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Lewis Hamilton

A three-time world champion in Formula One racing describes driving multimillion-dollar cars, winning races all over the globe, and his rise to the top

The following is a script from "Lewis Hamilton" which aired on Dec. 13, 2015, and was rebroadcast on Aug. 14, 2016. Charlie Rose is the correspondent. Keith Sharman, producer.

There is nothing like Formula One in terms of global popularity, glamour and speed. The racing series is considered the pinnacle of motor sports. Most Americans haven't heard of its biggest star -- his name is Lewis Hamilton. As we first told you last winter, even if car races aren't your thing, there's still much to admire in Hamilton's inspiring story of beating the odds and breaking through barriers. But if you do like speed...buckle up...because you're about to experience the indescribable rush of driving one of the fastest race cars on the planet.

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Lewis Hamilton: Nothing can really prepare you for when you get in the Formula One car. Knowing that you're driving a multimillion-dollar car, and if you crash it it's going to cost a lot of money, and they might not give you another chance, is scary.

Charlie Rose: It is said that you're at one with the car.

Lewis Hamilton: Yeah. It's like you're -- strapped to a rocket. I mean it's like how do you-- how do you control this rocket? It's like a raging bull. It's wild. It's sexy. It's fast.

Lewis Hamilton was the fastest in 2008 when he clinched his first world championship at the Brazilian grand prix.

[Announcer: "You will never see a more dramatic conclusion to any motor race."]

No one in the crowd was more proud than his father and manager Anthony Hamilton.

He was only 23 at the time, the youngest champion in the history of the sport.

Today Hamilton's 49 career victories put him third on the Formula One all-time list.

And the Englishman is only 31 years old.

Lewis Hamilton: I want to crush everyone. I want to outsmart everyone.

Charlie Rose: You want to crush everyone.

Lewis Hamilton: I do.

At the Italian Grand Prix last September he did just that, as the Ferrari faithful and the cream of European society looked on. Hamilton in his Mercedes, was the ultimate driving machine.

Winning the pole position, recording the fastest lap, and leading the race from start to finish...

[Announcer "Congratulations Lewis."]

In racing...that's called a grand slam.

When it was over, Hamilton was so relaxed it was as if he had just driven around the block.

Charlie Rose: So how does it feel this one?

Lewis Hamilton: This weekend is the best I've ever had. I've never been quickest in every session and all qualifying sessions and the race. I've never, ever done that.

Worldwide, Formula One generated more than two billion dollars last season but remains a niche sport in the United States.

F1 executives hope Hamilton can change that.

They have never seen a star like him before.

Charlie Rose: How many black drivers in Formula One?

Lewis Hamilton: One.

Charlie Rose: Why is that?

Lewis Hamilton: Well, I don't know. I think in the future there'll be more.

Charlie Rose: You're a role model?

Lewis Hamilton: I hope so.

Charlie Rose: You are in fact the face of Formula One. You're the guy. So all of a sudden Formula One looks to you and says, you know --

Lewis Hamilton: "We need you."

Charlie Rose: "-- we need you." They need you.

Lewis Hamilton: Well, I think we need each other.

No race car driver becomes a champion without a team and a fast car. We went to Mercedes' F1 headquarters in England to see the one Hamilton drove in 2014.

Charlie Rose: You said the top speed of this one is what?

Lewis Hamilton: 200 -- 220, 230.

Charlie Rose: How does that compare to Indy or NASCAR?

Lewis Hamilton: Well, this car will kill both of those cars.

Charlie Rose: Kill 'em?

Lewis Hamilton: Kill 'em. The speed in which we get to -- to a 100 miles an hour is probably similar to -- to an Indy car. But it's what this car does through a corner. It's like a fighter jet on wheels.

The aerodynamic wings of the car allow it to hug the ground and take corners at over 100 miles an hour.

"Formula One was a very dangerous sport. It still is dangerous. But the danger factor is also the exciting part."

Hamilton says the forces can be five times his body weight or 5Gs. He drives to the limit and sometimes beyond, like when he blew a tire qualifying for the 2007 European Grand Prix.

Charlie Rose: What's it like to hit the wall?

Lewis Hamilton: The journey towards it is kind of exciting.

Charlie Rose: Really? What makes it exciting?

Lewis Hamilton: 'Cause you lose control.

Charlie Rose: And yet there's an exhilaration when it's out of control for you.

Lewis Hamilton: True, yeah. I-- I can't really explain that.

Perhaps it's because Hamilton has never been seriously hurt in a crash. A generation ago one or more drivers could die each season, like his hero Ayrton Senna.

Charlie Rose: It's considerably safer today.

Lewis Hamilton: It is. Formula One was a very dangerous sport. It still is dangerous. But the danger factor is also the exciting part.

It wasn't possible to drive in Hamilton's race car, so we borrowed the fastest ride we could find.

Charlie Rose: This is the fastest Mercedes?

Lewis Hamilton: Yeah (laughs).

Nine miles from the team's base is Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix. We drove straight onto the same track where Hamilton has won four times.

Charlie Rose: What are we at now? About 100?

Lewis Hamilton: Doing 140 right now.

Charlie Rose: I'm on one of the great race tracks in the world with the greatest driver in the world. How good is that?

Lewis Hamilton: This is good fun.

Charlie Rose: And my heart is somewhere up around my ears.

Charlie Rose: Unbelievable, Lewis. But tell me about driving. Talk to me about what you're doing.

Lewis Hamilton: I know that I have to hit the curve right here, so there's -- there's -- there's an ideal apex.

Charlie Rose: See there -- that's not the way I would've anticipated hitting the curve.

Lewis Hamilton: You press the music?

Charlie Rose: (Laughs) I did. I hit -- oh, boy. That was my heart.

Races are won and lost in the turns. Drivers are looking for the most efficient angle or line through each one.

Lewis Hamilton: So what you're trying to do when you're driving a race car, you notice there's lines I'm taking. So right now, the next one is the left. So I'm going to be as far over to the right as possible.

Charlie Rose: So it's going to be a left. So you're going to be as far as you can to the right?

Lewis Hamilton: Yeah. And basically you want to make-- you want to turn as little as possible.

Charlie Rose: You want to turn as little as possible?

Lewis Hamilton: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: Do they make too much of this idea that great drivers can feel it throughout their body?

Lewis Hamilton: Yeah. I can feel it, but I know my -- I know my boundaries. I know the limits to the car.

Before Lewis Hamilton was old enough to drive he was already a racing prodigy.

He got his first remote control car at age five. Not long after, he beat the British national champion on a BBC children's show called "Blue Peter."

[BBC presenter: "And we have a winner! Who won the race? Lewis, well done!"]

And then he got a second-hand go-kart for Christmas from his father Anthony Hamilton.

Anthony Hamilton: It's quite a unique story. Because normally, racing drivers come from a long line of, you know, previous successful sports people. But here we were, just a normal family. All of a sudden, we've got this young, precocious talent. And not only that, you know, we're the only black family on the grid. Not only that -- lesser equipment to others.

Charlie Rose: Six years old, and he said, "I want to be a Formula One racer."

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Anthony Hamilton

Anthony Hamilton: Yeah. That's all he ever said till he got there.

While other kids played, young Lewis drove. In only his second year racing go-karts...Hamilton became the champion of Britain.

Anthony Hamilton: And it's like, "Hang on. Lewis can become -- a British champion with his father as mechanic, then the world is his oyster."

Charlie Rose: And what did you know about racing?

Anthony Hamilton: Absolutely nothing.

Anthony Hamilton had to teach himself racing so he could then teach his son. He worked as a computer manager for the railroad but he took on odd jobs to finance Lewis' dream.

Father and son spent hundreds of hours here at the Rye House Kart Track in a suburb north of London.

Charlie Rose: What does Rye House mean to you?

Lewis Hamilton: Rye House was my school.

And the most important lesson was when to brake.

Charlie Rose: You helped him appreciate the benefits of braking later.

Anthony Hamilton: Yes.

Charlie Rose: That happened on this track.

Anthony Hamilton: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. That very corner over there.

Charlie Rose: Yes.

Anthony Hamilton: Right on the bend. He learned to brake later, harder, and keep the speed on the GoKart.

Lewis Hamilton: The best drivers would brake in here, and he would make me brake later than them.

Charlie Rose: And that contributed to your dominance?

Lewis Hamilton: Yes. And it still does today.

Young Lewis Hamilton was so dominant he got his first pro contract at 13.

Despite the success as the only black family in the sport, the Hamiltons did not always feel welcome at the track.

Lewis Hamilton: I mean I had parents come to me, other drivers' parents would come up to me be sort of, "You don't belong here. Go back to wherever you came from."

Charlie Rose: So what does it say about you that you survived all that and became the world champion?

Lewis Hamilton: My dad would always say -- "Do your talking on the track." So I get on the track and I'd drive the wheels off the car.

A few years after the Hamiltons won their first world championship in Formula One, the wheels came off their relationship. Lewis no longer wanted his father to be his manager.

Lewis Hamilton: So it was a point where I was like, "Dad, I just want you to be my dad. And -- that was incredibly hard for him to take and it was hard for me to -- to -- to be able to -- to do it. It -- had to be a hard break at the time.

Charlie Rose: And how hard was it for him to take it?

Lewis Hamilton: That bridged a gap between us that was, like, the Grand Canyon.

Charlie Rose: did it affect your racing?

Lewis Hamilton: Absolutely. Yeah.

Disappointing results mounted, as did crashes, like this one in the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix.

Hamilton's father was convinced his absence was a factor.

Anthony Hamilton: I couldn't understand it. What do you mean you don't need me? So that hit me pretty hard. But it was -- it was probably the best thing. You know, he's not a boy anymore. He wasn't a kid anymore. He was a Formula One world champion.

Charlie Rose: What would you do different?

Anthony Hamilton: My desire for him to be so successful took me over from being the father to more manager. And that's probably the thing I would --

Charlie Rose: You wish you'd stayed more father.

Anthony Hamilton: Yeah. But if I'd have stayed the father, I -- he probably wouldn't have been as successful.

Four years after their professional split, Lewis Hamilton won his second world championship in Abu Dhabi. Prince Harry congratulated him over the radio.

[ Prince Harry: "Lewis, well done. You're an absolute legend."]

...and waiting in the garage was Anthony Hamilton.

No longer a manager, now just a proud dad.

Lewis Hamilton: What he did for me, I can never pay him back. I could -- the only thing I can do is make sure that every time I'm in the car today with the opportunity that he's helped create get-- give me, I've got to grab it with both hands and never take it for granted.

[Man talking on radio: "How good does that sound Lewis? Three times world champion? Lewis Hamilton, "It's the greatest moment of my life."]

Hamilton clinched his third world championship this past October in Austin, Texas at the U.S. Grand Prix. Now managing himself, he claims to be the happiest he's ever been. We believed him, not because of something he said, but because of the way he drove.

Lewis Hamilton: The way I drive, the way I handle a car is an expression of my inner feelings.

Charlie Rose: Oh, boy, I hope you're enjoying this as much as I am.

Lewis Hamilton: I have the best job in the world. I love this.

Charlie Rose: Go, man. Go.

Midway through the current 2016 season, Lewis Hamilton entered Formula One's summer break in a familiar position: leading the field to become world champion. With nine races left, Hamilton is poised to take his fourth F1 title, a mark that would tie him for third all-time in the history of the sport.

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    Charlie Rose is a co-host of "CBS This Morning" and "Person to Person." Rose began contributing to 60 Minutes in 2008.