Having now clinched his first Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship, Lewis Hamilton will 'get better and better' with time, argues Martin Donnelly - who believes the McLaren-Mercedes' star's Interlagos success will do wonders for the future of British motorsport.

In lifting the laurels at the end of a supremely tense, nail-biting Brazilian Grand Prix season finale just over a week ago in which he pipped Ferrari rival Felipe Massa to the crown by just a single point on the latter's home soil, Hamilton became the youngest driver ever to claim international motorsport's highest trophy - displacing former team-mate Fernando Alonso by 122 days to go down in the sport's record books.

Donnelly - who competed in the top flight for Arrows and Lotus in 1989 and 1990 respectively, before suffering a career-ending shunt at Jerez in southern Spain in the latter season in which he sustained multiple injuries - agreed that in the closing laps in S?o Paulo, it could have gone either way.

"It certainly kept us on our toes right to the chequered flag," the Ulsterman acknowledged, speaking to Crash.net Radio. "Obviously as they were on the grid the heavens opened up and the rain came down. No matter how well you try to control your emotions, we're all human and some cope better than most.

"For the majority of the race everybody did a good job, but then of course the rain came again at the end and Massa was faultless. Lewis got involved in a few little scraps, but he came through. Whether or not Toyota made the right call, whether or not [Timo] Glock made a few mistakes in other corners on that last lap we don't know, but thankfully - not being biased - the right man came through to win the championship.

"It looked like it was just going to get away. [Sebastian] Vettel had the speed and got past Lewis when he went wide in the last corner, and for a lap-and-a-half there it was over and done, but it isn't over 'til the fat lady sings. As they say in motorsport, you race to the chequered flag and Lewis got it. I don't think you could get much of a closer finish than that.

"I feel very sorry for Massa's father, because they honestly believed that they had it in the bag, but as luck or fate would have it, Glock's bad fortune was Lewis' good fortune. He won it by a point this year, he lost it by a point last year, and he's now become the youngest-ever, British, F1 World Champion. It sounds good."

Indeed, not only does Donnelly believe the Stevenage-born ace's title triumph will give young British hopefuls bidding to follow in his wheeltracks an added incentive, but he suggests that should the equipment at his disposal remain up to the task, Hamilton can go on to win again and again and again.

"It will be good for British motorsport across the board and everybody involved in it," the 44-year-old underlined. "It will be good for the British Racing Drivers' Club and young guys coming up and trying to emulate what he has done. Dreams can come true. If you believe in yourself and you've got that natural ability and talent, then people will always take a chance and bring you through.

"This has been just a massive shot in the arm of self-confidence [for Hamilton], and confidence is time on the stopwatch. How much time that's worth no one knows, but with that self-belief and confidence he'll just go on to get better and better.

"It's up to McLaren to keep providing him with the equipment to do the job right - because in F1 you're only as good as the equipment you're given - but if the package is right, Lewis will do the job."

by Russell Atkins



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