Hamilton is champion... on the final corner: 'I'm thrilled. It's been a long journey'

Fans of Lewis Hamilton were celebrating last night after a dramatic day of twists and turns that saw him become the youngest world Formula One champion.

Cheering him on from the Brazilian stands was his pop star girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls, who jumped up and down with delight as she realised he had finished in fifth place – good enough to secure him the title. His delighted family, including mother Carmen Lockhart and stepmum Linda Hamilton spent much of the afternoon in Sao Paolo watching him struggle to make an impact.

Hamilton, 23, dropped to sixth position with two laps remaining, which was too far back to give him the title. But, in a nailbiting final few seconds, as the Ferrari team prematurely started celebrating, Hamilton slipped past the ailing Toyota driven by Timo Glock on the penultimate corner. The previous British world champion Damon Hill described the race as "the most exciting in Formula One I have ever seen".

The young man from Stevenage now joins the pantheon of F1 British greats, among them Sir Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and Nigel Mansell.

Hamilton initially struggled to comprehend the scale of his achievement but paid tribute to his McLaren team: "This is for you and my family." He added: "It's pretty much impossible to put into words. It's been such a long journey – all the sacrifices we've made, I'm so thrilled to do this for everyone. It was one of the toughest races of my life."

The driver, who has grown in stature and maturity in almost every race since the agony of last season when glory slipped through his fingers on the final race, was forced to endure the booing of the crowd at the Interlagos track – home to title rival Felipe Massa.

Hamilton's determination to make it in Formula One transcended his humble upbringing. His grandparents came to Britain from Grenada and his parents separated when he was just two. From the age of 12, he lived with his father and stepmother and half brother who has cerebral palsy.

His father Anthony said victory should spur other families on. "This is the culmination of 16 years of hard work, and we have to hope this is inspirational for other families and kids. We had no money when we started out but now we're on top of the world. The reality is it can be done," he said.

Hamilton received congratulations from Gordon Brown last night. He said: "I think the whole of Britain are proud of the inspirational Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren team."

David Cameron said that Hamilton was "now officially a British sporting legend and a role model for what you can achieve if you follow your dream".

Sir Stirling, 79, said: "It's very difficult comparing drivers from my era, when it was really dangerous, to now, so it's not like for like. But I think if you're talking about a man's ability to control a car, use a car, I think he's up there with the best now."

10-year-old bet wins punter £125,000

By Genevieve Roberts

One Lewis Hamilton fan had a decade-old bet riding on the result.

After seeing him on a go-kart track at the age of 13, a man from Peterborough staked £100 on a 500-1 shot that Hamilton would win the championship by his 25th birthday. The unnamed punter last night collected £125,000 from Ladbrokes, the company's largest single motor sport payout.

The man, whose son used to race karts against Hamilton, placed the bet on 13 May, 1998. He said: "From his early days it was easy to see he had driving ability, coupled with a fantastic attitude to racing."

Sir Jackie Stewart echoed his sentiments, saying Hamilton had "enormous natural talent and raw skill".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
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

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform