Wednesday 31st December 2008
Lewis Hamilton felt "humbled" to have received an MBE in the New Year Honours and declared: "It has been quite a year".
Having come so close to claiming the Formula One World Drivers' Championship in his maiden season last time around, the Stevenage-born racer became the youngest winner of the prestigious title on the final corner of a dramatic Brazil Grand Prix in November.
Hamilton, who turns 24 next month and now lives in Switzerland, paid tribute to the support which helped him reach the very top of motor racing.
"It is a massive honour and incredible privilege for me to receive an MBE from Her Majesty the Queen," Hamilton said.
"It is the most amazing culmination to what has been quite a year for me.
"The support I have received from the UK as a whole has been fantastic and a huge motivation, it is something I am very appreciative of.
"This is not just a proud moment for me, but also for my family and every single person involved with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team. I could not have achieved any of this without them."
Hamilton added: "I am also very humbled to be included on the Honours list alongside all the members of the general public who have been recognised for their tireless work in such varied and worthwhile arenas.
"It has been an outstanding year for British sport as a whole, and it is great to see so many fellow sportsmen and women being honoured today."
Few other sportsmen have enjoyed such a rapid rise as Hamilton, who at the age of 10 cheekily strode over to McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at an awards dinner and calmly mentioned he would one day like to drive for his team.
Hamilton was signed up by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz to their young driver support programme and never looked back as he claimed the British Formula Renault, European Formula Three and GP2 Championship titles.
In 2007, Hamilton established another landmark when he became the first black driver in Formula One and would go onto to come within a point of securing the Championship.
Following the drama of Brazil almost two months ago, where he secured the fifth place needed to pip local hero Felipe Massa to the F1 crown, the Queen herself took the time to personally write a note of congratulations to Hamilton.
And it was only the remarkable achievements in Beijing of cyclist Chris Hoy - who receives a knighthood - which kept the 23-year-old off the top of the podium again at the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards night.
Hamilton hopes his efforts can help inspire a new generation.
He said: "I am very fortunate to have been awarded for achieving my dream, it has required a lot of hard work and dedication, however it has been worth every single minute and I only hope that I can inspire young kids to do the same, whatever their dream may be."
Source : Planet F1