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Lewis Hamilton warned by Sir Jackie Stewart not to get carried away with own importance – F1

Don't get carried away with your own importance, Lewis! Legend Stewart fires warning to Mercedes star

By
Ian Parkes, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

15:48 GMT, 29 January 2013

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UPDATED:

16:01 GMT, 29 January 2013

Sir Jackie Stewart has urged Lewis Hamilton not to get carried away with his own celebrity if he is to propel Mercedes forward this year.

Hamilton last week embarked on a new era in his Formula One career at Mercedes after six seasons with McLaren, a team he initially joined at the age of just 13.

There is no doubt Hamilton has taken a significant gamble, but the need to savour pastures new has been his driving force in signing up to the German manufacturing giant for the next three years.

Lewis Hamilton

Sir Jackie Stewart

In black and white: Lewis Hamilton must find the right balance to win titles, according to Sir Jackie Stewart

It is also almost certain Hamilton will enjoy greater freedom off track than was the case at McLaren, considering the emphasis placed on sponsorship commitments by the Woking-based marque on their drivers.

However, three-times champion Stewart feels Hamilton needs to make sure such liberty does not go to his head.

Hamilton can boast a pop-star girlfriend in Nicole Scherzinger and an array of friends from the music world, while there are suggestions he is planning on making his own music.

Bearing in mind Hamilton's desire to transform Mercedes into a winning team, Stewart is hoping the 28-year-old does not let his focus drift elsewhere.

New kid on the block: Hamilton ended his lengthy association with McLaren to join Mercedes on a three-year deal

New kid on the block: Hamilton ended his association with McLaren to join Mercedes on a three-year deal

Stewart said: 'Personally, if I'd been Lewis, I wouldn't have left McLaren. 'But as a 28-year-old, he should know what he is doing now.

'You just have to be damn careful you don't get carried away with your own importance, your own celebrity, or your own schedule outside of being in the cockpit. It can be quite intoxicating.

'What Lewis needs to do is have more consistently good drives, never mind the mechanical issues, and he shouldn't be distracted, something he should keep in the back of his mind.

'It's about who you hang out with, what you do in your off time, how you are committing your off time towards your real time – and your real time is being a racing driver.'

Famous faces: The British racer can boast a pop-star girlfriend in X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger

Famous faces: The British racer can boast a pop-star girlfriend in X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger

Such efforts will be noticed by team principal Ross Brawn, who has been accustomed to working with one of the greats in seven-times champion Michael Schumacher.

Although the last three years failed to produce the results hoped for by Schumacher prior to stepping back into retirement, the German was renowned for his meticulous and methodical nature in working with his engineers.

Stewart added: 'The Ross Brawn factor is important. 'He knows how to do it, and Lewis will have to work with him and depend on him, and Lewis, in time, will have to deliver.

'Ross has worked with drivers who have really delivered. He worked with Schumacher from Benetton all the way through, and he knows how much Michael put in.

'Therefore he will think Lewis will have to put as much into that team, time-wise, commitment-wise, not just race-time wise, as Michael did.

That's going to be quite demanding, but there's no reason why he shouldn't go straight in and be competitive up front, not at all.'

With just one victory in the last three years, though, since Mercedes returned to F1, the pressure is on both Brawn and Hamilton to deliver.

'Daimler (Mercedes' parent company), are only interested in being up front and being the best,' said Stewart.

'If they're not going to be that, it's a five-minute decision for the Mercedes-Benz board to withdraw from motor racing if there's another recession and they're not selling cars. 'In that respect, they're slightly vulnerable.'

Lewis Hamilton says fond farewell to McLaren on last official outing

Tears shed as Hamilton says fond farewell to McLaren on last official outing… and he does not rule out emotional return

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UPDATED:

15:53 GMT, 11 December 2012

Lewis Hamilton left the door open to a possible return to McLaren after saying an emotional farewell to the F1 team.

Tears were shed as the British driver hugged his colleagues and thanked them for their support during his last official official outing.

End of the road: Lewis Hamilton on his last official outing with McLaren

End of the road: Lewis Hamilton on his last official outing with McLaren

Sad ending: Tears were shed as Hamilton made emotional farewell

Sad ending: Tears were shed as Hamilton made emotional farewell

Hamilton, who will join Mercedes in January, took part in a demonstration event in Malta at the weekend, his last drive in a McLaren car.

And the 2008 World Champion did not rule out a return to the Woking-based outfit in the future.

'My time at McLaren has been fantastic,' he told staff at the
McLaren Technology Centre.

'When I arrived in Formula One in 2007, I now
realise I never really grasped what I was taking on. Ron [Dennis] had
told me: “Don't be surprised if you're 0.5sec slower than Fernando
[Alonso]”, and I just smiled because I knew it wouldn't be the case.
But, even so, that year was very hard, for many reasons.

Driving seat: Hamilton took part in a demonstration event in Malta

Driving seat: Hamilton took part in a demonstration event in Malta

Can't stop partying: Instead of having a night in after a hectic weekend, X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger shows up to the premiere with Lewis Hamilton in tow

Night out: Hamilton and girlfriend, X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger, at the Jack Reacher premiere in Leicester Square on Monday

'You were brilliant – you still are. I have so much affection and love
for this team. And that's why McLaren has always felt like home,' he
added.

McLaren's sporting director Sam Michael admitted Hamilton's departure would be 'a loss to McLaren' but the team will 'move on quickly'.

Hamilton leaves to join Mercedes following six seasons with the team in Formula One and a further seven as part of the team's driver development programme.

'Of course it's a loss to McLaren but just like if anybody leaves, whether it's a driver – there have been some very big, famous names leave McLaren before in terms of drivers – and you don't dwell on it,' Michael told James Allen on F1. 'You move on quickly because Formula One's all about change management.”

Michael also said that Hamilton leaves on good terms.

'I think the whole team gets on very well with Lewis, and we still do. He's a great guy, he's a fantastic racing driver; he's possibly the quickest driver on the grid at the moment in terms of pure natural talent.'

Hamilton is backing Sebastian Vettel to maintain his stranglehold on the Formula One drivers’ championship for a fourth successive season.

Hamilton, who has left McLaren to race for Mercedes in the coming campaign, admitted he expects the combination of Vettel’s pace and the genius of Red Bull’ s chief designer Adrian Newey to be unbeatable once more.

‘It's going to be hard to beat Sebastian next year,’ Hamilton said. ‘I think Sebastian's going to have another amazing car. The car he had this year was fantastic. It's going to be an evolution of that next year. Adrian only seems to get better with age; I think he's going to do something pretty special next year as well.’

Laid back: Lewis looked rather coy as he relaxed in the back of his car and headed home

Back seat driver: Lewis looked relaxed as he headed home

Hamilton faces an uphill battle to
turn Mercedes into frontrunners next year but is eagerly anticipating
racing for his new team – even if he is forced to battle in the
midfield.

Hamilton added: ‘I like that people
know that I'm a racer and I'm a winner. But it doesn't matter where you
are on the grid, you can still race. But I want to win – of course.
That's my goal. I can't wait to get my hands on the team and the car and
just try to work as quickly as possible.

‘It doesn't matter how many days, how
many hours it takes. I'm willing to put all the effort in. I feel like
I've got a new breath of life in me, so I'm ready for it.’

Meanwhile Hamilton’s former teammate, Jenson Button, is looking forward
to being the main focus at McLaren now that he is sharing the garage
with Mexican youngster Sergio Perez.

Button said of his team leader status: ‘It's not the first time I've
done that. When I got to BAR and Jacques [Villeneuve] left it was
exactly the same situation.

‘I was there to lead the team and it's something I really look forward
to and it's something where the best comes out of me in that situation.’

Determined to drive the design process of next year’s car in a direction
which can give him a machine capable of consistently challenge the
likes of Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Button added: ‘I can
really build that team around me and direct the team in a direction I
like with the car.

‘We all drive differently and have different styles. For me, I need a
car I can develop beneath me and feel comfortable in. If the car feels
neutral and unbalanced it doesn't work for me.

‘I need to develop a car and engineer a car in a position that feels
comfortable for me, and I don't think anyone can do a better job than I
can in that position. The problem for me is if I can't get the car there
I do struggle more than some.'

F1 Can the Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button show survive?

Can the Lewis and Jenson show survive Hamilton's desire for a new deal

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UPDATED:

21:47 GMT, 30 June 2012

Lewis Hamilton still remembers the over-riding reaction to Jenson Button's arrival at McLaren, his home from home since childhood.

'People were saying: “Ah, there's going to be a war there”,' said Hamilton last week. 'That's what people wanted, of course. But we have shown we can exist together.'

Team-mates: Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button (right)

Team-mates: Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button (right)

At Silverstone next weekend, Hamilton and Button will compete for popularity, grid position and, ultimately, glory at the race that matters hugely to both, the Santander British Grand Prix.

Phil Duncan F1 blog

Already they have survived six months longer together than the last two world champions McLaren placed alongside one another, when the reward for Ron Dennis's ambition to partner Ayrton Senna with Alain Prost induced civil war within the team.

After two-and-a-half years together at McLaren, Hamilton and Button are as instinctively driven and competitive as ever. But while they have homes near one another in Monaco, their lives never connect outside of business hours.

'We are good at working together but we don't see each other away from the circuit,' admitted Button. Last week, they worked tirelessly together to promote McLaren's brand ahead of a race of massive commercial importance to the team.

Good night Lewis and Nicole were in great spirits as they left around 3am

His other half: Lewis and Nicole Scherzinger

Yet, no matter the congeniality of the rivalry Hamilton and Button have fostered against the expectations of most in the pit-lane, such harmony is under threat. For Hamilton is at a crossroads.

After the three races that flow thick and fast in July – Silverstone, Hockenheim and Budapest – Hamilton will open negotiations with McLaren to determine if he accepts a new deal or walks out of the team where he was first groomed for stardom as a karting prodigy 15 years ago.

Hamilton's manager is Simon Fuller, battle-hardened from power struggles in Hollywood and the man behind TV show American Idol as well as David Beckham, the Spice Girls and Andy Murray. Fuller will be briefed that Red Bull, Ferrari and, perhaps, Mercedes are alert to Hamilton's availability as those teams deal with uncertainties surrounding, respectively, Mark Webber, Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher.

Could Hamilton, who has won 18 grands prix for McLaren, imagine walking into a new garage at the start of next season 'Professional sportsmen do move teams,' he said. 'Footballers do, so do racing drivers. Jenson has been with a lot of teams, for instance. It's different when you are in one of the top teams already, though. It would be tough to do.'

Primarily, Hamilton wants what all
dedicated, fast champions desire: the promise of a competitive car. Yet,
besides seeking a salary commensurate to his status as one of the three
fastest drivers in the world, alongside Sebastian Vettel, winner of the
past two world championships for Red Bull, and Fernando Alonso, another
double world champion who, against perceived wisdom, will begin the
British GP as leader of this season's title race, Fuller will be seeking
McLaren to change their culture.

F1 driver Lewis Hamilton (L) and TV presenter Melanie Sykes

Hamilton and TV presenter Melanie Sykes at Santander promotion of London Grand Prix

Hamilton's acrimonious year with Alonso at McLaren has been consigned
to history by a new, open relationship. 'Fernando has grown up, so have
I,' said Hamilton. 'We have good conversations. I am grateful to have
respect from such a phenomenal racing driver.'

Vettel and Alonso both have fewer demands on their time than Hamilton
has from McLaren, and a greater freedom to broaden their own commercial
brands.

Hamilton said: 'I haven't sat down and forged all the criteria I am looking for, but probably 95 per cent is ticked off within McLaren. There could be small things, like I'd like to keep my trophies I win. But Ron's never going to want to give them up. That's all right, I'll get him on the money side!'

Hamilton chuckles at the prospect of the negotiations ahead, the first since his father, Anthony, then his manager, sealed a 75m contract at the end of his first year in Formula One in 2007, which expires in December. 'I think we will be talking with Martin Whitmarsh, who, in case people forget, is the boss now,' said Hamilton. 'Ron will be always the guy who signed me and I expect he will have a huge impact on the discussions with Simon, but I have to respect Martin is the man who will make the decision. 'I'm sure I could call Simon now, and say: “Let's do it right away”. But I'm not focused on the contract and I haven't given it enough energy yet. But there's a period coming up when I'll be on holiday and be able to get on the phone to Simon.'

In all probability, the strategy will be designed between them in person when Hamilton is in the United States with his girlfriend, singer Nicole Scherzinger.

High drive: Hamilton (left) and Rio Ferdinand

High drive: Hamilton (left) and Rio Ferdinand

Hamilton has a strong hand. After Button's performances last season, when he became the first team-mate to get the upper hand over him, finishing second in the championship, Hamilton arrives at Silverstone third in the championship on 88 points, 39 points ahead of Button.

'All I'm thinking of this weekend is how I can help McLaren win, how we can make this car better and how I can extract more from these intelligent people around me,' said Hamilton, who has out-qualified Button in all eight races. Only a series of mistakes by the team, costing him more than 60 points, have prevented him from having outright command of the championship.

At 32, Button is five years older than Hamilton. He is also approaching his 13th British Grand Prix without having ever made the podium. 'Lewis is the fastest team-mate I have ever had over one qualifying lap,' said Button. 'I respect Lewis for what he has achieved. I respect his speed and the way he sets up a car. We'll share information at Silverstone, as always. We always know one another's race strategies, too.' Button's laid-back demeanour engenders affection, but wins in 13 grands prix reflect a sublime talent, despite a rash of poor results since starting the season with a win in Australia.

'You have difficult days and the last few races have been tough,' he acknowledged. 'But I know I'm doing a job most people would love to do. I've lived through tough times, I have lived through good times, and this is something I still love.' At Silverstone, Button will camp out in his motorhome in a field surrounded by family, old friends from Somerset and his girlfriend, model Jessica Michibata. His only concession to the partying around him will be to wear earplugs at night.

'Staying on site reminds me of being a kid going to races and staying in a caravan,' he said. 'The evenings will be relaxed but I'll be 100 per cent focused from the moment I wake. Any British driver wants to win the British Grand Prix. It's the trophy I want most of all.' Hamilton and Button's co-existence is founded on mutual respect.

'Jenson is massively focused,' said Hamilton. 'He's hugely respectful when I succeed, and I am the same with him. We've kept that balance.' Most of the pieces in Hamilton's life have fallen back into place after the traumas of last season. 'I don't have any baggage holding me back any more,' he said. His relationship with his father, strained to breaking point when he dismissed him as his manager, has been repaired. 'We went through a difficult time, but now we're at a place where we are both very happy.'

Only one bit of the puzzle has still to fall into place – his future driving plans. And Button, with experience of the merry-go-round of the paddock, offered friendly advice when he said: 'It's unusual for a driver to spend all his career with the same team, but Lewis is racing for a team that has belief in him and will do everything they can to make sure he has a quick car. There aren't many teams that listen to the drivers like McLaren do.'

F1 Canadian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton celebrates by making a splash after first victory of season

Finally making a splash! Hamilton celebrates in style after first win of the season in Canada

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UPDATED:

10:13 GMT, 11 June 2012

Lewis Hamilton celebrated his Canadian Grand Prix victory in style… by diving backwards into a pool of water.

The McLaren driver was ecstatic to have won his first race of the season, and after celebrating on the podium and giving his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger a hug, he saw fit to make a further splash in Montreal.

Away we go: Lewis Hamilton marks his first F1 victory at the Canadian Grand Prix

Away we go: Lewis Hamilton marks his first F1 victory at the Canadian Grand Prix

Up in the air: Lewis Hamilton takes the plunge after winning the Canadian Grand Prix

Hamilton has admitted to exploding with joy inside after playing his part in another slice of Formula One history.

Hamilton's third Canadian Grand Prix triumph means there have now been seven different winners of the first seven races, extending the record set in Monaco a fortnight ago.

Hamilton and McLaren perfectly executed a two-stop strategy at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, although there was a point when it appeared that would be in doubt.

But after a run of seven races without a win, and just one in his last 15, the 27-year-old finally took a chequered flag, and with it has reclaimed the lead in the drivers' championship.

The gap-toothed smile was undoubtedly in evidence as Hamilton stood on top of the podium to take the acclaim of a crowd for which he has a great deal of affection.

Splash: Hamilton hits the water

Splash: Hamilton hits the water

Peace at last: Hamilton swims away after his dive

Peace at last: Hamilton swims away after his dive

Hamilton, whose first of his 18 career wins was in Canada five years ago, said: 'It's been five years since I won for the first time, but it feels just as good.

'To finally be here on the top step is great, something which can never be taken for granted, and for me this feels like one of the best races I've had for a very, very long time.

'The satisfaction is huge. I was thinking at the start that to finish at the front, as I did here with my first win in 2007, would be very, very special.

'So I couldn't believe it when I crossed the line, the feeling inside was like an explosion, just incredible. That's what I love about racing.'

Unlike last season's four-hour epic that was a thrill-a-minute, the drama on this occasion did not really take hold until Hamilton pitted for a second time on lap 50, with 20 remaining.

Proud: Girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger was at Hamilton's side after his win

Proud: Girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger was at Hamilton's side after his win

Hamilton had already been told by his team of their confidence Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull would also pit again for fresh Pirelli rubber.

Leading by four seconds at that stage the win seemed in the bag if that was the case, even despite another slip in the pit stop as the slow fitting of the right-rear wheel cost Hamilton two seconds.

But as the laps unfolded it became clear Alonso, leading Vettel, would not pit again, leaving Hamilton to hunt them down.

On the fresher rubber Hamilton eased past Vettel on lap 62, the German deciding immediately to pit again, even though he knew it would cost him a podium.

Two laps later and Hamilton targeted and passed former team-mate Alonso, whose tyres proceeded to fall off a cliff.

Focus: Hamilton got the job done on the track

Focus: Hamilton got the job done on the track

Focus: Hamilton got the job done on the track

Although Lotus' Romain Grosjean and Sauber's Sergio Perez were also on one-stop plans, they too flashed past the stricken Ferrari, with the final denouement coming when Vettel dropped Alonso to fifth on the penultimate lap.

'Thanks to the team who never seem to give up,' said Hamilton.

'I also want to dedicate this to all the fans who are constantly sending me messages of positive support.

'But what a great feeling. I knew this would be a tough race, but I loved every single minute of it, and I'm really grateful.

'I never had a doubt in my mind there was not a possibility to win, but I knew I had to keep pushing, opening the gap.

Traditional celebration: Hamilton still found time to spray some champagne

Traditional celebration: Hamilton still found time to spray some champagne

'I had a couple of problems pulling away (in my pit stops), maybe it was my fault, I don't know, but otherwise they were great.

'To be honest I wasn't able to one stop. I don't think I could have done it.

'I think I would have fallen back, as they (Alonso and Vettel) did, perhaps even further, so I think a two-stop was just right.

'In the end I got absolutely everything out of the car.'

It means having started the day fourth in the standings, Hamilton now has a two-point cushion to Alonso and three to Vettel, with a nine-point gap to Red Bull's Mark Webber who was seventh behind Mercedes' Nico Rosberg.

Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, Kamui Kobayashi in his Sauber and Ferrari of Felipe Massa completed the top 10, with Force India's Paul di Resta 11th.

As for Jenson Button it was another afternoon to forget as not for the first time he was unable to make his tyres work, making three stops to finish 16th and trail Hamilton by 43 points.

Lewis Hamilton: I can win the F1 title with this McLaren

I can win the Formula One title with this McLaren, claims Lewis

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UPDATED:

13:30 GMT, 20 March 2012

Lewis Hamilton believes he is definitely in the hunt for this year's Formula One world title after coming to terms with the fact there will be bad days as well as good.

In Hamilton's eyes, his performance in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix was 'a bad day' as the 27-year-old had to settle for third after starting from pole.

Second best: Hamilton finished behind Vettel after losing out behind the safety car

Second best: Hamilton finished behind Vettel after losing out behind the safety car

That was reflected in his sombre mood after the race, but it was not as bad as witnessed at times last year as he appeared to accept it was one of those days when things did not go his way.

Although McLaren team-mate Jenson Button took the chequered flag for the 13th win of his career, Hamilton said: 'If this is a bad day for me then I definitely can't complain.'

Indeed he should not, because he knows McLaren have given him a car that is undoubtedly quick, appears well balanced, and on that basis is firmly in the reckoning.

On the Button: Jenson leapfrogged a slow-starting Hamilton on Sunday

On the Button: Jenson leapfrogged a slow-starting Hamilton on Sunday

'I know this is a car I can definitely challenge for the title with,' Hamilton said.

'Jenson proved it. He had a fantastic race and it's definitely a good start to the year that both of us finished on the podium and in the points.

'It's still going to be a close season because the Red Bulls are massively quick, and God knows where they came from on Sunday.

'We're still going to be able to attack, but for us to start at the front is a pretty good way forward.

'As for me, I definitely do feel as though I've got it in myself to go for the title.

'I feel as ready as ever. I was ready on Sunday, it's just that some things didn't go my way.'

Support: Nicole Scherzinger was present at Sunday's race

Support: Nicole Scherzinger was present at Sunday's race

Hamilton could at least enjoy the support of his mother Carmen and girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger on Sunday, and left the McLaren paddock with a smile on his face.

'It's been positive having her (Scherzinger) around, a positive having my mum around too. Their support always means a lot,' Hamilton added.

'I hope at some stage this year I'll have my dad and my brother around, that would be great as well.

'We're straight into the next race this weekend (in Malaysia), which is good. I definitely plan to redeem myself.'

After spending yesterday and today 'recovery training', Hamilton claims he will get his head focused again from tomorrow.

He said: 'It's about making sure I start off the weekend in the right way, as I did last weekend.

'But we appear to be the team to beat, which is a good sign. The team have been working hard for that. It's definitely the position to be in, and we're strong which is also a good place to be.'

However, Hamilton did sound a note of caution, adding: 'We can't get too carried away with it because even Ferrari were quick in the race.

'As for the Red Bulls, they look as though they have less (tyre) degradation than us, maybe.

'So it's too early to tell. In qualifying we were massively quick and competitive, but they were massively quick in the race.

'They are still a force to be reckoned with. I guess we're just an edge ahead, but we can't get too complacent.

'We'll look ahead with increased confidence. We just need to get more one-twos, but we're there. We're as quick as them at least.

'Malaysia should be a track where we should be quick again. Let's hope we can get a one-two there.'

Lewis Hamilton interview: I"m in love and in the groove

I'm in love and in the groove! Hamilton is relishing forthcoming F1 season

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UPDATED:

23:09 GMT, 12 March 2012

Lewis Hamilton can't wait for the new season. His McLaren looks on the pace, he is back with popstar girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger and is embarking on a new life in the Monaco sunshine.

Before heading to Australia for the Formula One season opener in Melbourne on Sunday, Hamilton took time out to tell Sportsmail how he has prepared for the most crucial campaign of his career.

He also got the chance to scare the living daylights out of Simon Cass on the Top Gear track…

Winning formula: Life is good for Hamilton on and off the track

Winning formula: Life is good for Hamilton on and off the track

When you were travelling to the USA after last season, did you sit on the flight pondering what you did wrong and what you could have done differently

HAMILTON: 'I did that over there. I tried to see where my strengths were, the races where I was strong and the races where I can improve.

'And there's definitely quite a few where I can improve! It's more, I guess, all about being in the right place at the right time.

'In Malaysia, for example, I flat-spotted a tyre which led to me having to use the wrong set of tyres, which then led to me running seventh, which then led to me having a penalty with Fernando (Alonso). It's just about trying to avoid those pitfalls.'

Monaco was perhaps the scene of your greatest torment both on and off the track last year (Hamilton was handed two drive-through penalties for collisions before blasting the stewards after the race with an ill-judged joke about the colour of his skin). What went wrong

HAMILTON: 'I had a lot going on at the time, my mind was not clear. And when your mind isn't clear then your decisions are overshadowed, you aren't able to think clearly.'

Loving life: Hamilton's relationship with Scherzinger is back on track

Loving life: Hamilton's relationship with Scherzinger is back on track

Did you feel you made some uncharacteristic mistakes last year, like your crash with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi in Belgium, after which you apologised and admitted you didn't see him

HAMILTON: 'Yeah, I think that's just a case of being more switched on, more aware of your surroundings, being more alert. That's what I've tried to make sure I am.'

Do you feel the troubles that you have had were character building

HAMILTON: 'It is what it is. I'd love to be sitting here with three world championships under my belt. But I definitely don't regret what's happened and the experiences I've had. I think I'm better for it and hopefully that will help with future races.'

Is there any sense that success in your career came too quickly, that you didn't have to learn to cope with difficulties like you endured last year

HAMILTON: 'What people tend to forget is the journey that I had getting to Formula One. There were plenty of years where I had to learn about losing and having bad races. So I have had that experience coming up but it's a bit different in Formula One.

'You're stuck in front of millions of people and comments are made. If I'm really honest, I'm pretty sure that if the car was the same as it was in 2007 and 2008 I think you'd be seeing a different person sitting here, but that wasn't the case.'

Testing times: The rehearsals are over - the fun can now begin for real

Testing times: The rehearsals are over – the fun can now begin for real

Testing times: The rehearsals are over - the fun can now begin for real

This will be your sixth season in Formula One. Have you achieved as much as you hoped by this stage of your career

HAMILTON: 'I would like to have achieved more but the journey I have been on was mapped out for me, I think, and the learning curve has been quite steep.

'I am only 27 so I have some time if I am racing as long as Michael (Schumacher). My commitment has never really changed. The way you divide up your time can be better but I feel great, I am in a good place.'

You joined McLaren aged just 13, but after such a tough 2011 have you lost some of that boyish enthusiasm for racing

HAMILTON: 'Even messing around in that car (the MP4-12C GT3), I was still very much a kid with a new toy. I can't wait to get back into the car. I enjoyed all the testing and each day I wanted to do more and more laps, but we ran out of time.

'I'm really looking forward to getting back out and racing, especially in Australia which is one of my favourite places.'

So are you looking forward to getting back into your new car more than in the past few years

HAMILTON: 'In 2009 I wasn't too keen to get into it (thanks to an underperforming McLaren, Hamilton did not make the podium until the 10th race, the Hungarian GP, which he won).

'The last couple of years the cars were not bad, but this one does feel better than it did this time last year.'

What's the attraction Hamilton has moved to Monaco

What's the attraction Hamilton has moved to Monaco

What's the attraction Hamilton has moved to Monaco

You have decided to swap living in Switzerland for a new life in Monaco. What prompted that decision

HAMILTON: 'I just fancied a change. It was a bit boring where I was living, not many people around, so it was good to move. Where I have moved to there are a lot of people I know so there is a bit more of a social life, better weather and by the sea – just better.

'My trainer lives just up the road so we have settled down quite well. I moved a week or so ago. I still have loads of boxes to unpack but I am sure I can get someone to do that for me. I definitely plan to spend a lot more time at home.'

Is the competition stronger this season because there are six world champions on the grid

HAMILTON: 'You say that, but there are quite a lot of good drivers and have been for some time. There was a bigger difference in the cars. A lot more drivers are able to excel because they have better cars; the competition is closer because of that.

'Winning a world championship like this one, with so many great world champions out there, it'll definitely be one of the most valuable.'

In a spin: Hamilton takes Sportsmail's man for a ride

Lewis Hamilton: I made so many mistakes, but I have a clean slate now

Hamilton: I made so many mistakes, but I have a clean slate now

Lewis Hamilton admits he lost control of his life last year through the turmoil and emotional distress of a largely forgettable season.

'Last year I was battling with everyone,' said Hamilton. 'I didn't think anything was positive. I was all over the place.'

Hamilton, who became the youngest Formula One champion when he won the title in just his second season in 2008, found the need to purge the unhappy memories of last season before he begins testing McLaren's new car, which he hopes will prove to be competitive from the opening race of the 2012 championship in Australia next month.

More cheerful: Lewis Hamilton (left) SHares a joke with McClaren boss Martin Whitmarsh

More cheerful: Lewis Hamilton (left) SHares a joke with McClaren boss Martin Whitmarsh

'Last year I didn't have the pieces of the puzzle in place,' he said. 'I didn't know which part went where. There were times when I was in the car and supposed to make a certain call, and when I made that call I said the wrong things.

'There were times when I was juggling too many things; too many things I'd started were unfinished and too many questions remained unanswered. There was a lot of time when my mind was elsewhere – at times I know my focus was less than 90 per cent where it should have been.'

His private life was in emotional meltdown.

His relationship with American singer, Nicole Scherzinger, became so stressful through being conducted by long-distance flights or conversations online, that the couple opted to split in October.

Difficult year: Lewis Hamilton with Nicole Scherzinger

Difficult year: Lewis Hamilton with Nicole Scherzinger

'That had been a part of my life that had always been really positive,' said Hamilton.

Over the winter, as Hamilton trained in the mountains of Colorado, the couple found time to meet and talk through the issues that had caused them to break up.

Hamilton will not reveal if they have found a lasting solution, but he said: 'I feel I have corrected things that I've done wrong. I have a clean slate, with nothing hanging over me, nothing worrying me.'

His seventh season in Formula One could prove to be a watershed.

His contract with McLaren, negotiated by his father, Anthony, is in its final year.