Hamilton gets one-month driving ban for 122mph jaunt in France

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The Independent Online

The Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton has had his driving licence suspended after being caught speeding on a French motorway.

The 22-year-old McLaren driver was caught doing 122mph (196kph) in a Mercedes CLK near the northern town of Laon, between Calais and Rheims, on Sunday. Police officers stopped Hamilton, detained his car, and fined him 600 (430). They then banned him from driving for one month.

Arnaud Dujardin, a French police spokesman, said Hamilton had been "very polite and courteous" and that officers did not realise who they had stopped until they saw his identification papers.

"They did not know it was him. All they saw was a car going too fast." said M. Dujardin. "Patrols are used to pulling over speeding Britons on this stretch of road, but the officer at the scene was very surprised to see who was behind the wheel on this occasion. He was not driving erratically, but he was considerably over the legal speed limit. He no longer has a permit on national territory."

The police gave Hamilton a lift to his hotel in their police car. His Mercedes was collected by a friend.

It marks an embarrassing climax to an extraordinary year for the racer, who was signed on to McLaren's young driver programme when he was 13 years old.

After spending almost all of his debut season leading the driver's championship, Hamilton was denied an unprecedented rookie's world title by the Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen after mechanical problems in the season's finale, the Brazilian Grand Prix.

A McLaren spokesman said the incident would not affect Hamilton's professional driving career.

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