Lewis Hamilton has revealed he was determined not to allow his high-profile split from Nicole Scherzinger scupper his chances of becoming the first British driver to win back-to-back Formula 1 world championships.
Hamilton ended his long-term relationship with the American popstar ahead of the new season, and it was feared the 30-year-old’s off-track battles would disrupt the defence of his title.
But the reigning champion heads into tomorrow’s British Grand Prix holding a 10-point lead over Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg. He has started from pole at seven of the eight races and led a greater number of laps than any other driver this term.
Should Hamilton complete one more front-running lap here at Silverstone tomorrow, he will surpass Sir Jackie Stewart’s 45-year record of leading 17 consecutive grands prix.
“I don’t really know how I’ve done it,” revealed a reflective Hamilton prior to his home race. “It’s not that it’s been easy. It was very, very tough in that period of time and I think I’ve just tried to keep my head down.
“I was just determined not to let it get in the way of what I’m here to do, which is win races and championships. I understood the opportunity that was ahead of me and I just did everything that I could to stay on it. It’s been wobbly, but I’m grateful that I’ve stayed on course.”
Hamilton, who turned 30 at the beginning of the year, appears to be more comfortable in his own skin than in previous seasons.
The manner in which he conducted himself after throwing away the Monaco Grand Prix earlier this term was in stark contrast to his response here 12 months ago, when he cut a surly, spoilt figure after he qualified only sixth following a driver error.
“I think still today people don’t fully understand me,” Hamilton added.
“Muhammad Ali would not have told you that he was happy coming second, or losing. I don’t think anyone at the top of their game would ever say that.
“Some people take it worse than others.”
Hamilton was on course to claim his first victory in Monaco since 2008, but was inexplicably called into the pits for a fresh set of tyres in the closing stages. He lost the lead and finished third.
On the slow-down lap, Hamilton stopped at Portier. His idol Ayrton Senna famously threw away a race win at the same point in 1988 before leaping out of his McLaren and storming back to his nearby apartment.
“I don’t know why I stopped, but I know I stopped and drove very slowly afterwards just to gather my thoughts,” Hamilton added.
“It was hard beyond belief. It was definitely the hardest moment for me that I can recall.
“I’m very strong in my faith, and I stopped and prayed about it - give me strength to get through this because I know there are going to be more positives moving forward.
“Help me be the man I know I am and know I can be.”
Hamilton added: “It’s a powerful moment to be able to send a strong message to people, that no matter what’s thrown at you, you can get by.
“That was really the ultimate test for me. If I lost my temper, you guys would have given me the worst time.
“I’ve got kids that look up to me nowadays and the way I behave will affect how those kids perhaps will behave at school or when they’re driving, or whatever that maybe.
“So there’s bigger fish to fry. There’s a more important message.
“Don’t be selfish for that single moment and be acting up.”
Silverstone chiefs are expecting a record 140,000 crowd on Sunday with the large majority of those here to roar Hamilton on to a second win is as many years.
On the two previous occasions Hamilton has triumphed at Silverstone he has gone on to claim the title.
“I think my performances have been stronger this year, and what I want is to continue with that, if not grow and improve,” Hamilton, who saw Rosberg top the timesheets in both practice sessions here yesterday, added.
“As you go through the year, your cards are shown from race to race.
“You’re learning from one another. So it’s about coming up with the next ace. How do you come up with it? How do you find the next ace? How do you find that bit of time another one might not find during that weekend?
“That’s the name of the game. That’s why I have two world championships and the success I’ve had through my career, because I always manage to find it somewhere.
“I would love to have a couple of aces this weekend. An ace for Saturday, an ace for Sunday. That’s what I’m hoping for.”