AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - No one was happier to see Formula One back in America on Sunday than McLaren's Lewis Hamilton as the Briton picked up where he left off in 2007 by winning the United States Grand Prix.
Hamilton gave the sun-bathed crowd of close to 120,000 at the new Circuit of the Americas a race to remember as he overhauled Red Bull's championship leader Sebastian Vettel to win the first U.S. Grand Prix in five years.
The Englishman also won the last Grand Prix held in America, when it was staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one of motor sports oldest tracks.
Hamilton, who will leave McLaren at the end of the season to join Mercedes, could not hide his delight, grinning ear-to-ear under a massive cowboy hat as he sprayed champagne from the top of the winner's podium.
"It was wicked. I loved it so much. I am so happy," gushed Hamilton after collecting his fourth win of the season and 18th of his career. "I nearly lost my voice when I came across the line.
"Actually for that whole in-lap I was just screaming all the time, so happy. Not cool at all.
"It's the first grand prix here, I won the last one in 2007 so to come back after such a long time and win in front of such a great crowd this weekend was very special."
As going away presents goes, it was about as good a gift as Hamilton could give McLaren as he prepares to move down the paddock.
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh had stated earlier that Hamilton might one day regret his decision to leave the only Formula One team he has ever known but it could be McLaren lamenting the 2008 champion's departure more.
"Is he (Hamilton) finding it tough to say goodbye? "I hope he is but I think we are going to try not to be emotional until the end of Brazil," said Whitmarsh. "We've got one more race to go.
"As we said last night in front of everyone, we are here we're not saying goodbye, we want to win these two races.
"That's six wins this year and we'd like it to be seven."
It has been a mixed season for Hamilton, who has claimed four wins but had to retire after leading in Singapore and Abu Dhabi.
He is anxious to leave McLaren on an upbeat note and now heads to Brazil for the season finale relaxed and ready to play the role of spoiler as Vettel and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso fight out the drivers' title.
"It's the excitement that we have a good car and hopefully we can try to compete again with these guys," said Hamilton. "I'm obviously not fighting for the championship.
"It's maybe more exciting for these guys but for me, I'm just having fun."
(Editing by Julian Linden)