by Russell Atkins

World championship leader Lewis Hamilton has brushed off the tag of phenomenon as he has been hailed by Sir Frank Williams, insisting he is "just like a normal guy".

The 22-year-old has established a 14-point lead over reigning double world champion team-mate Fernando Alonso in the drivers' standings coming up to the halfway stage of the season, courtesy of a brace of victories and unbroken run of podium finishes from the opening eight races.

In the run-up to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend he presided over a karting challenge at Daytona Raceway in Milton Keynes uniting ten of the country's brightest young hopefuls from the BRDC Stars of Tomorrow Championship, the same series in which he triumphed eleven years ago to set himself on the fast track to motor racing superstardom.

"I don't feel like a phenomenon," the McLaren-Mercedes ace told the world's assembled media at the private event. "I just feel like a normal guy. I simply get on with my life, and when I'm at the race track I'm there to win.

"I'm a very competitive person and I always want to better myself and do well for my family. I've always been very fortunate to have a loyal family behind me, and making them proud is very important to me. You've got to listen to the people around you - people you trust - and keep those people as close as possible."

Speaking about the effect his new found fame had exerted on him since his arrival in the top flight four months ago, the reigning GP2 champion said although it had inevitably changed the whole complexion of his everyday life, it was something he had been prepared for from a very young age.

"My world has just turned upside down," he admitted. "You lose all your privacy - I now struggle to walk the streets without people noticing me and it's just getting bigger and bigger, but it's the world I've always wanted. On a race weekend there's so much attention, but my perspective on life hasn't really changed.

"I'm extremely excited [about this weekend], and I think I'm slowly starting to get an idea of what the feeling is like back in the UK. You always get a big boost of confidence racing in front of your home crowd. I think it's going to be amazing."



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