Sao Paulo, Brazil — Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton won the highest honor in motor sport yesterday, clinching the FIA F1 Drivers’ World Championship at the Brazilian Grand Prix to become Formula One’s youngest world champion ever. The 23-year-old driver overtook Toyoya’s Timo Glock on the last lap to finish fifth in the season closer at Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit. His final tally of 98 points was enough to claim the F1 title so narrowly missed in his rookie season last year, when he placed second by one point to fellow TAG Heuer Ambassador and Scuderia Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen.
"Once again, Lewis Hamilton has shown the world what he is made of," said TAG Heuer President and CEO Jean-Christophe Babin. "He’s a true champion, one of those very rare individuals whose human endeavor makes us marvel, who rises to every occasion and performs at the peak of his potential — even under the most extreme pressure. This is what makes him, like Tiger Woods, Kimi Räikkönen, and Maria Sharapova, the perfect representative of the TAG Heuer spirit."
A Brand Ambassador since 2003, Lewis Hamilton joins the prestigious ranks of TAG Heuer F1 Champions — great racing legends like Juan-Manuel Fangio, Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Mario Andretti, Nikki Lauda, Gilles Villeneuve, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Mika Häkkinen and Kimi Räikkönen. He is McLaren's seventh world champion after Fittipaldi, Hunt, Lauda, Prost, Senna and Hakkinen.
"I can’t begin to express what this means to me and the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team," said Lewis Hamilton after the race. "Nor how proud I am of everyone, and how honored to be a part of this incredible achievement. I’d like to thank everyone who has believed in me over the years: my family, Ron Dennis and Norbert Haug and everyone involved with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, who have guided my career from the beginning, especially TAG Heuer, who has supported me since 2003, even before I won the Formula 3 Championship."
"Well, that was a really tough race", said Vodafone McLaren Mercedes CEO Ron Dennis, the man who signed Lewis Hamilton in 1998. "We never pushed hard, we never did anything silly, but of course the late rain made things extraordinarily tense. Even so, even when Sebastian got past Lewis, we never gave up, and Lewis never gave up, because we knew that Timo was on dry tyres. Lewis took his chance brilliantly, and the result was one of the most thrilling finishes in sporting history. I’m so proud of Lewis; I’m so proud of the team; everyone - every single one of them - did an absolutely fantastic job. Thanks, also, to Mercedes-Benz and all our partners, especially our longest-running partners as TAG Heuer, who have been unfailing in their support since 1985."
TAG Heuer’s relationship with Lewis Hamilton is typical of the legendary Swiss brand’s long-term strategy of nurturing young driving talent. No other watchmaker has been in the racing game as long as TAG Heuer, and none can match TAG Heuer’s flair for recognizing — and signing — the very best. Along with 2007 F1 Champ Kimi Räikkönen and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis’s current Ambassadorial racing teammates include: 21-year-old Sebastian Vettel of the Toro Rosso F1 team, who won his maiden race at Monza this year, making him Formula One’s youngest Grand Prix winner; four-time Champcar champion Sébastien Bourdais, now Sebastian Vettel’s F1 teammate at Toro Rosso; 21-year-old Sébastien Buemi, currently a regular GP2 driver and a test driver for the F1’s Red Bull Racing team; Romain Grosjean and Karun Chandhok, both winners in GP2 this year; and Alexandre Prémat, who recently won the Le Mans Series.
At this September’s "British Drivers in Formula 1" exhibition in London, which was curated by Lewis Hamilton, Sir Stirling Moss, and Damon Hill (the last Briton before Lewis Hamilton to win the F1 Championship, in 1996), TAG Heuer presented six watches to young English drivers who have made their mark in English and European championships. Aged 10 to 15, these burgeoning talents have demonstrated the potential to reach heights of human achievement on a par with their great TAG Heuer predecessors.
"TAG Heuer is on a roll," said Jean-Christophe Babin. "Longtime TAG Heuer Ambassador Kimi Raikonnen in 2007, now Lewis Hamilton in 2008 — for the second year in a row, a TAG Heuer Ambassador is Number One in the racing world. Lewis and Heikki and the entire Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team did a stellar job. We are eminently proud of our close partnership with McLaren — one of the longest standing in the history of sport — and of the many products we have developed together. TAG Heuer timing instruments have been in every McLaren car since 1985. "
"Since his early karting days," said Jean-Christophe Babin. "Lewis has been the one to beat, with older and more experienced drivers constantly breathing down his neck. And he’s always come through, always found the inner strength to succeed."