LONDON (Reuters) – Five-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has apologised to residents of his boyhood home town Stevenage for suggesting he grew up in a slum.
The Briton, his country’s most successful racing driver, said on national television at Sunday’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards that it had been a dream for him and his family “to get out of the slums”.
“Well, not the slums, but to get out of somewhere and do something,” the Mercedes driver, who is now a multi-millionaire with homes in Monaco and the United States, added immediately after.
The comment drew condemnation from offended civic authorities and on social media.
Hamilton, who speaks often about his journey from an underprivileged background to the pinnacle of motor racing, said in an Instagram post on Tuesday that he had made a mistake.
The 33-year-old, only the third driver to win five championships, said he was “super proud” to come from the commuter town some 40km north of London where he was born and raised.
“Nobody is perfect and I definitely make mistakes quite often, particularly when you are up in front of a crowd trying to find the right words to express the long journey you’ve had in life,” he said.
“I chose the wrong words. I didn’t mean anything by it and those of you who know me, know that I always mean love.”
Hamilton finished second in the awards, behind Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Peter Rutherford)