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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 16:38 GMT
Hamilton decides to leave Britain
Interview by Adam Parsons
BBC sports news correspondent

Lewis Hamilton
I go to the bathroom in a petrol station and people come in there for autographs

Lewis Hamilton
Formula One star Lewis Hamilton is to move to Switzerland to escape the excessive public and media attention he has had in Britain over the last year.

The McLaren driver, who came second in the drivers' championship in his debut F1 season, will join Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in Switzerland.

"Over there people don't come up to you, they leave you alone and give you space," the 22-year-old told BBC Sport.

"I'm going to a country that I don't know but it's very exciting."

Ironically, the news comes the day after his home town of Stevenage announced that it was naming a street after the McLaren driver.

Switzerland is a popular choice for F1 drivers looking to relocate, with Alonso and Raikkonen - his rivals in this season's thrilling title chase - already living there, along with seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

606: DEBATE

Financial issues may also have played a part in Hamilton's thinking, with wealthy Switzerland residents paying significantly less tax than in the UK.

Hamilton, talking after visiting children at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said he had taken the decision with some reluctance.

"It was a tough decision. My dream for years was to move to London - I stayed at a friend's house this weekend in London and I woke up in the morning and just knew it was where I wanted to be," he added.

"But I'll meet new people, new faces and I do have a few friends there and my family and friends from home will be able to come and visit me."

Hamilton said he had found it impossible to live a normal life since soaring to fame in an astonishing rookie season in the sport.

"When I was coming up I knew there were sacrifices you have to make," he said.

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton
At the end of the year we had a big hug and we said what a phenomenal year it had been

Hamilton on his relationship with McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso

"You lose your ability to go places - you don't understand what that means until you get there and you really struggle to lead a normal life.

"I haven't been able to spend much time with my friends or my family - it's not like a normal job, you're travelling all the time, you live out of your suitcase and it's tough to manage that and still live a normal life.

"When you come home and everybody knows you, it makes it so much harder to do normal things.

"I can't go to the cinema. I go to the bathroom in a petrol station and people come in there for autographs."

Hamilton insisted that his relationship with McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso was not as strained as has been widely reported.

"Me and Fernando get on as well as any other two people working together," he said.

"We're not best friends and he doesn't call me up to come to my house but we say 'hi' - sometimes we play PlayStation, sometimes we have dinner together.

"At the end of the year we had a big hug and we said what a phenomenal year it had been and I said it had been a pleasure working with him.

"I don't know who is going to be my team-mate next year, I'm not particularly bothered. If it's going to be Fernando then great, but I'm really not fussed either way."

Hamilton also dismissed any suggestions that he could be interested in a move to Ferrari, emphasising the fact that he was living out his childhood dream by driving for McLaren.

SEE ALSO
Hamilton warns he could leave UK
26 Aug 07 |  Formula One
Home town immortalises Hamilton
28 Oct 07 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Hamilton keen to win 'fair' title
22 Oct 07 |  Formula One
McLaren set to launch fuel appeal
22 Oct 07 |  Formula One
Raikkonen pips Hamilton to title
21 Oct 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton race draws 10.4m viewers
22 Oct 07 |  Entertainment
Hamilton stays upbeat for future
21 Oct 07 |  Formula One
F1's new star - and it's not the champ
21 Oct 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton's maiden season
21 Oct 07 |  Motorsport
Alonso wants split from Hamilton
01 Oct 07 |  Formula One
Alonso will leave McLaren - Head
21 Oct 07 |  Formula One


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