Monday, May 26, 2008

Hamilton: The highlight of my career - NEWS

Sunday 25th May 2008

A jubilant Lewis Hamilton has described his victory in the Monaco GP as the highlight of his career.

Somewhat fortunate that his first-lap crash ultimately worked to his advantage, it was incontestable that his McLaren was the class of the field as he built up a lead of 40 seconds - sufficient for him to take his second pit-stop without losing the lead of what was otherwise a chaotic race.

After crossing the line, and talking to his pit crew via his in-car radio, a euphoric Hamilton announced: "I apologise for hitting the barrier, but we made up for it! Now let's go party!"

Hamilton's jubiliation was still evident in the post-race press conference. "The pace I had was ridiculous," he exclaimed. "At one point I was one second [a lap] quicker than everybody else - it was quite easy. I was asking the team 'Do I need to go quicker?' and they said it was fine."

Hamilton's relationship with then McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso deteriorated dramatically last season when he was denied the opportunity to challenge for victory in F1's showpiece event and the Englishman did not disguise his glee at winning around the fabled streets of the Principality.

"This is the highlight of my career," he announced. "This will stay with me for a long time... it is the highlight of my life so far.

"This is the best win ever, for sure. Even if I was to win here again, which I plan on doing, this is the best one. The first one. Just getting to F1 and going to Monaco and winning the Grand Prix. Even though I didn't get pole position I just stayed optimistic and brought it home. The guys did a good job as you could see and it was the most fun I have had in a race ever.

"In the last few laps I was thinking that Ayrton [Senna] had won here a lot of times and that it would be amazing to win here, but I knew anything could happen, I had to just keep it out of the barriers, and I managed to do that."

Reflecting on the race itself, Hamilton remarked: "I was able to get a good start. I felt comfortable and I knew I had a good car to challenge Felipe [Massa], but then as the rain came down there was so much spray.

"Through Tabac I hit a river of water and slid into the barrier, but fortunately I was able to tell the team and they reacted very quickly.

"They did a great job and without them I wouldn't have won this."

The 23-year-old also hailed McLaren's strategy, although all his good work in building up a secure lead was ruined when Nico Rosberg crashed out, prompting the re-appearance of the Safety Car.

"I can't tell you how difficult it was, but the strategy played into my hands," he said. "There was one point when I was 40 seconds ahead and then the Safety Car came out again.

"I said it was going to be an eventful race, and I hope Nico (Rosberg) is okay because it was a big shunt.

"But at the restart, after what happened last year in Canada, it was no sweat. I was counting down the laps - and it took a long, long time!"

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