Lewis picks up title trophy in star-studded FIA Gala

Lewis Hamilton took centre stage at the FIA’s star-studded end of season Gala in Monaco last night, the newly crowned British champion at last laying his hands on the coveted drivers’ title trophy after beating Felipe Massa in the nail-biting season finale in Brazil.

It was never going to be easy to surpass the excitement of 2007 and the three-way title showdown at the final race, but that is exactly what happened with Hamilton memorably taking the drivers championship on the final lap in what was a nail-biting Brazilian Grand Prix.

“This year has been a very special one in my life the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had since childhood and an ambition that has taken my family and me on an amazing journey,” the 23-year-old said.

“The fact that I won the Drivers World Championship on the very last lap of the very last race is something that makes me so proud of our efforts in 2008; we pushed to the limit on every single lap, from Melbourne to Brazil and it s that determination and spirit that ultimately won us the world title.

“It s always very rewarding to receive recognition for all the work you put into the season, and the FIA Prize Giving Gala in Monte-Carlo is of course the fitting venue at which to celebrate all our efforts before we push ahead into 2009.”

Ferrari s Felipe Massa could not have come closer to winning the championship and was justifiably proud of the role he played in a highly competitive season.

“This has been an incredibly closely contested season, which produced an amazing final,” the Brazilian said.

“When you lose the world title by a single point, having had it in your grasp for a handful of seconds, it would be easy to take it badly. But I prefer to look to the future and to see things in a positive light.

“I won six races and played my part in the team taking the Constructors Championship, which I know is so important for Ferrari. We are already looking to a new season and I will do my utmost to come back here to Monaco next year to claim the prize which today has gone to Lewis.”

Kimi Raikkonen was unable to retain the title he won last year but vowed to return stronger next season.

“I would have preferred to be here collecting the World Champion s trophy for a second consecutive time, but this year, things did not go my way,” he said. “The season got off to a good start, but then, for various reasons, the situation got complicated and by the time we were back on form, it was already too late.

“However, we learnt some valuable lessons which will come in useful next year. I am happy that Ferrari won, confirming its position as world champion: it s an exceptional team that never gives up.”

Massa and Raikkonen ensured that Ferrari took the Constructors Trophy for the second successive season and Stefano Domenicali was delighted to collect the prize in his first year as team director.

“I am honoured to be here, at the end of my first year in charge of the team, to collect the Constructors Trophy that goes to the World Championship-winning team,” he said.

“This is the 16th time in Scuderia Ferrari s history and the eighth in the last ten years that we have won this award and it comes courtesy of all the hard work, passion and determination put in by everyone at Maranello.

“My thoughts and thanks go to each and every one of them, for what they were able to achieve, to our drivers and also to Ferrari President, Luca di Montezemolo, who along with Jean Todt, chose me to fill this role. He has always given his support, especially during the most difficult moments.”