Hamilton grins after being called eight-time F1 champion in Brazil

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Lewis Hamilton smiled after one fan cheekily declared him an ‘eight-time’ world champion during a ceremony ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Hamilton was in the capital of Brasilia on Monday, where he was awarded honorary citizenship in the country ahead of the penultimate race weekend of the season. 

The seven-time world champion is hugely popular in Brazil and his idol growing up was one of the country’s greatest sporting icons, Ayrton Senna. Hamilton has shared a great affinity with Brazilian fans ever since his first visit as an F1 driver 15 years ago.

And the Mercedes star secured one of his most memorable wins at Interlagos last year during his dramatic title battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. He started back of the grid in the sprint before making up 15 places in just 24 laps, meaning he started the race in 10th after a five-place grid penalty. 

Hamilton then romped home to a stunning win in Sao Paulo, a result that many thought could have been the turning point in a title race that went down to the wire.

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But of course, the Brit agonisingly missed out with the title was decided on the final lap of the final race in Abu Dhabi, as then-race director Michael Masi’s interference during the safety period allowed Verstappen the chance to claim his first world crown. 

Frustration over that result still resides among Hamilton fans, and one politician even described him as an ‘eight-time’ champion, in reference to last season’s controversial result.

President of the Chamber of Deputies Arthur Lira initially said that “Lewis is a collector of titles, a seven-time Formula 1 world champion”, but when jokingly corrected by a boisterous fan, he added: “Or is it eight? Octa champion!”

The ceremony was attended by plenty of Hamilton’s most passionate fans, and the 37-year-old expressed his gratitude for such loyal support after being awarded honorary citizenship.

“I’d like to say a big, big thank you to everyone here at the house, for all those who’ve moved mountains to make this day possible,” Hamilton said. “It is honestly the greatest honour for me to be here receiving and accepting this citizenship. I really do feel like now I’m one of you, finally.”

He added: “I really want to dedicate this honour to Ayrton Senna. 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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