Lewis Hamilton has been voted runner-up to triple Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Hoy in this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award it is the second time that the British Formula One driver has been pipped to second place with boxer Joe Calzaghe winning the award in 2007.
Hamilton and Hoy were due to face each other in an eagerly-awaited “man v machine” challenge at the Race of Champions event at Wembley Stadium, but the duel was cancelled due to heavy rain, giving the BBC’s voting public something of a final say.
Hamilton, who was accompanied to the BBC Television Centre with McLaren team principal and mentor Ron Dennis, became the youngest driver to win the world championship in 2008 with five wins and ten podiums, including a sensational victory in the wet at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone.
But it was his fifth place in the nail-biting season finale in Brazil that ultimately saw him eclipse Felipe Massa for the title, a result that until the last lap of the race had all but eluded him as torrential rain wrecked havoc with his race strategy.
“It was just incredible this year,” he told the audience. “In that last race [the Brazilian Grand Prix] everyone had the same feeling; I had my heart in my mouth.”
“Throughout the race you always know what is going on, and then we lost it. I got to Turn 10 and I couldn’t get past Glock until the last corner. I still didn’t know the result when I crossed the line. I was just praying.
“My whole career flashed before my eyes. I came across the line waiting for the team to tell me whether I’d won it or lost it. And when they told me the emotions came pouring out. It was the proudest moment in my life.”
When asked if he believed he could emulate the success of seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, Hamilton responded:
“I don’t see myself doing that. I’m privileged to get just one (title). Going into next year I’m still at the beginning of my career and I’ve got an opportunity to win more (titles). I’m just focussed on next year now.”