Tuesday 20 February 2018

Hamilton emotional on his last lap for McLaren

David Tremayne

Lewis Hamilton never made any secret of the fact that his last race for McLaren would be an emotional closure. Or that he desperately wanted to sign off with a victory to back up his wonderful triumph the previous week in Texas.

The 27-year-old Englishman has scored all of his 21 Grand Prix victories – and taken 26 pole positions and 12 fastest laps – with the team he joined at the age of 13. "I've made friendships here that I know will last for life," he said. "But life is about challenge. I don't so much feel like I'm leaving home to go to university, more that I'm leaving university to go to my first job. Mercedes will be a huge challenge, but I feel I'm ready for it."

Before the race he thought that crossing the finish line for the last time in a McLaren would be sad. "But it's also going to be a beautiful thing in many ways as well, because I'm going to start a new chapter in my life."

Unfortunately, the incident with Nico Hulkenberg on the 55th lap meant that his last lap in a McLaren was not the final one to the line. "It was a little bit unfortunate," he said. "The dude didn't even say sorry. So that says a lot. That's what happens when you race with the less experienced.

"I feel okay, and I feel happy for the team to get the win. But I also feel a little bit like I did in 2007, when I lost the championship to Kimi (Raikkonen). A little bit numb. For sure, I have mixed emotions. We were leading and we didn't get to see the race through. I always like to see the race through. But I'm also excited for the future ... "

In the winner's post-race press conference, Hamilton's (left) fellow Briton, and now former team-mate, Jenson Button said: "It's sad that Lewis is not here to enjoy his last race with the team. But that's racing. I'd like to bid him farewell – we've had a good time together over the past three years, some good fights, and I hope that he has a good career with Mercedes."

It was also an emotional day for the man who became only the third driver to win three F1 titles in succession, alongside Michael Schumacher and Juan-Manuel Fangio. "It is difficult to imagine what goes through my head now, even for myself," Sebastian Vettel said. "I am full of adrenaline and if you poke me now I wouldn't feel it.

"It was an incredible race. When you get turned around at Turn Four for no reason and it becomes like heading the wrong way down the M25, it is not the most comfortable feeling."

And the man he edged out? After a fraught race, Fernando Alonso said: "It was good, what we wanted with the mixed conditions – and one of the (hardest) races we have ever driven." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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