Lewis Hamilton was forced to endure the 'most dramatic race of his whole life' as he joined the likes of Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart in becoming a British winner of the Formula One drivers' championship.

The McLaren man went into the season finale at Interlagos aware that fifth place would be enough to make him the youngest champion in F1 history, regardless of the result of his one remaining title rival Felipe Massa.

While Massa dominated his home race from pole position in an attempt to overturn his seven point deficit, Hamilton was able to stay out of trouble at the delayed start and was running comfortably inside the top five when the Sao Paulo weather decided to throw one final rain shower into the mix.

That forced the top six cars to dive into the pits, but crucially, Toyota's Timo Glock elected to gamble by staying out on dry tyres for the final laps of the race.

It meant Hamilton rejoined in fifth place, but with Sebastian Vettel pushing hard from behind and when Hamilton ran slightly wide with just three laps remaining, the young German was able to sneak past and demote the McLaren man to sixth - a result which would cost him the title and hand it to Massa.

However, as the rain increased, Glock was struggling to keep his Toyota on track and with Massa having already taken the chequered flag and Ferrari ready to celebrate, Hamilton was able to get ahead of Glock at the final corner to snatch the title from Massa's grasp and leave the Ferrari team speechless on pit road when their celebrations were cut abruptly short.

"The most dramatic race of my whole life," Hamilton admitted. "It's pretty much impossible to put this into words: I'm still speechless. It's been such a long journey, but I've always had the support of my family, the team, our partners and the fans. We did a fantastic job throughout the whole year and, with all the sacrifices we made, I'm so thrilled to be able to win this for everyone.

"Before it started to rain I was quite comfortable, and I was just focused on having a clean race. Then it started to drizzle and I didn't want to take any risks - but Sebastian got past me and I was t old that I had to get back in front of him. I couldn't believe it. Then at the very last corner I managed to get past Timo - it was just amazing. This was one of the toughest races of my life, if not the toughest.

"I was shouting, 'Do I have it? Do I have it?' on the radio. It was only when I took the chequered flag and got to turn one that the team told me I was world champion. I was ecstatic."

Hamilton's title win came just when it seemed like history was going to repeat itself, after he lost out on the 2007 crown despite taking the same seven point lead into the Interlagos finale.

It capped a long journey which has seen him supported by McLaren boss Ron Dennis since his karting days, and Dennis admitted he was proud to see his driver achieve his dream.

"Well, that was a really tough race," he said. "We never pushed hard, we never did anything silly, but of course the late rain made things extra ordinarily tense. Even so, even when Sebastian got past Lewis, we never gave up, and Lewis never gave up, because we knew that Timo was on dry tyres. Lewis took his chance brilliantly, and the result was one of the most thrilling finishes in sporting history.

"I'm so proud of Lewis; I'm so proud of the team. Everyone - every single one of them - did an absolutely fantastic job. Thanks, also, to Mercedes-Benz and all our partners - and, last but not least, congratulations to Ferrari on winning the constructors' championship."


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment