Lewis Hamilton begins latest leg of Olympic Torch Relay


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The Independent Online

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton joked that he would have liked to have swapped his disappointing finish in the British Grand Prix yesterday for carrying the Olympic flame in his home town.

The McLaren Mercedes driver and 2008 Formula 1 champion had been due to carry the torch as it passed through Stevenage, the Hertfordshire town where he grew up, but swapped to today because of the clash with the race at Silverstone.

After starting today's Olympic Torch Relay in Luton, Hamilton, 27, joked that he would have liked to have carried it yesterday after all, following a disappointing eighth-place finish which leaves him fourth in the championship.

"It wasn't that great a day, so I would happily have missed that to come and do it that evening," he said.

"But I am so proud to do it, it doesn't matter where I do it."

Describing the response from fans in the town centre as "phenomenal", he added: "To be nominated to do this is a real honour, I never in a million years thought I would have a chance to do it."

He said he had bought his torch and planned to keep it above his mantelpiece.

Hundreds of people, many of them schoolchildren, turned out to see Lewis start Day 52 of the relay in pole position, gathering for the start in St George's Square and along his 300m leg just after 6.30am.

It took him slightly longer than the three seconds it would take in his F1 car before he handed over to local student Hollie Baxter, 17, who suffers from Rubinstein Taybi Syndrome and has been in a wheelchair since she was 11.