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Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Monday, 26 May 2008 15:37 UK
Monte Carlo, 22-25 May, 2008

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton says this race will remain the highlight of his career

Lewis Hamilton said his first Monaco Grand Prix victory on Sunday was "the highlight of my career and probably will be for the rest of my life".

The Englishman survived a collision with the barriers in his McLaren to win the sport's most prestigious race.

Hamilton, 23, follows in the footsteps of his hero, the late Ayrton Senna, who won in Monaco a record six times.

"I was thinking of Ayrton Senna who won here so many times and it was a bit special," he said.

"Even if I win here again, which I plan on doing, this is the best one... It was the most fun I've ever had in a race.

"I'm not going to say that next year I will win it, although next year I aim to come back and win it, but again anything can happen.

"But I hope this is the start of something very special.

"That was so emotional, so, so emotional. The last 20 laps seemed to last forever and I was just saying to myself 'you can do it, you can do it' and 'bring it home, bring it home'.

"I knew I just had to stay out of the walls. I had a big lead."

My brush with the barriers probably helped because I came in and we were able to fill up the tank

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton's race almost came to an early end when he lost control in the rain on lap six and hit the barrier at Tabac corner.

But while the glancing blow gave him a puncture in his right-rear tyre, it did not damage his car and he was able to pit for a replacement.

And the early pit stop was crucial in putting him in a position to win.

McLaren were able to fill his car up with fuel enabling him to make his final pit stop later than his rivals and build up a decisive lead.

He was more than 30 seconds ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa when, with the track practically dry, he finally had to come in for fresh tyres and fuel.

McLaren also revealed on Monday that Hamilton had a slow puncture on the slowing down lap - probably caused by debris from a crash involving Nico Rosberg's Williams which brought out the final safety car.

"It is my first win here, in Monaco, and to win it here from third on the grid and not from pole position is fantastic," Hamilton said.

Lewis Hamilton during the Monaco Grand Prix
Hamilton negotiates Tabac corner, where he crashed early in the race
"But the team, the guys, did a great job when I brought the car in after I brushed the barriers at Tabac.

"I came on and I told them and they were ready and did a brilliant job. I was lucky it was only the right rear wheel.

"My brush with the barriers probably helped because I came in and we were able to fill up the tank and I went out on wet tyres, so we were in good shape.

"Then we could have gone virtually on a one-stop strategy and I could take my time to the end. But anything can happen as it did last year in China."

That was a reference to the moment in last year's Chinese Grand Prix -when he lost control in the pit lane and slid into retirement - which effectively cost him the world championship title.

Hamilton's Monaco victory put him back into the lead of this year's world championship for the first time since he won the first race of the season in Australia in March.

He is now three points clear of world champion Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen, with Massa a point further back in third.

Massa eventually finished third in Monaco after losing out to BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica during their final pit stops.

Hamilton said he was "singing my head off" on the final lap because "I was so happy".

He revealed that as he crossed the line his race engineer said over the car radio that "the drinks are on you, Lewis,".

Hamilton said: "I was just about to reply and say that's fine when [team boss] Ron Dennis came on and said 'don't worry I'll pay for the drinks' so I thought that was even better.

"We are going to have a nice meal and a party, but we have to concentrate on the next race, too!"

That is in two weeks' time in Canada, where last season Hamilton took his maiden career victory.

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