By Alan Baldwin
SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - The hardest moment, the ultimate test have been overcome already and whatever else the season throws at Lewis Hamilton, the double Formula One world champion feels more than equipped to handle it.
In an interview with British reporters ahead of his home grand prix this weekend, the 30-year-old Mercedes driver spoke of his mental resilience and determination to be himself despite criticism of his lifestyle.
Hamilton's long-term relationship with American singer Nicole Scherzinger ended before the season started and on track there was the bitter blow of losing in Monaco due to a pitstop blunder.
"I don’t really know how I’ve done it. It’s not that it’s been easy. It was very, very tough in that period of time," he said.
"I was just determined not to let (the breakup) get in the way of what I’m here to do, which is win races and championships.
"I understand the opportunity that was ahead of me and I just did everything that I could to stay on it. It’s been wobbly. It’s not been easy, but I’m grateful that I’ve stayed on course."
In past seasons, Hamilton might have reacted differently but now he has learned to "cope with the negatives." Monaco was a case in point.
Leading comfortably from pole position, he saw the victory evaporate after being called in for a needless pitstop and finished third.
Hamilton has said little about that afternoon since then, but with the passing of time was prepared to expand on what went through his mind.
On the slowing down lap he stopped briefly at the Portier corner, just as his late idol Ayrton Senna had after victory slipped between his fingers in 1988.
"It was hard beyond belief. It was definitely the hardest moment for me that I can recall," he said.
"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 forwards. Help me be the man I know I am and know I can be.
"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," added the championship leader.
Hamilton, who won the next race in Canada, said he felt misunderstood by some critics but was determined to be himself.
"This is my time and this is how I do it. It’s just strange how people want everyone to do the same thing as the people back in the day," he said.
"'This is how a Formula One driver behaves. This is how a Formula One driver looks. This is how a Formula One driver should be, and talk': It's just funny for me.
"There was never ever a black driver before, firstly. So I’m much different to any of the ones in the past. Let’s do me."
Hamilton said he was also conscious of being a role model to others, and had to behave accordingly.
"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 may be," he said. "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."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Nick Mulvenney)