Lewis Hamilton was magnanimous in defeat as the 2007 Formula 1 World Championship slipped agonisingly out of his grasp in the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix, insisting he will have many more opportunities to fight for the crown.

The McLaren-Mercedes ace went into the race as most people's favourite, having led the drivers' standings for the majority of his rookie campaign in the top flight and still holding a four-point advantage. Despite starting second on the grid, a poor getaway dropped him back down to fourth behind the two Ferraris and team-mate Fernando Alonso, and when he tried to re-take the place from the Spaniard further around the opening lap he ran wide and lost four more positions.

Only a handful of laps later, a temporary gear-shifting problem cost the 22-year-old another half a minute, and though he fought back as valiantly as he could, seventh place at the chequered flag - just ten seconds away from where he needed to be in fifth - was not quite enough, as race-winner Kimi Raikkonen pipped him to the laurels by a solitary point.

"Obviously I'm pretty disappointed with the result today," Hamilton confessed after the race, "having led for so much of the season and then not to win the championship. However I have to put the result into perspective - this is only my first year in Formula 1, and overall it has just been phenomenal.

"I'm still very young and have plenty more years in me to achieve my dream of becoming world champion. I have to thank absolutely everyone in the team for everything they have done for me this year; without them and all their hard work I wouldn't have even been in this position today."

The words of team principal Ron Dennis mirrored his driver's disappointment, having seen not only Hamilton but also Alonso head into the Brazilian weekend ahead of Raikkonen in the title reckoning. Having already been disqualified from the constructors' battle, the end result means despite triumphing in no fewer than eight of the 17 races over the course of the 2007 season, the Woking-based outfit ultimately walks away empty-handed.

"Having fought a close and thrilling battle in the drivers' championship all year and then not to win it at the final hurdle is obviously extremely disappointing," Dennis remarked. "However, we as a team can only feel very proud of all our achievements this season, and the way in which we have conducted ourselves.

"To come into this championship showdown with two drivers both with a chance of winning is a testament to all the hard work and dedication everybody in the McLaren-Mercedes team has put in throughout this difficult year. We would like to congratulate Kimi on his achievement today."

"Not the result we wanted to achieve," added Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug, "with both Lewis and Fernando having been so close to winning the world championship, but even two times 109 points does not make up 110. It hurts very much if you are missing just two points to win a championship.

"However, I want to thank the entire team for their hard work during this season. It is sad for everybody in the team that we couldn't capitalise on our second chance following China. Congratulations to Kimi and Ferrari on winning the world championship."

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