(CNN) - Lewis Hamilton has upset his hometown of Stevenage in England by referring to it as the "slums."
The five-time Formula 1 world champion made the comments while on stage at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, where he finished second behind Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas.
The 33-year-old driver was describing the motivation behind his success when he appeared to disparage the town.
"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," he said to a live television audience, before trying to backtrack.
"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."
'Not perfect, but home'
Hamilton was born and raised in the English town, approximately 30 miles north of London, but his words evoked a strong reaction on social media.
The town's council leader Sharon Taylor tweeted her disdain at the comments.
"Disappointing that Lewis Hamilton chose to use this event to make negative comments about his hometown. Nowhere is perfect but we'll go high & say we are #ProudofStevenage," she wrote.
The voices defending the world champion were heavily outweighed by those feeling disappointed at the slight.
England's para-badminton player Gobi Ranganathan, also from Stevenage, claimed his town was "not perfect, but it's home."
Hamilton is yet to address his controversial remarks.
This isn't the first time Hamilton has got into trouble for making disparaging remarks about a place.
Earlier this year, the Mercedes driver had to clarify comments he made about India being a "poor place."
Hamilton said it "felt strange to drive past homeless people then arrive in a huge arena where money was not an issue" after attending the Indian Grand Prix, which ran on the Formula One calendar from 2011 to 2013.
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