Outgoing world champion Lewis Hamilton today made public his congratulations for his successor Jenson Button, and praised his fellow Brit fulsomely.
Hamilton said that as soon as it was obvious his own bid for more glory was not going to happen, he had secretly supported his compatriot and willed him to win the title.
“He knows that I’ve been supporting him all year, and I’ve seen him and given him my congratulations. I’ve been saying for months that he’d be a worthy world champion and I think he’ll be a great ambassador for our sport. It’s great that the title will stay in Great Britain for another year, and I’d like to think that we’ll both be up there next year fighting alongside each other to ensure that we keep bringing it back home to home soil.”
Hamilton went on to say that he believed Button was deserving of the honour, and performed well over the course of the season.
“We both want to make our country proud, and you couldn’t really have asked for Jenson to do any more this season: he’s won six races and he’s always been in control of himself and been a great asset for the Brawn GP team. He will make a great champion. I’m proud of what he’s done – both him and his team and I think he’ll comes to Abu Dhabi with that weight off his shoulders and ready to make a real race of it. It would be fantastic for Britain if we could get a great double result at the last race of the season.”
Hamilton said that becoming champion had not dulled his desire to win, and he had some words of advice for Button.
“Becoming world champion is a strange and unreal feeling. I heard on Sunday that Jenson kept on saying, “I’m champion, I’m world champion,” and I kind of knew exactly what he meant. It’s all too much to take in at once especially in one day. For me, I still don’t really think of myself as world champion of course, when I first saw the number one on my car, it really meant something, and when I arrived at Melbourne for the first race, it also meant something new to me. But I still have the same determination to succeed that I’ve always had.”
The McLaren star also took the opportunity to reflect on his own year, during which many consider he has become a better driver, with more patience and skill, and with none of his speed lost.
“Well, it’s been a fantastic year for me. It’s been very tough and demanding at times, but I think I’m actually a very different person now than I was a year ago and some of that comes directly and indirectly from being world champion. I think this year has helped me to understand and appreciate more the challenge and thrill of Formula 1. I’d like to think I’m a more rounded individual as a result of my season, and I definitely think I’m a better driver.
“In many ways, though, I’m still the same. I’m still a fighter, and I still want to make sure that I keep my family, and my friends and my team close to me.”
Before Hamilton’s 2010 assault, however, comes the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, at which the Stevenage speedster intends to take victory.
“I’ll be fighting to take home a win in Abu Dhabi that’s very important because a victory there will keep us all buzzing for the winter, and that’s great for our motivation.”