamilton held a Brazilian flag with the name “Senna” written over it. Mr. Senna also used to display the Brazilian flag from his car after winning races. Mr. Hamilton is a popular athlete among Brazilians and has called Ayrton Senna his “greatest inspiration.”

Mr. Hamilton’s gesture was important, Congressman Figueiredo wrote in his motion, because “it helps us remember that the national colors have no party nor owner. These colors represent the entirety of the Brazilian people.” The Brazilian flag and its colors are widely used by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro and for many have become synonymous with his nationalist politics.

Presiding the session, House Speaker Arthur Lira called Mr. Hamilton to “Brazilian at heart.”

“It is honestly the greatest honor for me to be here receiving and accepting this citizenship. I really do feel like now I am one of you finally,” Mr. Hamilton said, addressing the House. “I love Brazil. I’ve always loved Brazil.”

In 2021, Mr. Hamilton was knighted by Britain’s King Charles III, at the time still Prince of Wales.

Mr. Hamilton is not new to Brazilian politics. In October 2020, he said he was against Brazil constructing a new motorsport circuit in Rio de Janeiro.

During the first half of his term, President Jair Bolsonaro and some of his allies lobbied for a new circuit in the city, which would have required cutting down a forested area. They enlisted the support of the then-CEO of the Formula 1 Group, Chase Carey.

The proposal would also have removed Formula 1 races from São Paulo and brought them closer to the Bolsonaro clan’s area of ​​influence.

The idea ultimately failed. In late 2020, Formula 1 renewed until 2025 its contract to hold races at the Interlagos track in São Paulo.

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