Lewis Hamilton has been crowned GP2 Series champion for 2006 after gaining a crucial extra point hours after the race had finished following the decision to strip Giorgio Pantano of his fastest lap.

Hamilton was set to go into the final race of the season needing just a single point to put the title out of reach of Nelson Piquet Jr. but was gifted the crucial additional marker for the fastest lap when race winner Pantano was judged to have set the original best time under yellow flag conditions.

The Brit, who is been tipped to line alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren-Mercedes for 2007, had seen his lead cut to six points with seven available, six for the win and one for the fastest lap, in Sunday's sprint race, after Piquet finished second, one spot ahead of Hamilton in the feature race.

However, with the gap now up to seven points, the best Piquet could hope for is a tie with Hamilton, the Brazilian needing to win and set the fastest lap and for his rival to finish outside the top six. However, while they are both equal on the number of wins they have achieved this season, the clincher would swing in Hamilton's favour by virtue of managing more second place finishes.

?It's a big relief to know that we've done it. It's not the way I would have liked to have had it: I would have liked to have taken it by winning the race, but I'll take it. I've worked very hard and the team has done a fantastic job. We've had to work hard to fend off Nelson, and to finally have the title is a great feeling.?

His championship glory comes after a superb rookie season with ART Grand Prix, the French team in turn enjoying their second consecutive success having helped Nico Rosberg to the title in 2005.

Indeed, the reigning F3 Euro Series Champion has managed five wins and a total of 13 podiums with one race of the season remaining, including double victories at the Nurburgring and Silverstone.



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