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Hamilton and Button lead Wheldon tributes

ESPNF1 Staff
October 17, 2011 « Whitmarsh lauds 'inspirational' Hamilton | Ferrari 'firmly believes' it can win again in 2011 »
Jenson Button raced against Dan Wheldon before moving in to Formula One © Sutton Images
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Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have led the tributes to British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, who was killed in the Las Vegas 300 on Sunday.

Wheldon died from injuries sustained in a 15 car pile-up at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, just hours after Sebastian Vettel had won the Korean Grand Prix. Many of the British drivers had either raced against Wheldon or closely followed his progress as he took a career path in the United States, and Hamilton described him as "inspirational".

"This is an extremely sad day," Hamilton said. "Dan was a racer I'd followed throughout my career, as I often followed in his footsteps as we climbed the motorsport ladder in the UK. He was an extremely talented driver. As a British guy, who not only went over to the States but who twice won the Indy 500, he was an inspirational guy, and someone that every racing driver looked up to with respect and admiration.

"This is a tragic loss at such a young age. My heart goes out to his family and friends during this extremely difficult time."

Button, who used to race against Wheldon in his early career, used Twitter to express his feelings.

"Just woken up to the most horrific news. Dan Wheldon RIP," Button wrote. "I have so many good memories of racing with Dan in the early 90's, a true fighter. We've lost a legend in our sport but also a great guy. I can't begin to imagine what his family are going through and my thoughts are with them at this very difficult time."

With the Formula One paddock travelling from the Korean Grand Prix at the time of the incident, many other drivers used Twitter to give their thoughts, with Rubens Barrichello saying: "Just got out from the plane and got the terrible news about the death of our friend Dan Wheldon... Will always remember the great times we had at karting in Brazil my friend. Rest in peace."

Mark Webber added: ""Rest in Peace Dan. I remember our early days in the UK 95/96. Miss ya."

Martin Whitmarsh said Wheldon's death highlighted "the bitter contrast that sometimes exists between the highs and lows of motorsport.

"His rapid ascent to the very top ranks of US motorsport, capped by two fantastic Indy 500 victories and the 2005 Indy Car title, are the lasting legacy of a hugely talented driver and champion. The motorsport world is now in mourning following Dan's passing. On behalf of everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, I pass on my condolences to his family and friends."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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