Hamilton will be even better after going so close, says Hill

By MALCOLM FOLLEY

Last updated at 12:03 06 January 2008


Lewis Hamilton will present his new

McLaren Formula One racing car at the

Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart

tomorrow with the world still at his feet,

according to Britain's last F1 champion,

Damon Hill.

With theatrical timing, the McLaren

MP4-23 will be unveiled just 24 hours after

Ferrari today reveal their car to defend the

world driver's championship that Kimi

Raikkonen won at the expense of

Hamilton in the final race of the 2007

championship 11 weeks ago.

Lewis and Anthony Hamilton

Hill fervently believes that 22-year-old

Hamilton will have been strengthened, not

weakened, by his downfall over the final

miles of the most rancorous season in F1

history.

"The fact that Lewis came so close to

winning the championship in his rookie

season will make him even more sure that

he can win the title," said Hill. "I think that

if you put his performance last year into the

context of F1 history, there can be little

doubt that he will one day be world

champion.

"Lewis, and his father, Anthony, have

taken a totally positive view of what

happened last year.

They realise that

Lewis began the

year with no F1

experience and still

almost won. That

makes the

Hamiltons, in my

mind, very strong."

Hill speaks from

personal

experience. In 1994,

he lost the world

championship on

the last day of the season after

Michael

Schumacher controversially drove him off the track in

Adelaide to win the first of his seven titles.

Hill drew from that bitter experience to

win the championship two years later.

"Getting so close, and losing, whetted my

appetite and made winning all the more

appealing," said Hill. "I think Lewis will be

similarly driven.

"He has learned some big lessons. From a

driver's point of view, it's not enough to

worry about your own ambitions. Politics

and economics play a significant part of F1,

because this is a marketplace as well as a

sport. Lewis is a huge talent, a superb

driver, but he has undergone a steep

learning curve and discovered that he can

be at the mercy of events beyond his

control. You just have to find a philosophy

to deal with it.

"Some take the view that the wheels came

off McLaren with the Spygate affair but

they didn't come off without a little

pressure. Ferrari acted aggrieved but their

budgets and their reputation have been

unaffected. From a morale point of view,

they have also made the transition from

the Michael Schumacher era.

"McLaren will have suffered a setback but

only time will tell how much."

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