At the December meeting of Stevenage Borough Council the Liberal Democrats put forward a motion to award to the town's most famous son, Lewis Hamilton. The motion was amended by Labour on the grounds that we couldn't give Lewis the award of Freedom of the Borough as originally proposed for constitutional reasons. The amended motion was carried unanimously with support from all members of the Council.
The motion was proposed by Cllr. Stephen Booth for Chells.
The debate can be viewed on YouTube:
Read on for his speech to Council:
Proposal to give Lewis Hamilton Freedom of the Borough
Speech: 16.12.2020 Thank you Mr Mayor, good evening everyone.
Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton MBE. . . . is not drawn from the same ranks as those we have previously honoured. He is not a politician and at first sight it is not easy to point to exactly what he’s done for the town. However, I hope to show you in the few minutes I have, what he has done, and persuade, especially those who don’t follow F1, that he is most worthy of an honour.
Lewis came from humble beginnings. Unlike most F1 drivers, there’s nothing elitist in his background. He was born and raised in our town, beginnings he is on record as saying he owes much to his success.
First of all, just to underscore: He has won seven world F1 Motor racing championships, a sport followed by millions around the globe. His achievement has been rivalled only by one other person. That person was Michael Schumacher who said of him, when Lewis was only 16, “If he keeps this up I'm sure he will reach F1. It's something special to see a kid of his age out on the circuit. He's clearly got the right racing mentality."
Let’s take a quick look at the Hamilton credentials:
Began go-cart racing at the age of eight
Backed by McLaren in 1998 at the age of 13 to join their young driver programme.
In 2002 he entered the Renault UK series, coming a creditable 3rd in the championship
In 2003 he won the championship outright
In 2004 he entered the Formula 3 Euro series coming 7th
In 2005 he won the Formula 3 Euro series
In 2006 he won the GP2 series, the prelude to an F1 career.
So, nine years after first gaining McLaren’s backing he became the first black driver to enter F1. And what a first year he had! He ended up just one point behind winner Kimi Raikkonnen and Ferrari. The three cars ahead of him were later found to have cheated but were not penalised; had they been, we would have been talking about Lewis Hamilton eight times world champion!
The following year he became the youngest driver ever to win the world championship.
Since then, and following his switch to Mercedes in 2013 he has won the FI Championship six times.
In 2014 he was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year
165 Podiums in F1 to his credit
So, ‘What has he done for Stevenage?’ I think he’s rather put us on the map, and it’s a big map that covers much of the world. (Remember that F1 races in five continents.)
Every time his name appears in the press, national or international, the name of our town is often mentioned too and the reason it’s mentioned is almost certainly to emphasise Lewis’s humble beginnings. Frankly, we need the town’s name raised as widely as possible; we desperately need more businesses especially high-tech ones. And Lewis is helping us there. Working with the Royal Academy of Engineering, he has established the Hamilton Commission, to engage more young people from black backgrounds with science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM subjects and, ultimately, employ them in motorsport or in other engineering sectors.
Maybe you’re not aware that F1 is at the forefront of developing environmentally friendly transport as the leading R&D laboratory for the development of electric vehicle motors.
So, what else? Well we should be incredibly proud that a boy from Stevenage has taken a stand against racism and for human rights on the international stage. And not just any stage. Millions follow F1 but there are very few participants from the BAME community.
Following the death of George Floyd in police custody earlier this year, Lewis very bravely said of the people in F1:
“I see those of you who are staying silent, some of the biggest of stars, yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice. Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white dominated sport. I’m one of the only people of colour there yet I stand alone.”
Adding, “I do not stand with those looting and burning buildings but those who are protesting peacefully."
Lewis then persuaded his fellow drivers to wear “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts: HE then persuaded the whole Mercedes team to change their colours from the Silver Arrows – colours they’ve carried since the 1930s – to an all-black livery for a season. One cannot imagine What Hitler must be thinking down there in his pit of hell! Imagine, a mixed race boy from our town, Stevenage, has managed to do all that!
Some maybe critical of bestowing an honour on Lewis. He is staggeringly well paid and yes, he lives in Monaco which of course sounds incredibly swish. BUT, trust me, I have been to Monaco on a number of occasions (to watch historic motor racing – much cheaper than F1) and it’s not really a very exciting place. Why does he live there? Because, like other top champions who live there, he can avoid much media attention and from well meaning fans and camp followers eager to tap him for funds. And yes, taxes are all but none existent there.
And do remember, like professional players in other sports like football, basketball, tennis,... your time is limited in a performance sport; he’ll almost certainly retire before he’s 40.
What does Lewis do with his money? Well, for a start he supports: Save The Children, The Honeypot Children's Charity for Great Ormond Street Hospital, plus organisations with a global focus like UNICEF.
Perhaps some of the Facebook warriors will recognise UNICEF amongst the stream of dross that arrives on our phones as the organisation currently providing humanitarian relief for children and mothers caught up in the horrendous war in Yemen.
Let’s dwell for a moment on the word “SPORT”. I know some don’t regard F1 as a sport. Surely any young jack-the-lad could get into one of these strange cars and deliver a passable lap or two? A year or two ago I watched an F1 commentator attempt to do just that. It took him innumerable attempts to get the car to even move away, after that he scared himself silly driving around Silverstone.
Surely you don’t need to be particularly fit to drive in F1? Just watch a race and the young men (hopefully soon young women too). They have the necks of Rugby players to enable them to withstand the tremendous G forces going around bends at up to 200 mph. Don’t query the fitness of Romain Grosjean who a fortnight ago hit a barrier at some 130 mph head on enduring 53 g’s force – 53 X his body weight. Only his fitness enabled him to get out of the car before it was totally immersed in flame. All F1 drivers are hyper fit: they perform in other sports too, they cycle, run and more.
So, you need to be in the peak of physical condition to endure being in a tiny space for anything up to two hours, often in extreme heat, controlling a vehicle with technology far removed from an ordinary car. It is not unusual for drivers to lose up to 3 litres of liquid during a race.
Lewis Hamilton is regarded as one of the greatest racing drivers in the history of the sport. Some say the greatest of all time, which is why the BRDC has named part of Silverstone Circuit “The Hamilton Straight”, an award never previously bestowed on any driver.
Some may question whether Lewis deserves such an honour. I say he could not have done more to deserve such an honour. I hope all Councillors will be able to give this their full support
I beg to move.
- Cllr. Stephen Booth