Hamilton apologises after driving charge

MELBOURNE: British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton on Saturday apologised after having his private car impounded by police for "over-exuberant" driving in Melbourne after practice for the Australian Grand Prix.

The former world champion had only hours earlier set the fastest time in practice for Sunday's race when he was stopped by police as he left the Albert Park street circuit in his Mercedes road car late Friday.

Police said the McLaren Mercedes ace was pulled over and had his car impounded for doing a burnout as he turned into a busy street outside the Melbourne track.

Senior police constable Scott Woodford said Hamilton's car had "accelerated heavily and lost traction to the rear wheels" in making a turn and had been impounded until Monday.

Hamilton, 25, later confirmed the incident and apologised for his behaviour in a statement released through his McLaren team.

"This evening, I was driving in an over-exuberant manner and, as a result, was stopped by the police," Hamilton said in the statement.

"What I did was silly, and I want to apologise for it."

Hamilton's day was further soured when he failed to reach the final stage of qualifying for Sunday's race.

The McLaren driver qualified 11th for Sunday's GP and was rueful when he faced reporters later in the day.

"It's something you learn from but I don't particularly think it's affected me today," he said.

"I just didn't have the grip in the tyres in qualifying. I feel I got everything out of the car. Hopefully tomorrow we'll have a better race."

Woodford said Hamilton had cooperated with police.

"It's fair to say that he was disappointed with the whole incident but I must say he was extremely cooperative throughout," he said.

"He's expected to be charged on summons with the offence of improper use of a motor vehicle," said Woodford, who added that Hamilton had a male passenger in the car with him at the time.

Victoria's major events minister Tim Holding defended his state's tough laws on anti-social "hoon" driving.

"What this shows is that Victoria's hoon driving laws apply to everyone," said Holding, whose government department is responsible for staging the Grand Prix.

"It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter where you've come from. If you break our hoon driving laws in Victoria you will have your car impounded and you will face the full force of the law.

"Lewis Hamilton has learned that."

It was yet another embarrassing off-track incident for the young English driver.

He had his regular driving licence suspended for a month after being stopped by police in France for speeding on the motorway in 2007.

In that incident, he was at the wheel of a Mercedes when he was clocked at 196 kilometres (122 miles) per hour.

It is also Hamilton's second apology in connection with the Australian Grand Prix after he and his McLaren team were found to have lied in a post-race stewards' hearing that dealt with Jarno Trulli's overtaking of the Briton under safety car conditions in last year's race.