Hamilton lifts F1 crown

Sao Paulo, November 3:

An emotional Lewis Hamilton admitted he was virtually lost for words and did not know he had succeeded on Sunday when he became the youngest man to win the Formula One drivers’ world championship.

The 23-year-old Englishman, needing a top five finish to be champion, only seized fifth place for McLaren Mercedes again, after losing it, on the final lap of a tense, dramatic and rain-hit Brazilian Grand Prix won by his title rival and local hero Felipe Massa of Ferrari.

As Massa triumphed and then celebrated, briefly, Hamilton caught and passed German Timo Glock of Toyota to turn his day from despair to joy after earlier appearing to have controlled his own race by cruising towards fourth or fifth place.

A late shower of rain then created chaos and saw Hamilton change tyres and fall back to sixth before he made his final desperate charge to recover and claim fifth. But as he said afterwards Hamilton was not even sure that he had won the title when he finally crossed the line in teeming rain and near-darkness in front of 100,000 spectators at the Interlagos circuit.

“We did it, we did it,” he shrieked. “But honestly I did not know if we had when I crossed the line. I was thinking ‘shoot!’ I am just not sure — have I done enough? Did we get it? And they told me and I felt just ecstatic. We had made it. You can forget everything else that has happened before now. This is the best and it was the toughest race of my life.”

Massa who finished the season in style with a dazzling win in front of his home crowd ended up in tears as he stood atop the victors’ podium. He had won six races this season to Hamilton’s five but missed the championship 98 points to 97.

Driving with great control and judgement, Hamilton avoided the early problems that wrecked his bid to become the first rookie champion last year as he steered his McLaren Mercedes to glory after a tense contest and an extraordinary final lap. Only on that final lap did Hamilton regain a place when Glock lost 18 seconds and slipped behind Hamilton.

As well as being the youngest champion, Hamilton also became the first black Formula One title holder. The previous youngest champion was Alonso who was 24 years, one month and 27 days old when he won the title in 2005. Hamilton was 23 years, nine months and 26 days old as he drove to glory on Sunday.