Hamilton has a street in Stevenage named after him - but he's off to Switzerland

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The Independent Online

The people of Stevenage did their best, but even dedicating a street to the town's golden boy could not persuade him to stay.

Yesterday, just one day after Stevenage Borough Council said it was naming a street in his honour, Lewis Hamilton announced he was following in Michael Schumacher's tyre tracks and heading for the Alpine pastures (and tax breaks) of Switzerland.

The 22-year-old, who lost the Formula 1 world championship by a single point in Brazil nine days ago, has been agonising about a move for most of a season in which he became one of the motor racing world's most instantly recognisable personalities. "I've decided to move to Switzerland," he told the BBC. "You really struggle to live a normal life. I've not been able to spend a lot of time with my friends, my family. You come home and everyone knows you, it makes it so much harder to do normal things. I go to the bathroom in a petrol station and people come in there for autographs. It's tough but I knew that was going to be the case."

As Schumacher discovered, things are different in Switzerland, a tax haven. "People don't come up to you there," Hamilton said. "They leave you, they give you your space."

Over the summer, Hamilton repeatedly dropped hints suggesting he would leave the UK once the season was over and regularly complained about the paparazzi photographers who would document his every move outside the race track.

"Every time I go to London, cameras appear from God knows where," he said after the qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix in August. "Pressure on the track doesn't get to me, I'm able to manage it and get on with the job. But in your personal life, it affects you."

Hamilton also accused F1 authorities of treating McLaren unfairly last season. "They're obviously tough on us, maybe more than on others," he told Sky News. "Next year, we know what to expect. We should keep our heads down and just get on with it."

He still has an outside chance of being declared 2007 world champion if McLaren's appeal on 15 November against events at Interlagos is upheld. The team has appealed against the stewards' decision not to penalise Williams or BMW Sauber for fuel irregularities. If their cars were to be disqualified, Hamilton's elevated position may see him handed the points needed to overhaul Raikonnen as champion. Hamilton says he would not want to win the title that way. "I don't live with regrets," he said. "It's something I've learnt to deal with over the years. I've reached my goal, I've got to Formula 1. Obviously, there's another step I want to take which is becoming world champion but I'm 22 years old, I've got time to do that."