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Overwhelmed Hamilton collects MBE

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Video courtesy of British Ceremonial Arts

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has collected his MBE from Buckingham Palace, saying it was "overwhelming".

The 24-year-old racing driver, who became the youngest winner of the world championship in November, was presented with the award by the Queen.

"It was one of the most overwhelming experiences I've ever had," he said.

Army chief General Sir Richard Dannatt said he discussed the recent killings in Northern Ireland with the monarch as he collected a Knight Grand Cross.

Driving prodigy

Hamilton said: "I don't think you realise until you're standing in front of her how special it is."

In 2007 he became the first black driver in Formula One and a year later took the fifth place he needed at the last corner in the Brazilian GP to take the crown.

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

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

His next Formula One race is the season opener in Australia at the end of the month.

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton became the first black driver in Formula One in 2007

Hamilton turned up with his father Anthony, brother Nicolas and stepmother Linda, but his Pussycat Dolls girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger could not make it.

The driver has enjoyed a rapid rise.

At an awards dinner as a 10-year-old, he told the head of racing team McLaren that he would one day like to drive for them.

Three years later, McLaren and Mercedes-Benz signed him to their young driver support programme and he went on to win three junior championship titles.

Sir Richard, who became chief of the General Staff in 2006, was presented with a Knight Grand Cross by the Queen.

"Not surprisingly we both agreed that it was tragic to have lost two soldiers and a policeman in Northern Ireland," he said.

"We very much hope that Northern Ireland doesn't slip back into the dark days.

It's amazing. It's a real honour. It really tops off what has been a fantastic 2008
Dr Tim Brabants, MBE

"It's really depressing that a small group has chosen to return to violence."

Two months into the job he said the British military should leave Iraq soon or risk making security in that country worse.

He was awarded the Military Cross at the age of 22 after service in Northern Ireland and also served in Kosovo as British forces' commander.

He later took command of Nato's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.

Canoeist Tim Brabants, 32, picked up an MBE after winning the men's K1 1000m in Beijing - Britain's first Olympic gold in that sport.

Dr Brabants, who also won bronze in the K1 500m, said he was almost as nervous as he was on the starting line of an Olympic final.

"It's amazing. It's a real honour. It really tops off what has been a fantastic 2008," he said.

Cycling champion Jody Cundy picked up an MBE after winning his fourth Paralympic gold.

The former swimmer, from Swansea, switched from the pool to the velodrome in 2006 and said the queen asked him about it.

Tim Coulson, 54, of Oxfordshire, was made an MBE for helping wounded and dying passengers in a smoke-filled carriage after the 2005 London bombings.

"The Queen thanked me for making the effort to save human lives which was wonderfully warm and personal," he said.

David Weir also collected an MBE after winning the wheelchair race of the Flora London Marathon four times.

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