Hamilton and McLaren celebrate championship

Hamilton and McLaren celebrate championship

World driving champion Lewis Hamilton, who arrived with family members and girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls, was greeted by 1,500 McLaren Mercedes employees Wednesday on a celebratory visit to the McLaren Technology...

World driving champion Lewis Hamilton, who arrived with family members and girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls, was greeted by 1,500 McLaren Mercedes employees Wednesday on a celebratory visit to the McLaren Technology Centre where he said everyone needs "a holiday and a pay rise," a line that drew cheers from the assembled workers and laughs from McLaren chief exec Martin Whitmarsh and top boss Ron Dennis.

Lewis Hamilton arrives at the McLaren Technology Centre in the McLaren Mercedes MP4-23.
Photo by McLaren.

Hamilton returned to Britain from winning the world title in Brazil to find himself subject of a BBC television special, "The Billion Dollar Man." The youngest and the first driver of color -- his father is black, his mother white -- to win the world driving championship, Hamilton is seen as poised to be first to the magical money mark, too.

Emerging from family downtime Wednesday, Hamilton visited the McLaren HQ at Woking, England, where he drove an MP4-23 around the compound's lake, reiterated to employees that McLaren is where he wants to spend his F1 career, and received a congratulatory message from Queen Elizabeth II.

"I'm delighted that you succeeded in winning the Formula One world championship to become the youngest-ever champion," the queen's message read. "I send you my warmest congratulations on your remarkable and historic achievement."

Hamilton reiterated that, like British great Jim Clark with Lotus before him, he expects to spend his F1 career with McLaren.

"I'm with the team I've always dreamt of driving for," Hamilton said in response to questions after prepared remarks. "When you're living your dream, and you're in the car you've always wanted to have, why would you want to go anywhere?"

Hamilton told the BBC he didn't think he could match Michael Schumacher's record seven world driving titles but that he would like to win three. A hat trick would earn him a McLaren F1 LM worth $3.2 million. Dennis gave his top driver a miniature of the car at Wednesday's ceremony. Only a handful of the exotic sports cars have been made.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates with McLaren employees.
Photo by McLaren.

Hamilton, 23, became the sport's youngest and first driver of color to win the championship when, in a do-over from a year ago when he lost the title by one point to Kimi Raikkonen in Brazil, he won on the final lap of Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix. He needed to finish fifth if title rival Felipe Massa of Ferrari won, which the Brazilian did. But Hamilton was passed by Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel and dropped to sixth until, at the final corner of the final lap, Toyota's Timo Glock could not hold position on dry tires on a wet course and Hamilton recaptured fifth. Hamilton took the title by one point from Massa.

Hamilton, who, with Scherzinger, 30, signed autographs for McLaren workers, was asked about the recent success of another mixed-race fellow, Sen. Barack Obama, who Tuesday night became president-elect of the United States.

"I have a huge amount of respect for both candidates but I'm very happy and proud to see Obama at the front. I think it is great for the world, so congratulations to him."

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone also weighed in Wednesday, telling the Daily Express he was pleased with Hamilton's championship as good for F1.

"A lot of people who might not watch grand prix racing on television will switch on to see him. There could be a Tiger Woods effect," Ecclestone said.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Jim Clark , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Timo Glock , Sebastian Vettel , Bernie Ecclestone
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Toro Rosso