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?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
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

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz