Lewis Hamilton delights the crowd
It was a cold, blustery morning at Paqpalli Ghall-Istrina, but that did not dampen the spirits of thousands of racing fans who gave British Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton a hero’s welcome as he arrived in a Mercedes sports car with President George Abela.
He later drove a McLaren F1 car on the taxiway.
Hamilton was on stage just after 10.30am near the Lufthansa hangar to present the President with a cheque for €30,000 from Vodafone for the Community Chest Fund.
Blowing his hands and stamping his feet against the cold, but wearing sunglasses nonetheless, Mr Hamilton asked the excited crowd "kif int?" (how are you?), before saying he was delighted to be in Malta for the first time.
Hamilton is about to leave the McLaren team he has been connected to since the age of 13 and will be driving for Mercedes next year.
“Everyone has to have a change,” he said, when asked by the local media about his decision to leave.
“It is about growing, doing something different, learning to communicate with new people.”
“I know what I am doing,” he insisted.
Quizzed further during his press conference, Mr Hamilton acknowledged that it will be “very tough” to win the championship next year, but he expects to make a big impact when rule changes which should favour Mercedes come into effect in 2014.
“We all have to takes risks in life,” he said.
“The target next year has to be podium finishes.”
Echoing the Vodafone theme of the day, he said tries to raise his game all the time.
Hamilton then drove the McLaren MP4-26 F1 car twice on the airport taxiway, impressing the crowd with the car's speed, braking power and noise.
He also took the winner of The Sunday Times Lewis Hamilton competition on a “hot lap” in a Mercedes sports car and will be giving The Times an exclusive interview.