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Hamilton to set up home in Switzerland

LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) Formula One championship runner-up Lewis Hamilton said today he was moving to Switzerland to escape media attention in Britain.

''Over there people don't come up to you, they leave you alone and give you space,'' the 22-year-old McLaren driver, who finished one point behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in a remarkable debut season, told the BBC.

''I'm going to a country that I don't know but it's very exciting.'' Raikkonen and Hamilton's McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso, Spain's double world champion, also live in Switzerland as does retired seven-times champion Michael Schumacher.

''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,'' said Hamilton.

''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, winner of four races in his sensational rookie season and leader of the championship up until the final round in Brazil, has become a global celebrity after one of the closest title battles.

Formula One's first black driver, who is soon to have a street named after him in his home town of Stevenage, said dealing with the fame and recognition had been tough.

''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,'' he said.

''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 go to the bathroom in a petrol station and people come in there for autographs.'' REUTERS BJR PM0108

Story first published: Tuesday, October 30, 2007, 1:32 [IST]
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