LONDON, July 2 (Reuters) - Next Monday will be a day to remember for Lewis Hamilton, regardless of who wins his home British Grand Prix the day before.
McLaren’s 2008 Formula One world champion is due to run with the London Olympic torch, giving him another moment to shine and the chance of a double celebration if he can also win at Silverstone.
Hamilton was invited to carry the torch through Stevenage, the commuter town 50km north of London where he was born and grew up, but one glance at the race calendar made that a non-starter.
The 27-year-old has his hands otherwise engaged when the flame is in town around lunchtime on Sunday - just before the start of a race he has every hope of winning - so it will have to be Monday instead at another location.
The millionaire Monaco resident, who grew up in local authority social housing before moving away from Stevenage early in his racing career, said it would be “an incredibly proud moment” anyway.
“I am so honoured to have been asked to do it. I never in a million years would have thought I’d get to do something so cool,” Hamilton told Reuters.
“I have no idea where I’ll be running but it’s great to be the one.”
Monday’s leg of the relay, which culminates in London for the opening of the Games on July 27, visits Milton Keynes, Buckingham, Bicester and Oxford - all within easy reach of Silverstone.
Hamilton will do all he can to make sure Sunday ends in a blaze of glory with the Briton seeking victory in the ninth race of the season in front of one of the most passionate crowds in motor racing.
The 2008 British Grand Prix winner needs above all to reel in Ferrari’s championship leader Fernando Alonso, who is 23 points ahead of him after winning in Valencia to snatch the lead.
That race was a miserable one for Hamilton, who was punted out on the penultimate lap by Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado while defending third place, but he has turned his back on that disappointment.
“Just excitement, sheer excitement to get back on it, to get back to where I was,” was how the Briton, winner in Canada last month, described his feelings as he looked ahead to being back at Silverstone.
“It’s just the amount of people that turn up, the fans and the roar and the atmosphere that they are able to create,” added Hamilton, who spent Sunday at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in southern England with singer girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger.
“If none of those fans were there, it would be so boring. They make the whole weekend. It’s not the Formula One cars, it’s the fans.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by John O’Brien)