Hamilton pays tribute to fans at Silverstone
11 July, 2011
Jul.11 (Reuters) McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton paid tribute to the support of his home crowd and cracked a joke about his bad boy image on Sunday after a storming fourth-place drive to silence his critics at the British Grand Prix.
The 2008 world champion, who has been a regular visitor to the stewards this season, went wheel to wheel with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa into the final corner with the two cars banging bodywork before the chequered flag.
The Brazilian went wide and crossed the line just 0.024 behind Hamilton while the sell-out 122,000 strong crowd cheered their hero as if he had won.
“That was as close as it’s going to get. It was crazy,” said Hamilton.
“I have never seen so many people at Silverstone. The support we have here is far greater and beyond any driver will get anywhere else…I could feel them spurring me on, spurring me on.”
The Briton made a storming start from 10th place on a wet track that is so familiar that he knew exactly where to go for grip.
He was only slowed some 10 laps from the end by his team telling him to save fuel — a huge frustration for a racer aiming for the podium.
“At the end I had to save fuel massively, so I had to give (Red Bull’s) Mark Webber his position,” said Hamilton.
“They kept telling me and then on the last lap they said ‘OK, now you can push’. And I was, like. ‘OK thanks, after I had let him catch me up.’
“You are always trying to drive to a fine line…the guys in front, the Ferraris and the Red Bulls, they didn’t look like they had to save fuel. So that’s not a positive on our side.”
What was a positive was the wall of energy provided by a crowd that reached record proportions over the three days, with organisers putting the total at 315,000.
“Today I feel massively exhilarated,” said Hamilton, who had felt quite the opposite after Saturday’s qualifying.
If his choice of television viewing was doom-laden — he watched disaster movie ‘Armageddon’ when he got home — Sunday proved far more uplifting.
“It’s been hard not to be able to compete and not having good qualifying positions. Really we’ve not been on the pace,” he said.
“I was able to show my actual skill and talent through those early laps where it was still wet. I was the fastest on the track even though I don’t have the fastest car. That felt fantastic for me.
“The fans have been phenomenal this weekend…even though we didn’t win I still think it was one of the best Silverstone grands prix of all time so I look forward to coming back next year.”
The incident with Massa might have caused some concern with his team, after recent trips to the stewards’ room, but Hamilton made light of it.
“I’ve got like a platinum card for the stewards, so I expect to be there,” he joked.
“I’m actually going straight from here to the stewards, just to sit there and wait, rather than go back and come back.”