Hamilton in awe of his Queen

2009-03-10 16:37

London - Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton collected a prestigious award on Tuesday from Queen Elizabeth II and said the monarch had watched his title-clinching drive last year.

Hamilton became the youngest driver, at 23, and first black racer to win the F1 championship last season.

He was made of a Member of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE, in the queen's New Year honors list and went to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday to pick up the medal.

"I was so nervous to meet her," said Hamilton, wearing a gray pinstripe suit. "It was one of the most overwhelming experiences I've ever had. I'm kind of lost for words. I don't think you realise until you're standing in front of her how special it is."

Hamilton clinched the title in dramatic fashion on the final lap of the last race of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix. He made an overtaking move on the final corner to finish fifth and secure the overall title by one point over Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

"The queen said she watched very closely the last few laps," Hamilton said. "She was asking about the car."

Hamilton is preparing for the season-opening race in Australia on March 29.

"The pressure's on now," he said. "She'll be watching as I go into the first race."

Hamilton will travel to Barcelona for testing with his McLaren team this week.

"We've got a lot of work to do," he said. "I would love to win again if I could but it's not as straightforward as it was last year."

Hamilton was accompanied at the palace by his father Anthony, brother Nicolas and stepmother Linda. His pop star girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, was absent.

"She's on tour," Hamilton said. "She would have come for sure."