Seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was made an honorary citizen of Brazil on Monday by the country's lower house of Congress and dedicated the honour to his boyhood idol, the late Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna.
"I feel like now I'm one of you," the Mercedes driver said in a crowded session of Congress packed with admirers in Brasilia days ahead of this year's Brazilian Grand Prix on Nov. 11 in Sao Paulo.
Hamilton delighted Brazilians by unfurling the Brazilian flag from his Mercedes during the slowing down lap after winning the last year at Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit and later carrying the flag onto the podium.
The lower house passed in June a bill to make the 37-year-old an honorary citizen that was proposed by congressman Andre Figueiredo after the British driver won the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix for the third time.
Hamilton clinched his first world championship at Interlagos in 2008, beating Ferrari's then local favourite Felipe Massa with a devastating overtake on the last corner of the last lap of the final round of the season.
A smiling Hamilton, wearing a royal blue suit, received Brazil's legislative medal of merit, a diploma and made a speech thanking his fans and dedicating the honour to Senna.
"I have so many amazing memories of Brazil," Hamilton said.
"And particularly 2021. Knowing you guys would cheer me on the way was one of the most special moments of my entire life. I can't wait for us to continue to strive ahead," he added.
At the ceremony, congressmen also highlighted Hamilton's social activism, including his defence of minority groups and environmental causes.
Hamilton pledged to continue pushing for diversity and said that visiting the Amazon rainforest was one of his dreams.