In Depth

How did Lewis Hamilton beat Rory McIlroy to SPOTY award?

Golfers express surprise as F1 champion wins - but should he even be eligible?

Lewis Hamilton was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday night, but the F1 driver's success left the bookies and many observers bemused.

Even Hamilton himself seemed genuinely surprised to win the award ahead of Norther Irish golfer Rory McIlroy who had been firm favourite until the very last minute.

But in the end Hamilton was a convincing winner, with 34 per cent of the public vote. The 28-year-old Mercedes driver received 209,920 telephone votes, with second-placed McIlroy only getting 123,745. Runner Jo Pavey was third with 99,931 votes.

"I am really, really taken aback," admitted the F1 champion in his acceptance speech. "I am overwhelmed and feel so honoured. I have an amazing following but you never know how well you are appreciated throughout the whole of the UK. I would have been proud just to be amongst these people, who have done such amazing things."

But not everyone was happy with the outcome. "The decision – which is made by the public – was swiftly met with a mixture of anger and perplexion by some of the leading figures of golf, who rallied to McIlroy's cause," reports the Daily Telegraph.

While Hamilton enjoyed a stellar year, joining an elite group by securing a second F1 crown and winning a record 11 Grand Prixs along the way, McIlroy won two majors, the Ryder Cup and established himself as the world's number one golfer.

Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, said he was "very disappointed" with the decision, and said it would be hard for a golfer to have a better year than McIlroy. Other golfers, including Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, expressed surprise on Twitter.

Serial controversialist, footballer Joey Barton, also added his voice to the debate claiming that Hamilton should not have been eligible for the award, branding the Monaco-based driver a "tax exile".

Tax exile's should be exempt from winning trophies paid and voted for by the tax/licence payer.

 

— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) December 15, 2014

Hamilton is used to such criticism and this week told the Sunday Times: "What people don't realise is that I pay tax here, but I don't earn all my money here. I race in 19 different countries, so I earn my money in 20 different places and I pay tax in several different places, and I pay a lot here as well."

Hamilton is a "marmite" figure, loved by some, hated by others according to Jonathan McEvoy of the Daily Mail. "But the people who like him spread their love in the live phone-in," he adds.

And while Hamilton has issues with tax, McIlroy also blemishes on his record. "One wonders how much nationality had to play in the outcome. McIlroy has said he will compete for Ireland at the Olympics. Hamilton, despite where his taxes are paid, is avowedly British," writes McEvoy.

McIlroy's problem could be his sport. Only two golfers have ever won SPOTY, and the last was Nick Faldo in 1989. F1 drivers, on the other hand, have won the award seven times, although Hamilton is the first to win since Damon Hill in 1996.

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