Five-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton said he “chose the wrong words” when he referred to his hometown of Stevenage as “the slums” during Sunday’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year show.
The 33-year-old finished second in the public vote behind Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and during a pre-vote interview he spoke about his background growing up in the Hertfordshire town.
He told presenter Gabby Logan: “It’s been a really long journey, a dream for us all, as a family, to do something different, to get out of the slums.
“Well, we would say it’s not the slums, but just come out from somewhere and do something. We all set our goals very high but we did it as a team.”
The leader of Stevenage Borough Council Sharon Taylor said the remark was “disappointing”.
Hamilton posted a video to his nearly nine million followers on Instagram to say he was “super proud” of his home town.
He said: “I’m super proud of where I’ve come from and I hope that you know that I represent in the best way that I can always and nobody’s perfect.
“I definitely make mistakes quite often and particularly when you’re up in front of a crowd trying to find the right words to express the long journey that you’ve had in life. I chose the wrong words.
“But I didn’t mean anything by it and those of you who know me know that I always mean love, so God bless you. Have a great day.”
Stevenage, which is about 30 miles north of London, became the UK’s first New Town in 1946 and property prices in the growing town are just above the national average, according to the Rightmove and Zoopla property websites.
Britain’s richest sportsman, Hamilton was born and raised in the town, where he went to school with England and Manchester United star Ashley Young, and started go-karting there when he was six.
Hamilton relocated to Switzerland in 2007 and then Monaco in 2010 – moves that he has since admitted were at least partly motivated by tax reasons.