London: Lewis Hamilton was spotted leaving a club just hours before he was supposed to carry the Olympic torch.
The 27-year-old racer had been snapped leaving a London nightclub in the early hours of the morning, but still managed to make it to Luton for an impressively early 6:30 am start.
The 2008 F1 champion had joined a host of celebrities including singer Rihanna at nightspot Bijous, and then had moved on to exclusive club Jalouse before leaving at 4:06 am.
Hamilton smiled widely and waved at the excited crowds while holding up the Olympic torch and showed no outward signs that he had only been able to manage a few hours sleep.
He had been due to carry the torch as it passed through Stevenage, the Hertfordshire town where he grew up.
But the McLaren Mercedes driver swapped carrying the torch because of the clash with the race at Silverstone
After starting Olympic Torch Relay in Luton, Hamilton had joked that he would have liked to have carried it on the day of his disappointing British Grand Prix where he finished eighth after all.
“It wasn’t that great a day, so I would happily have missed that to come and do it that evening,” a newspaper quoted Hamilton as saying.
“But I am so proud to do it, it doesn’t matter where I do it,” he said.
Describing the response from fans in the town centre as “phenomenal,” he said: “To be nominated to do this is a real honour, I never in a million years thought I would have a chance to do it.”
He said that he had bought his torch and planned to keep it above his mantelpiece.
Hundreds of people, many of them schoolchildren had turned out to see Hamilton start Day 52 of the relay in St George’s Square for his 300m leg.
It took Hamilton slightly longer than the three seconds it would take in his F1 car before he handed over to 17-year-old local student Hollie Baxter who suffers from Rubinstein Taybi Syndrome and has been in a wheelchair since she was 11.