Hamilton savours ‘greatest day’

Lewis Hamilton soaked up the feeling of becoming a two-time Formula One world champion and declared it to be "the greatest day of my life".

It was some remark given Hamilton’s 2008 triumph was the culmination of everything he had worked for since the day when he was 10 years old and he told former McLaren team principal Ron Dennis he would one day drive for his team.

But after taking the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi, his 11th victory of a phenomenal second season with Mercedes, all the emotion of a tough title fight with team-mate Nico Rosberg came flooding to the surface.

Standing on the podium, with his family below following a surprise 11th hour visit, tears welled in Hamilton’s eyes.

Six years ago in Brazil, Hamilton won his maiden crown by the skin of his teeth, claiming the fifth position he needed with a move at the final corner on the last lap of the season-ending grand prix.

On this occasion the 29-year-old achieved the feat in the right way, with the victory and with thousands of Britons in the grandstand opposite the podium waving Union Jacks and chanting his name.

It was the kind of acclaim Hamilton missed out in Brazil, especially as virtually everyone at Interlagos was rooting for Felipe Massa, the home hero who won the race that day but was ultimately beaten in the championship.

Six years on, Hamilton said: “I can’t really explain how much this means. It means even more than the first one. It feels like it’s the first time.

“This is the greatest day of my life, the greatest moment of my life.

“It feels very surreal, like an out-of-body experience, like I’m back here (indicating behind him) watching this going on, that it’s not really happening.”

Asked to explain his thoughts behind his sentiments, Hamilton added: “Well, 2007 was a very bad experience.

“Obviously losing the championship (on the last day) I fell to a low I couldn’t control.

“In 2008 Felipe won the race and won the championship for a second, but then the last corner I got it back.

“For me I lost it, won it, lost it, won it again, and whilst it was a great experience, my emotions were shot.”

Hamilton now joins a highly-exclusive club as he is just the 16th driver in the 65-season history of F1 to have won at least two titles.

He also becomes only the fourth Briton to achieve the feat, joining the greats in Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Sir Jackie Stewart.

Hamilton’s place in F1 history is now secure and, as he only turns 30 in January, there is still plenty of time for him to join Stewart in winning a third championship.

Mercifully, the controversial spectre of double points that had hung over this race like a bad smell did not come into play.

From second on the grid, Hamilton bolted off the line “like a rocket” as he later remarked, flashing past pole-sitter Rosberg.

Hamilton was untroubled for the opening 22 laps as he kept Rosberg at arm’s length.

Then on lap 23 Rosberg’s own hopes of the title rapidly unravelled due to an ERS (energy recovery store) failure that led to him going backwards.

Come the flag the 29-year-old German limped across the line in 14th place, and worse still, having been lapped by Hamilton a couple of laps from the finish.

Graciously, Rosberg afterwards made his way to the ’green room’, where the top three cool down before taking to the podium, to also offer his best to an old friend who, for the most part this year, has been a bitter enemy at times.

Hamilton added: “He was very, very professional.

“He said ‘you drove really well’. I said the same to him. All year long he has driven incredibly well, especially in qualifying. Hats off to him.”

Hamilton by numbers

70 — Career podiums, made up of 33 wins, 19 seconds, 18 thirds.

67 — Points ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg at the end of the season.

38 — Career pole positions, placing him fourth on the all-time list.

33 — Career wins, making him the most successful British driver in the history of Formula One in terms of race victories.

18 — Career wins with pole position. Only Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Sebastian Vettel have more.

11 — Wins this year, making him the most successful non-German driver in one season as Schumacher and Vettel both won 13 races in a single campaign.

7 — Fastest laps this season.

7 — Pole positions this year, although lost out to Rosberg who scored 11.

5 — His highest run of successive wins this year. Only Schumacher, Vettel and Alberto Ascari have managed more in a one season.

2 — World titles, and now one of only 16 drivers to have won more than one.


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