Lewis Hamilton has said that he was delighted to receive personal congratulations from 2007 nemesis Fernando Alonso after winning the Formula One world title at last weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix, admitting that it would have a taken a lot for the Spaniard to make the gesture.
The pair famously fell out during the Briton's first year in the top flight, leading to Alonso becoming involved in the espionage affair that clouded the 2007 campaign and eventually leaving the McLaren team where he had hoped to establishing himself as team leader. Such was the acrimony between Alonso, Hamilton and McLaren, that the double world champion repeatedly said that he wanted anyone other than the Briton to win this year's title - and that he would even attempt to help Felipe Massa to take the crown for Ferrari if it was within his power to do so.
Although Massa won the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, with Alonso doing all he could to back the local favourite up by finishing second with another sterling driver in the Renault, Hamilton managed to secure the fifth place he required to take the title - and the Spaniard was among the first to congratulate the new champion.
"It was great to see him in the garage," Hamilton told the media during Mercedes' annual 'Stars and Cars' event in Stuttgart, "He came over as I saw my team, I turned round and he was there, just to wish me congratulations. Then he said congratulations to the rest of the team."
The rivalry between Hamilton and Alonso also provoked a series of unsavoury 'racist' incidents, starting with Spanish fans blacking up for a pre-season test in Barcelona and resurfacing in the build-up to Interlagos when it emerged that an anti-Hamilton website was encouraging readers to indulge in 'voodoo' rituals in an effort to deny the Briton the title - and worse.
Alonso, who lost his mantle as youngest world champion to Hamilton, has since spoken out against both the website and other racially-motivated campaigns targeted at his rival, and the Briton hopes that his actions at the culmination of the season can lead to a better accord between them in the future.
"I had a huge amount of respect for him already," Hamilton noted, "but it took a big man to come and do that. I was very thankful to him."
Hamilton was making his second appearance at 'Stars and Cars' and welcomed an estimated 72,000 fans in German, before admitting that he had been amazed by the turn-out.
"In 2007, I was able to celebrate together with many thousands of spectators after being runner-up after only one year in Formula One," he commented, "Today, one year later, and with 72,000 visitors, we celebrate the world championship. It's absolutely crazy how many people came today and I hope everybody had fun -- I had it, that's for sure!"