Got to hand it to Lewis

Hamilton completes fairytale journey – now the challenge is catch Schumacher

In the immediate aftermath, he said he simply could not believe he had won. Such were the dramatic circumstances of Lewis Hamilton's succession to the throne as the youngest world champion in the history of Formula One in Brazil last week.

For 38 nail-biting seconds, it seemed Felipe Massa had beaten him with less than two laps of the season to go. Then Hamilton overtook Timo Glock's struggling Toyota, almost within sight of the finish line, and suddenly the fairytale was real again.

"It's amazing," Hamilton gasped. "I can't get my breath back. It's been such a long journey with loads of support from back home."

Having lost the crucial fifth place he needed to Sebastian Vettel on the 70th of the 71 laps, he admitted: "I was trying to analyse everywhere I was losing time. I had no rear tyres left so I could not get close to him. Then they told me Glock was just ahead, on slick tyres and struggling.

"I came through Turn 11 and saw Vettel pass him, and he was just about to turn into the corner and I shot up the inside. At that point I relaxed and I was expecting the team to go, 'Woo-hoo, you've won the champ-ionship!' But they didn't, so I was panicking for a second..."

It was the greatest championship showdown in the sport's history, with the Ferrari camp momentarily believing Massa had won the title, McLaren believing their man had lost, and then Hamilton overtaking Glock in the final corner to regain the position he needed long after Massa had crossed the line a brilliant victor. Some great television coverage captured the moments when the Hamilton clan realised what had happened, when the awful truth hit the Massa family, and when Massa himself won and lost not just like a man, but like a king. There were two champions in the Brazilian Grand Prix, but only one will get a crown.

"As I crossed the line I was thinking, 'Do I have it'?" Hamilton revealed. "Once I found out, I was more emotional than ever. It was such a dream to repay the faith of McLaren."

And he admitted how exhausting he found the whole thing. "It took a lot out of me last year, but this year took even more. There was so much going on, with people pulling me left and right. I wanted to just embrace the moment, and I still am. It feels great. And I don't have to have that No 22 any more. I can have No 1 on my car, and that is the coolest thing."

McLaren's strategy called for fifth place, and Hamilton looked shaky at times when required to operate out of his element, which is hunting for victory. But now that the title monkey is off his back he stands on the threshold of a career that could see him set new benchmarks.

Britain's previous champion, Damon Hill, veteran of many on-track battles with Michael Schumacher, said: "Maybe Lewis will even challenge Michael's tally, though I think circumstances today are different, so that may be more difficult. But that will be the unfolding story with Lewis."

Hamilton says he will take valuable lessons from 2008, when he matured as a driver but also discovered just how punishing mistakes can be. "I think losing the 2007 world championship probably made me stronger and that is why we pulled through at the end of this one. This year we won some of the best races – Silverstone, Monaco, Germany – but there were races we lost either through a mistake from myself or by the team.

"People say the second year is harder,but I don't believe that. I think you just get stronger, you learn from mistakes, and hopefully I will continue to grow as a driver. If that means winning more championships, so be it."

When he visited the 1,000 employees at McLaren's Woking headquarters last Wednesday he told them: "I love this team, I'm going nowhere. This is the best team in the world. I'm very proud of everything McLaren have achieved. I used to go to the old headquarters and see Ayrton Senna's championship-winning car, and I used to touch the steering wheel and dream that some day I'd have one with my name on and the No 1 on the front. And now that dream has come true."

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower