By Alan Baldwin
SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton turned Silverstone into his own personal mosh pit on Sunday, riding a wave of energy to the chequered flag before celebrating his fourth British Grand Prix victory with some impromptu crowd-surfing.
"That wasn't planned," said the Mercedes driver as images of him falling back into the sea of people, smiling serenely with his body supported by raised arms, travelled around the world.
"I could see the crowd there and I just wanted to connect with them in some way.
"I was hoping that I would crowd surf further in and then I would have to say 'take me back' but I got right to the edge and I stayed there for like a second and then they pushed me back."
The rapt response to the home hero's third win in a row at Silverstone -- the first hat-trick at the circuit by any driver -- contrasted to the boos that greeted him on the podium in Austria a week before.
Then, after he and German team mate Nico Rosberg collided on the last lap and Hamilton went on to win, the joy had been tempered.
On Sunday, after a race that had started behind the safety car following an earlier downpour and ended under bright skies, it was an unbridled love-in between the triple world champion and his adoring army of fans.
There were some boos, but aimed at Rosberg as he stepped on to the podium -- something Hamilton did not condone but excused as another manifestation of just how passionate the supporters were.
"Ever since 2007 I've felt this incredible energy from these fans here," said Hamilton, the third British driver after Jim Clark and Nigel Mansell to win his home race four times and first to do it at Silverstone.
Mansell, the 1992 champion, was there as a steward on Sunday: "Welcome to the club," he told his compatriot.
Hamilton, a mere child in the days when 'Mansell-mania' swept the sport, said the fans had lifted him in the same way that they did his predecessor.
"I really feel like I've grown with them over the years and obviously, naturally, when you have success that speeds up the bond, that connection you have...they really do make a huge difference," he said.
"It's a very humbling experience to be here in this sport, particularly in a time of difficulty in the world, and to see so much love out there."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)