Lewis Hamilton finally got his hands on the trophy he has been chasing since he first set foot in a kart at the age of eight as he accepted the F1 world championship award at the usual end-of-year FIA gala in Monaco.

Although the week preceding the ceremony had been dominated by talk of preserving Formula One's future in the wake of a global credit crisis and the shock loss of Honda from next year's ranks, Hamilton and those who pushed him hardest through 2008 were able to enjoy their moment in the spotlight as the awards for a year of endeavour - not just in F1, but in all forms of motorsport - were handed out in front of a star-studded audience.

"This year has been a very special one in my life - the fulfilment of a dream I've had since childhood, and an ambition that has taken my family and me on an amazing journey," Hamilton commented as he formally accepted the title.

"The fact that I won the drivers' world championship on the very last lap of the very last race is something that makes me so proud of our efforts in 2008. We pushed to the limit on every single lap, from Melbourne to Brazil, and it's that determination and spirit that ultimately won us the world title.

"It's always very rewarding to receive recognition for all the work you put into the season, and the FIA prize-giving gala here in Monte Carlo is, of course, the fitting venue at which to celebrate all our efforts before we push ahead into 2009."

Runner-up Felipe Massa, who headed to Monaco fresh from his first test of the winter at Jerez de la Frontera, could not have come closer to winning the championship, and admitted that he was proud of the role he played in a highly competitive season.

"This has been an incredibly closely-contested season, which produced an amazing finale," he reflected, "When you lose the world title by a single point, having had it in your grasp for a handful of seconds, it would be easy to take it badly, but I prefer to look to the future and to see things in a positive light.

"I won six races and played my part in the team taking the constructors' championship, which I know is so important for Ferrari. We are already looking to a new season and I will do my utmost to come back here to Monaco next year to claim the prize which today has gone to Lewis."

Unable to retain the title he had won in 2007, Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen nevertheless did enough in a patchy season to claim third place at the end of the year - albeit on countback after tying on points with Robert Kubica. The Finn vowed to return stronger next season.

"I would have preferred to be here collecting the world champion's trophy for a second consecutive time but, this year, things did not go my way," he admitted, "The season got off to a good start but then, for various reasons, the situation got complicated and, by the time we were back on form, it was already too late.

"However, we learnt some valuable lessons which will come in useful next year. I am happy that Ferrari won, confirming its position as world champion, as it's an exceptional team that never gives up."

First year team principal Stefano Domenicali was on hand to join both Massa and Raikkonen on stage to collect the constructors' world championship award for Ferrari, and was delighted to have been able to succeed Jean Todt in such successful fashion.

"I am honoured to be here, at the end of my first year in charge of the team, to collect the constructors' trophy that goes to the world championship-winning team," he conceded, "This is the 16th time in Scuderia Ferrari's history, and the eighth in the last ten years, that we have won this award and it comes courtesy of all the hard work, passion and determination put in by everyone at Maranello.

"My thoughts and thanks go to each and every one of them, for what they were able to achieve, to our drivers and also to Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo who, along with Jean Todt, chose me to fill this role. He has always given his support, especially during the most difficult moments."

Champions from all other FIA-approved championships - from karting to sportscars and the WRC - were also on hand to pick up their awards at the ceremony, which traditionally brings the curtain down on the season.