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Hamilton first black driver to win F1 race

6/10/2007

MONTREAL -- Lewis Hamilton's learning curve just got shorter
-- a lot shorter.

The 22-year-old Englishman, the first black driver in Formula
One history, added his first F1 victory to an already remarkable
career start by winning the crash-filled Canadian Grand Prix on
Sunday.

And he made it look easy.

Hamilton started from the pole, also for the first time. Apart
from losing the lead for three laps when he made his first of two
pit stops, he led all the way and was never challenged.

The slim, soft-spoken youngster has six consecutive top-three
finishes in six starts, something no other first-year F1 driver has
accomplished.

"This is history," Hamilton said, grinning.

The only one to give the Mercedes McLaren driver any competition
during the 70-lap race on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve's 2.71-mile
road course was BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld. He chased Hamilton all
day without catching him.

The only thing that kept the race close at all was accidents --
four full-course caution flags that wiped out the leads Hamilton
built with seeming ease. He kept winning the restarts though and
beat Heidfeld to the finish by 4.3 seconds.

"It was a fairly simple race, apart from the restarts,"
Hamilton said. "On those, I was just trying to keep the tires warm
and not make a mistake. The last few laps I was just counting down.

"I'm the type of guy that will usually push right to the end,
but it's a tricky circuit, and if you make one mistake you go into
the marbles and into the wall. So I quieted down towards the end
and just enjoyed it."

Once he had the race in hand, the youngster scrambled out of his
cockpit. He thrust his arms in the air and jumped up and down. He
then bounced to the ground, trotted to a barrier and jumped across
to dive into the midst of his crew, hugging everyone in sight.

"It's been a fantastic season already," he said. "We've had
six podiums and I've been ready for quite some time for the win --
it's just been a matter of when and where. The team gave me the
best car and I had no problems during the race at all."

Heidfeld was almost as happy with his runner-up finish, matching
his career best.

"I think I had a very good chance to finish second even in
normal race conditions, without so many safety cars [on the track]
and without Fernando [Alonso] being penalized," Heidfeld said.

Alonso, the two-time and reigning F1 champion, started alongside
his McLaren teammate on the front row. He made a mistake on the
start when he drove off the course in the first turn and allowed
Heidfeld to dive past into second.

That was just the beginning of a very bad day for Alonso, who
was hit with a penalty for pitting too soon during one of the
full-course cautions. That set the Spaniard back to 14th, but he
got back as high as sixth before two more off-course excursions
slowed him. Alonso was passed two laps from the finish by Super
Aguri'a Takuma Sato and finished seventh.

Hamilton, who came into the race tied with Alonso at the top of
the standings, will take an eight-point lead into next Sunday's
U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis.

"The next dream is to win the Formula One championship," he
said. "But, bear in mind, I'm still a rookie and there's bound to
be some bad times, too."

Robert Kubica, a 22-year-old driver from Poland and Heidfeld's
teammate, was involved in a frightening crash just before the
halfway point. Team officials first said he broke his right leg and
later said the driver was sore but had no apparent injuries.

Considered one of the rising stars of F1, Kubica was racing with
the Toyota of Jarno Trulli and the Ferrari of Felipe Massa when he
suddenly veered off course into the grass as they drove toward the
hairpin turn.

Kubica's car slammed into the inside concrete wall, then
somersaulted across the track in a shower of debris. He then hit
the outside wall and came to rest with what was left of the car on
its side. The Ferraris of Massa and Kimi Raikkonen were expected to
pose a threat for the McLarens, but both had problems.

Massa was running fourth when he was disqualified, along with
Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella, who was eighth at the time.
Officials said they both ran a red light at the end of pit road
during a caution.

Raikkonen ran through the grass several times and struggled to a
fifth-place finish, coming in behind the Williams of Alexander Wurz
and the Renault of Heikki Kovalainen. Ralf Schumacher, driving a
Toyota, took the eighth and final points position.