Lewis Hamilton revealed he received 400 messages of congratulations following his latest Formula One world championship triumph – and then paid tribute to mentor Ron Dennis.
Hamilton, 34, has won five of his six titles with Mercedes, but he was afforded his big break in the sport by Dennis.
The former McLaren chief signed the Briton, then only 13, three years after Hamilton, wearing a borrowed dinner jacket at a central London awards ceremony, asked if he could drive for him.
Hamilton came within just one point of winning the championship in his first season racing for Dennis in 2007 before he secured the title in the most dramatic of circumstances, here in Brazil, the following year.
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This was me when I was 10 after having won my first British Cadet championship. The dream was so big, fire burning so bright in my heart and spirit. I was determined to never let anything get in my way, so was my dad who made it all possible. I miss those days karting. I just want to say, dream big and never let anything stand in your way but also live in the present! Time is all we have. 🙏🏾 #nevergiveup #believe #youcan #wewinandwelosetogether
He then upset Dennis by leaving McLaren for Mercedes at the end of 2012.
“Seeing Ron’s text really touched me inside,” said Hamilton. “I met him when I was 10 and he saw something in me that no one else did except for my dad.
“He gave me an opportunity to showcase my abilities and to learn and to grow. Without him I wouldn’t have made it to Formula One.
“I would have fallen away due to a lack of finances, and I would have been leapfrogged by a bunch of individuals who had more money, so I am forever grateful and I will always have love for Ron.
“He said how proud he was, so I hope he can feel he is just as much a part of this as anyone.”
Hamilton said double world champion Fernando Alonso, also sent him a message. The two drivers endured a fractious relationship during their only season together at McLaren, Hamilton’s first year on the grid.
“I got a text from Fernando as well which was pretty amazing,” said Hamilton.
“We went through a whirlwind of experiences together, but I have always had respect for what he has achieved and his ability.”
Hamilton, who begins his victory parade at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, said he is yet to fully celebrate the title that moved him to within striking range of Michael Schumacher’s record haul of seven.
Hamilton toasted his title with family and friends in New York before flying back to Mercedes’ factory in Northamptonshire.
“It just doesn’t fully resonate at the moment, but at some stage, I am sure it will,” added Hamilton, who will wear a commemorative crash helmet in Interlagos to honour his childhood hero, Ayrton Senna.
“I have not really celebrated yet. Each year is different. I was with my family. We travelled and enjoyed the moment together. We went partying, but it wasn’t heavy partying, just enjoying each other’s company.
“The venue we went to wasn’t that great, so we left, went home, had an amazing lunch the next day. I was training the next morning and back into work the following day.”