ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton bared body and soul on Sunday after stripping down to his waist on the podium following his victory in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver, who had already clinched his fifth Formula One championship, has a large cross and the words ‘Still I rise’ tattooed prominently on his back, with plenty of ink elsewhere as well.
The Briton said he had wanted to use it as an inspiration for others.
“I’ve always kind of wanted to do it, because I wanted to show ‘Still I rise’,” he told Sky Sports television when asked about his celebrations.
“And I think it was the perfect moment because that’s really how it’s been this year.”
The Briton ended the season with 11 wins, equalling his best for a campaign, but the year did not start out that way with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel winning the first two and Hamilton on the back foot.
For much of the first half of the season, the champion was telling people he did not have the quickest car but he and Mercedes came back strongly after the August break and reaped the rewards.
Hamilton, Formula One’s first black champion who has risen from an under-privileged background to success and wealth beyond his dreams, urged people to read ‘Still I Rise’, a poem by American Maya Angelou.
“Please go and read it because it applies to anyone who’s stumbling and falling,” he said.
“Look at Billy Monger, he’s been a real inspiration to me this year,” he added, referring to the young British driver who lost both his legs in a Formula Four crash last year but came back to stand on the podium in Formula Three in March.
“He probably looks up to me because he wants to be in Formula One but what he’s done...that’s really what ‘Still I Rise’ is all about,” said Hamilton.
The Briton has broken new ground this season, for the first time in his career winning races after he has clinched the championship.
“I really wanted to end the season strong and I think on a personal note I was able to do that,” he said.
“I wanted to end the way I plan to start next year, and that was kind of the new psyche.
“I’ve grown, I’ve understood myself more,” he said, when asked what he had learned. “I’ve just been able to be a better me all year long and that’s never going to stop.
“I’m going to continue to try and work on that and on the output, on the energy I’m projecting to people, my commitment to all the different things I have.”
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ian Chadband