Reigning Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has paid tribute to Billy Monger and says the British Formula 3 driver provided him with “real inspiration” during his title-winning season.
The five-time world champion capped off a brilliant campaign with his 11th victory of the year at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, having beaten Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to the 2018 crown with two races to spare in Mexico.
Explaining the reasoning behind his topless celebration on the Yas Marina podium, Hamilton revealed he had gained inspiration from Monger, who lost both of his lower legs following a horrific Formula 4 crash in 2017 and completed a remarkable return to single-seater racing in British F3 this year with Carlin.
“I’ve always kind of wanted to do it. I always wanted to show, ‘Still I Rise’,” Hamilton said in a post-race interview with Sky Sports F1.
“I think it was a perfect moment because that’s really how it’s been this year.
“I really would encourage anyone who doesn’t know what ‘Still I Rise’ is, it’s a poem out there, please go and read it.
“It applies to anyone that’s stumbling and falling. Look at Billy Monger, he’s been a real inspiration to me this year.
“I’m sure he’ll find it really strange because he probably looks up to me in the sense that he wants to be in Formula 1.
“But what he’s done and so many people who have gone through difficult times, who have stumbled and got back up stronger, that’s really what ‘Still I Rise’ is all about.
“I’ve tried to be as big a spokesman as I can about it. That’s really why I did it.”
Hamilton supported Monger throughout his recovery period and has invited the 19-year-old to F1 races in the last two years.
Monger, who claimed four podiums and finished sixth in the 2018 British F3 championship, is targeting a move into the all-new FIA F3 series for 2019.