Lewis Hamilton has been criticised by his home town for saying it was his dream to “get out of the slums”.
The Formula 1 racing driver made the comment on stage last night at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
He seemed to immediately backtrack but the leader of Stevenage Borough Council said it was “disappointing” and people felt “very offended”.
Social media users were quick to both criticise and defend Mr Hamilton but he has not commented.
The five-time F1 world champion was one of six finalists for the title, which was given to Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, at a ceremony in Birmingham.
Speaking to one of the presenters, Gabby Logan, he said: “It really was a dream for us all as a family to do something different. For us to get out of the slums.
“Well, not the slums, but to get out of somewhere and do something. We all set our goals very, very high but we did it as a team.”
Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor said: “It is disappointing that Lewis Hamilton referred to Stevenage as ‘the slums’ at such a high-profile event.
“He clearly realised what he had said and tried to correct it but sadly the people of our town, many of whom admire and support him, felt very offended.”
Also writing on Twitter, Team England para-badminton player Gobi Ranganathan said: “I for one am proud to fly the flag for Stevenage. It’s made me who I am today.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s home. And it has a lot to offer if people just open their eyes.”
Others on Twitter defended him, one post said: “Please note that Lewis’s words were taken out of context. and he tried to correct himself,” while a comment on the Lewis Hamilton Facebook page said: “He was meaning his family were not well off but made sacrifices to help him become a go kart driver.”
The BBC has contacted Hamilton’s representatives for comment. BBC News