Hamilton zips into town for Peter Lim

SINGAPORE - It was probably one of the last occasions that Formula One star Lewis Hamilton donned McLaren teamwear, before moving to Mercedes GP next month.

He was in town, as well as in Gerbang Nusajaya in Johor, on a whirlwind visit yesterday at the invitation of the Peter Lim Scholarship foundation, which had pledged $10 million to the Singapore Olympic Foundation in 2010 to boost and nurture young local athletes.

Mr Lim, the Singaporean billionaire whom the scholarship is named after, is a shareholder and director of McLaren Automotive, the parent company of Hamilton's soon-to-be former team.

The Briton first attended a morning press conference in Johor, held for the joint-venture agreement on the Motorsports City development between UEM Land Berhad and FASTrack Autosports, which is partly owned by Mr Lim.

The motorsports hub is targeted to be operational by 2016. FASTrack Autosports owns 70 per cent of the Motorsports City joint venture, with the remaining 30 per cent belonging to UEM Land.

The RM3.15 billion (S$1.3 billion) integrated motorsports hub will span 109ha of freehold land and is said to be only 10 to 15 minutes from Tuas Second Link.

The Motorsports City will have a 4.5km Grade 2 GT double-loop circuit, a 1.2km kart circuit and an off-road circuit - for events such as drag racing, karting, motorcycling, truck racing and off-road expeditions.

There will also be car showrooms, a driving school, bonded warehouses and garages, motorsports research-and-development centres, museum and collector- storage facilities, weekend homes, a clubhouse, a car bar and other entertainment outlets.

Said Mr Lim: "This is a very interesting project and it's something that I love. I think I can build a fairly-sound business model. (Together with) the availability of labour in Malaysia, I think this project will take off."

Hamilton was then whisked to ITE College West in the afternoon for a meet-and-greet session with students.

A total of 33 students from the three ITE colleges were awarded Peter Lim scholarships this year, and the students were naturally excited to meet the 2008 F1 champion, squealing and gushing over the dashing Briton.

Hamilton, for his part, was relaxed and friendly, even while tackling potentially-thorny questions from students, such as his shock imminent departure from McLaren, which had nurtured him since he was 13.

While he will not be able to meet his new team until next month, Hamilton left no doubt about how excited he is over the new step in his career.

He said: "Moving to Mercedes next year is a big, big step for me. Like how people grow up and move from job to job, this will be a whole new experience.

"I was with McLaren since (age) 13 and Mercedes GP will be a new environment. I will have to learn to communicate with new people and it's the first time I'm making such a huge change in my career. "(Mercedes) have a slightly worse car now but, if I go there and can help them turn it into a good car, that's the best feeling I can get."

After taking a few more questions, Hamilton had to leave for the airport, much to everyone's disappointment.

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