Our national anthem is selling sports heroes short, says Lewis Hamilton


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It seems as if the Joseph Haydn-penned refrain of Deutschland, Deutschland über alles has replaced Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" (think: "Dah! Du na nah nu nuh nu nu neh nah!) as the soundtrack to Formula 1 over the last couple of years, with German driver Sebastian Vettel cruising past the chequered flag in practically every race.

But it would appear to have got to rival driver Lewis Hamilton more than most, whose Grand Prix win on Sunday has been followed by a most unusual request.

"I would urge the UK to make our national anthem longer," Mr Hamilton told BBC radio, making clear his discontent that his international F1 rivals, with their more protracted national hymns, get to enjoy lengthier periods of adoration than he does.

"When you're growing up and you see Olympians standing on the podium and you see the old great drivers, you dream of yourself being up there and having the national anthem playing," he said. "When I stand up there and Felipe (Massa) has won, it's 10 minutes long and when I'm standing there it lasts half a minute."

In fact the solitary verse of "God Save The Queen" played at the Nurburgring on Sunday lasted 44.4 seconds, only 10 seconds shorter than the "Deutschlandlied" or "Song of Germany" that would have followed a Vettell victory. The Brazilian Massa's "Hino Nacional Brasileiro" on the other hand goes on for a full 1 minute and 53 seconds.

Mr Hamilton's gentle outburst is far from the first time "God Save The King/Queen" has come in for criticism, but extending it might not be the most straightforward process.

Even the simple option, merely to play two verses, is fraught with diplomatic peril. First of all there is no definitive version of the lyrics. The most commonly accepted version, of which the earliest known appearance was published in 1745, features three verses, the second of which compels the God-approved monarch to "Scatter her enemies / And make them fall. Confound their politics [and] Frustrate their knavish tricks".

Even Prince Charles criticised this as "politically incorrect". Similarly, one of the conclusions of Gordon Brown's review of British Citizenship last year was that a rather controversial verse calling for the crushing of the "Rebellious Scots" be dropped.

The Ministry of Justice, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are not entirely clear on whose patch the tricky issue of anthem reform sits. Like many aspects of British constitutional life, its official status derives from custom and use, not from Royal Proclamation or Act of Parliament.

One solution would be the introduction of a specific English national anthem, as the Scottish and Welsh employ, for which calls have grown louder in recent years.