Bruce Hepburn - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Lewis Hamilton says that after his second meeting with Nelson Mandela in April, his admiration for the former South African president has grown even more.
Hamilton was well on his way to his 2008 Formula One World Championship title when he was invited to Mandela's 90th birthday party that year.
The F1 star was joined at the gala dinner by many of the world's rich and famous, like Bill Clinton, Elton John and Denzel Washington, but Mandela impressed Hamilton the most and his admiration grew even more when the two met again in April this year. Hamilton was in Cape Town for a PR appearance for McLaren sponsor Vodafone and used the opportunity to have a second visit with Mandela which left him even more impressed than two years earlier.
Speaking on the Motorsport Total web site, Hamilton said of Mandela: "For many South Africans, he is a hero."
The 25-year old Briton said he had admired Mandela while still at school.
"Nelson Mandela is simply a great personality - warm-hearted and always happy," continued Hamilton. "He sat for 27 years in prison and nevertheless is so unencumbered and at peace with the world. After his release from prison, he even went to visit his jailor and had tea with him. That is quite unbelievable!"
"I felt a certain humility and pride at being allowed to meet him. He was impressive - like a God," said Hamilton. "With people like him, the world could have been very much better."
"It was so nice at our meeting - not only for me, but for my entire family. It was not a simple 'meet-and-greet". It was really beautiful."
" I have now been to South Africa two or three times, and Cape Town and Johannesburg are two of my favourite places," he continued. " When I went to Cape Town the first time, it bowled me over! I was there for one and a half days and it was simply unbelievable."
Hamilton currently lies second in the 2010 world championship which resumes after a summer break with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on 29 August.